It was Advent in 2003, while I was serving Kobe Union Church, that I took a trip to Kyushu, the island that Francis Xavier first visited in Japan in the 16th century. The city of Nagasaki is on the western side of the island and Kagoshima on the south. To this day, you are more likely to see the results of the missionary work of Xavier on that island than most anywhere else in the country.
Nagasaki has numerous ancient churches and cathedrals, and a large monument to the 26 martyrs of Japan near the main transportation corridor. It was during that trip that I connected with Roman Catholic missionary history more than anywhere else in the world. I realized that my work as a Christian was positively and negatively influenced by those first missionary journeys. I realized that it was quite a feat to shut out the missionaries for over 250 years following those first inroads by Xavier and friends.
Over 400 years after Xavier, I found myself a pastor in a country that was still for the most part indifferent to the Christian Church. My church in Kobe claimed to be the oldest Protestant congregation in Japan, dating back to when the emperor opened up the ports to foreigners in the mid-1800’s. It was an odd experience to be a minority sub-culture coming from a land that wears its Christianity on its sleeve.
On this second day of the Advent season, I reflect on Xavier (it is his day on the liturgical calendar) and another Advent. I consider these questions today:
- Where is my current place of missionary service?
- What would I forego to be the most effective missionary?
- Are my actions and words in tune with the character of Jesus?
- Five hundred years from now, will anything I have said or done made a difference in my community?