Today, August 15th, is Japan’s Obon (basically commemorated several days before and after this day, as well), which is when most Japanese will return to their hometowns in order to welcome back their ancestors’ spirits. Many homes will set out lanterns to help guide home their departed loved ones. It is, spiritually speaking, a dark time in this country, and often a challenging time for believers who must resist the desire to partake in the ceremonial ancestral worship.
Because this week is a holiday for most Japanese, we have meetings set up most days with Japanese friends who are returning to this area to visit family and friends. Today, we had a chance to meet with our friend Rikako and her two daughters. Their family lives in Tokyo, but her mother is in the Kobe area so they are down in our area for a week to visit.
I first met Rikako when I fly to Tokyo for a 4 hour visit expressly to see her this past spring! Rikako’s sister, Yumiko and her family, are special friends of ours from our church in Los Angeles. Yumiko had decided over spring break to fly to see her sister after Rikako was diagnosed for the second time with cancer. Rikako and her family were not believers, and Yumiko was especially worried as the prognosis for such returning cancer (now in her bones) is not too good.
More importantly than Yumiko and I meeting with Rikako for those four hours one day in April, GOD MET WITH US. And during that time, Rikako decided to follow Jesus. We all cried a lot, and it was clear that I was leaving my new friend with new hope.
Since that time, Rikako has been going to church when she can (her husband is still not a believer, and the heat has made her weaker than she had been). We have talked on the phone at different times, but it was such a treat to meet her today.
The woman I met today is a different person than she was four months ago. She has hope; she has joy. She is not afraid. When I asked her what it is like this year to go through the Obon holidays, she said it very different…now she is praying and singing praise songs throughout the day, and she just has a thankful heart. It was such a joy to be with her. Her two girls are beautiful, and they have enjoyed the chances to go with their mom to church on occasion as well as to pray together every night before bedtime. We are praying that God will continue to do great things in their family, and bring about complete healing.
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6).
Ancestor worship…cancer…these things cannot smother the beauty and the radiance of the permeating light of Christ.