Japan (MNN) — “How soon will some few years pass away, and then when the day is ended, and this life’s lease expired, what have men of the world’s glory, but dreams and thoughts? O happy soul forevermore, who can rightly compare this life with that long-lasting life to come, and can balance the weighty glory of the one with the light golden vanity of the other.” – Samuel Rutherford
There are few things that unite a body of believers like the loss of a loved one. For the evangelical community in Japan, that came with the recent tragic deaths of Kathyrine and Jamison Pals and their three children. The family of five was killed in a highway accident in Colorado, mere dollars and weeks away from their move to Japan.
Why Japan? What was it that touched the hearts of the Pals family to start working in a missions field on the other side of the world?
John Houlette of Asian Access says that with recent disasters throughout the island country, non-Christians are looking for hope, even though many missionaries wouldn’t even consider Japan.
“In a practical sense, Japan is a very expensive country to live in, and I think there’s a misconception that Japan, because it’s an advanced country, that they don’t need the Gospel,” he explains.
But things are changing. Since recent quakes and other natural disasters, people are desperate for hope amidst the darkness. “I think with the disaster, it broke down a lot of those, the veneer to the heart, the layers, and people experienced genuine brokenness and they needed help.”
As people open up and start to respond more than ever to the hope of God, it’s time for believers to step up and react with love and the message of the Gospel.
“There is a wonderful working across denominations both of the Church and of the mission, receiving international teams from anywhere, and that bond is strengthened. People are looking at that, who are not yet Christians, and seeing the body of Christ and the beauty of that as a tapestry of God’s family.”
Houlette goes on to say it’s a very historic time for the Church in Japan because, “…as we reflect on this and that, it is helping the church to work together as we look at more partnerships and trust that the Lord will send new missionaries to Japan.”
This newfound strength and purpose is pushing many families and believers to consider missions in Japan in a brand new light, and churches in the country are no longer simply opening their doors; they’re stepping outside.
“With a good attitude and a willingness of Christians to walk alongside people and listen and not give pat answers and the build bonds of love in Christ, people began to respond to that. As I mentioned earlier, that was not going to happen within a church building.”
But as the potential for harvest grows, the workers are few and far between. This was the call the Pals family was answering. But the story they started isn’t over.
“We need many more couples with a passion that 2 Corinthians 5:14 says, that the love of Christ constrains people that are in the vice of God’s love and are willing to come and serve here in Japan.”
Now more than ever, the Church will have to unite and hold strong in the midst of sorrow, clinging to each other, but standing on the sovereignty of God and the unique hope we have in Christ’s sacrifice.
Houlette encourages us to pray, even as we grieve, “that this might be an impetus for the Church to work even in a stronger bond together, and that we would pray for workers of the harvest.”
If you want to respond directly, you can give to a memorial fund that will be used for grants for outgoing missionaries and speed up their departure.
Additionally, consider taking a moment during your day to pray for the family of the Palses, and remember the other missionaries who are willing to give their all for Christ. They understand the things they sacrifice, but for the love of their God they will give all they have on this earth.
Just read the words of Jamison Pals himself from his personal blog. Long before he understood how his life and his ministry would unfold, he wrote a letter to his wife, pouring out his heart and relinquishing his hold on the things of this world to God.
“Kathryne, I am asking you to go with me. Let’s go…or at least let us do everything in our power to go. The Lord may see fit to keep us here, but if he does not, let’s go. It may cost us much, but would you have it any other way? Whatever we lose will be worth it if we gain more of Christ. I believe the Lord is sending us. I am asking you to trust me. More importantly, I am asking you to trust God’s sovereign guidance and care. He will be with us, and he will go before us. Surely, his goodness and mercy will follow us all of the days of our lives. We will dwell with him forever, wherever we dwell for this life. You will never be without your God and your Savior.”