Not too soon

Tags: Asia, Japan, Story

Bob McKemey had spent 45 years as a missionary in Japan. In his years of ministry, he had touched hundreds of lives. But as he approached his retirement, he began to pray that God would let him see spiritual fruit.

During that year, Bob’s cousins came to Japan to visit and Bob took them deep into the mountains to visit a waterfall. On the way back, they passed a picnic and camping area along the road and stopped to take a picture.  

A lady who was working there, Mrs. Shimizu, began to ask them questions about who they were and what they were doing there. When Bob said he was a missionary, the woman actually jumped into the car with them, an intense expression on her face.  Twenty-five years ago, she had met Mother Teresa and said that, “Her words had been like the Bible to me. But they were not the Bible.” Since then, she had been searching but she didn’t know how to get a Bible, didn’t know any Christians, and didn’t know any churches. Now, Mrs. Shimizu wanted a real Bible.

Bob was amazed. He didn’t have a Bible to give her right then, but he did give her three books: Manga Messiah (a graphic novel style gospel story), testimonies of Japanese who became Christians, and the first chapter of The Purpose Driven Life in Japanese. He also promised he would return when he could with a Bible and they parted ways.

A couple weeks later, Bob got a Japanese Bible and took off toward the mountains. He stopped at a nearby church to ask if they had a brochure and a map to the church to give to Mrs. Shimizu. Then, together, they prayed for her.

When Bob arrived at the picnic area, Mrs. Shimizu’s face lit up! She had read all the books and had many questions for him. They talked for 1½ hours about salvation in Jesus.

While they talked, Bob was also thinking. He had been in Japan for 45 years and knew from experience that it takes Japanese people at least two years to respond to the gospel. “It’s too soon to ask her for a decision,” he thought. He had seen people try to rush things with tragic results and he didn’t want to “pluck unripe fruit.” But God was pressuring him — “Go ahead.”

So Bob hesitantly said, “I wouldn’t put any pressure on you, but if you would like to pray …”

“Yes! Yes!” Mrs. Shimizu jumped at the opportunity to trust Jesus as her Savior and they prayed together!

Later Bob told friends, “I was asking God for fruit but I never expected to be blown out of my skin with this opportunity!”

Mrs. Shimizu is now connected with the church that prayed with Bob for her. She is attending faithfully, reading her Bible, and loving it. Three days before leaving Japan, Bob met with Mrs. Shimizu. He told her, “When you prayed, I was very hesitant. If you push people too quickly, they say later, ‘I tried that and it didn’t work.’ It was just too soon.”

Mrs. Shimizu responded, “Soon? I waited 25 years!”