This past week my husband and I, along with his mom, had the pleasure of visiting Hokkaido, Japan. We have been spending our vacation with Mom in Hong Kong, where she lives, and decided to escape the heat and humidity and go north! After flying almost five hours to the city of Sapporo, we joined a tour group and ventured into more remote territory. I spent my first night in a traditional Japanese “Washitsu” room with tatami flooring, low tables and chairs, and sliding doors. When I walked in the room, there was a noticeable absence of beds; after we returned from dinner, futons and bedding had magically appeared on the floor – first time sleeping this way too! I actually slept much better than I anticipated. Other firsts on this trip for me were trying sushi (I did try, but I still prefer my seafood cooked!), a Japanese buffet at a famous hot springs hotel (people come to dinner dressed in their “yukata” robes), cold pickled Japanese vegetables at breakfast (quite salty), being the visible minority (literally did not see another Caucasian for three days), picking/eating cherries off the tree in an orchard, watching a chef fillet a fish for sashimi, walking through fields of lavender for which they are famous (tasted lavender ice cream), enjoyed a Japanese style BBQ (grill inset in the table), picked out and held a huge crab we later ate (delicious!), and visited a Shinto temple.
All of this was out of my comfort zone, but I decided to put into practice what I have been learning about facing my fears and managing my anxiety. I was quite surprised at how I could embrace a new culture without too much awkwardness, not worry about being in an active earthquake and volcano region, and not be intimidated by the stares and curious looks directed at me. I’ve been in these situations before, but never have I felt the level of confidence and ease that I did this time. Truly I am being who I have become!
One amazing lady who I believe would never have struggled with such things is Henrietta Mears. Born in 1890, she is another woman who has had a great influence on who I am today despite the generation gaps. Her dream early in life was to be a missionary to China[i] (another source says Japan[ii]). However, an onset of poor eyesight as a child prevented her from doing so. She remained convinced, however, that God had a special purpose for her life. Committing her life to him at age seven, she began teaching Sunday School when only eleven. People soon began to recognize her gift of communicating God’s Word and eventually she went on to graduate with a teaching degree.
While Henrietta taught school, she volunteered as her church’s Sunday School superintendent. Her infectious sense of humor and limitless energy enabled her to make the Bible come alive to her students. Her fondness for wearing colourful hats no doubt aroused their attention as well! Upon accepting the position of Christian Education Director at First Presbyterian Church in Hollywood, she soon became dissatisfied with the currently available curriculum. She believed every lesson must honor Christ and every teacher must be faithful to the Bible.[iii]
“If you would be pure,” she advised others, “saturate yourself with the Word of God.”[iv]
One of Henrietta’s favourite verses was Joshua 1:3, “…wherever you set your foot, you will be on land I have given you.” (NLT) She said, “We need more Bibles today bound in shoe leather!”[v]
Under Henrietta’s leadership, her church’s Sunday School attendance grew from 450 to 6500. She believed it was her responsibility to train the next generation of leaders and subsequently taught thousands of college-aged students. Evangelist Billy Graham was among them. He said,
“I doubt if any other woman outside my wife and mother has had such a marked influence (on my life). She is certainly one of the greatest Christians I have ever known!”[vi]
Henrietta also founded the world-renowned Gospel Light Publications in 1933, influenced Bill and Vonette Bright to begin Campus Crusade for Christ, personally led thousands of people to Christ, and inspired over 400 youth to enter full-time Christian ministry.
“God will lead you and give you the desire in your heart for the one place He wants you to fill,” she said.[vii]
I have certainly found this to be true in my life! Like Henrietta, He has led me through many years of Bible teaching ministry, curriculum development, and preparing the next generation of committed Christians and leaders. I am both humbled and thrilled that God is fulfilling His purpose for me!
Until next time,