2015 Japan – Sean Norton

When You’re the Sower and Not the Reaper


The season leading up to our trip was incredibly busy for me. I was back at graduate school, working part time, serving my church, and starting a new romantic relationship. On top of this, I was preparing for this outreach trip to Japan. There were many times when I asked myself if what I was doing was “worth it.” Quite often I found myself physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausted with everything I was doing. At times we were asked to recall why we signed up for this missions season, and my answer was, “Because I love Jesus, and I have a gifting that is not just for myself, but is to bless others as well.”

But on the plane ride back from Japan, as I inquired of the Lord why I had done all that I had, He told me, “It’s because you love me, and I love Japan. You love Japan because I love Japan. I have given you eyes that see her for all her beauty, a mind that has learned of her and desires to dive deeper into her, and a heart that has fallen in love with her, just as I have. I will continue to fall in love with her and seek her and pursue her until she becomes my Bride.”

When some people speak of Japan, spiritually, they remark that Japan is a dry place. The Christian population is so small that it may be easy to neglect Japan and the love that God has for her. To this, I reply, it is not so. God loves Japan with a sweet, sweet, pursuing love.

George Whitfield once said in a sermon, “If you belong to Jesus Christ, he is speaking of you; for says he says, ‘I know my sheep.’” “I know them;” what does that mean? Why, He knows their number, He knows their names, He knows every one for whom He died; and if there were to be one missing for whom Christ died, God the Father would send Him down again from Heaven to fetch him. What this also means is that the individual stories of His sheep are so precious to him. It’s not about the numbers, but the people and the stories behind them.

I had been on many mission trips in the past. I think this had somewhat skewed my idea of what a missions trip should look like. In the past I had witnessed numerous salvations and the Holy Spirit falling powerfully upon His people. Many would cry out and be touched. But in Japan, this didn’t happen. I don’t know if this was for Japan at this time. The people we met were so polite and kind to me. I don’t know if it would’ve fit their nature to cry out for revival and fire just yet. While I do hope it happens, right now, I think there is a deeper stirring happening. There is a quiet, strong love that is building. Like water behind a dam, I know one day God’s love will burst out and pour over Japan.

You see, Ryo, a local bboy who chose salvation after hearing the Gospel, is a seed that God planted last week in Japan. Saeka, a new believer and dancer, is another person we got to spend time with. We got to love on her and even have her to dance with us. We were blessed by her presence as she took us around Osaka. I think Saeka was blessed as well. She got to hear the Lord speaking to her for the first time, and though I don’t like speaking for people, it seems she came away seeing dance in a new light. She too, like Ryo, is a seed, planted in the increasingly fertile soil of Japan.

All season long, I kept reminding myself that we don’t yell at sprouts for not bearing fruit. How can one look at a seed and demand an apple? During this trip, I think I needed to be reminded of that. I was wondering where the visible fruit was when seeds were being planted. I became slightly discouraged at times. For you see, I was hoping for fruit but was shown the seeds instead. About halfway through our trip, as we walked through the rain up the embankments towards Osaka Castle, I asked the Lord, “What is our mission?” He replied, “You are proving that Japan is lovable and worth pursuing.”

An hour before that, the team was waiting in a McDonald’s for the rain to end, and I, admittedly, let the thought pass through my mind that maybe we should just head back to where we were staying. It was a gloomy, rainy day and I didn’t want to step outside.
But for some reason, there was a tug in my heart: I knew we had to walk through the rain and dance in front of the Castle.

See, I knew that knights would slay dragons for their beloved, out of love. But it was God who, in that moment, taught me what I now can look back and see. If in perfect obedience and love, Jesus could walk up a hill with a cross on his back to be crucified for us to prove to us the Father’s love, that we might be set free and welcomed into a loving relationship with God, I could get up to the castle in the rain. I could dance, spread joy, and prove, by His love empowering me, us, that Japan was indeed worth loving and worth fighting for.

That morning as we prayed, we all saw the sun rising over Osaka Castle. That afternoon we prayed for the rain to stop, and it didn’t. I think the rain didn’t stop so we could bring the joy and the warmth that the sun brings – that the Son brings – to Osaka Castle. I think the rain didn’t stop so we could prove our love. His love. It is hard to look at a seed and know whether or not it will be “worth it.” But as I see it, faithful farmers don’t plant seeds knowing for sure whether or not they’ll be able to put bread on the table. We plant seeds in hope. We hope that the sun will shine and the rain will fall. We hope that one day these seeds will bear fruit. We put our faith in a God who looks out for us, and after us, and we wait, expectantly. I am waiting expectantly for Japan.

Japan is worthy of love, for the Father loves her well and has much in store for her. There is a spirit of excellence, expression, politeness, respect, honor, and joy that just rises like incense. I long to see God encounter His beloved bride and pour out His love over her. Whether you love Japan for its ridiculously high-quality convenience stores, unending flavors of Pocky, crazy entertaining anime and manga, fashion, culture, art, or people, there are stories yet to be told. Sheep yet to be brought into the fold. There are seeds currently being planted in Japan, as well as truths and art yet waiting to be redeemed and brought into the fullness and truth of what they are meant to be. Japan is not a cold, dead, dry place. Japan is very much alive, and waiting to be loved.

Matthew 18:10-14 The Parable of the Lost Sheep
“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

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