Yesterday was a good reminder for me of the religiously-laden society that we are living in. Often there is such an external appearance of secularism and materialism that I forget about the realities of what are present in the spiritual realm here in Japan.
Once a year our mission staff gather in different places around the country for an annual Day of Prayer. We had our friends from Okinawa come up and stay with us for two nights, which was a great gift to our children, and on Monday a group of us gathered to spend the day praying. It was a great chance to pray for our mission leadership; for those with special needs; to spend time worshipping at the feet of Jesus; and to share our personal needs and joys and pray over them.
We were meeting at our friends’ Kent and Yuko’s home. They have just moved to our city in August, and have been settling into a new rental home the past month. One thing we have tried to do with new homes that missionaries have moved into in our area is to pray through the house — literally. So it was a joy to do this yesterday as well. We always check in the ceiling beams to see if there might be a Shinto mamori — an amulet that is prayed over by a Shinto priest when the home is built and established, and assigned a god to watch over the occupants of the house. We have not found one in any of our homes in this town– until yesterday. And it was a doozey!
This human-size pole was up in their crawl space, with a prayer offering the home and occupants to the god assigned to the house; signed by the priest who had overseen the process. It was interesting; but also perhaps a wake up call to remind us of the need to be diligent, vigilant, and prayer full as we operate in a culture that is very full of animism and syncretistic religion. One-third of all Japanese have a Buddhist or Shinto shrine in their home; one in four Japanese always carry a religious amulet on their persons that is meant to guard off evil and bring protection from a god of some kind. Eighty-six percent of Japanese follow some kind of mix of Buddhist or Shintosim. We are very aware that the spiritual forces in Japan are alive and well!
We prayed God’s power over this large religious symbol; Kent and Yuko covered it with a huge bag and put it for now outside in their shed (we can’t destroy it because the owners are coming back in two years).
I really believe that there is a spiritual connection between these religious objects which have had a “god” assigned over them and some of the experiences that we have here. Kent and Yuko’s daughter last Friday had started pointing at something off of their living room and throwing her hands up in the air over and over again. When Yuko looked, there was nothing there.
As we continue to minister here, it is important that we are reminded of the truths of Ephesians 6:12: For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
Praise God that He is the victor.