A funny thing happened…
I had a sudden inspiration on our way to worship service and the Lord’s Supper at the infant Kamiooka Bible Church in south central Yokohama. “Today let’s have one loaf of bread instead of the usual bits of bread, symbolizing our unity in the body of Christ” (1 Cor 10:17). So I asked Kay to duck into the shop and buy a loaf of bread. She was in a hurry and just had time to snatch a package of buns off the shelf. Kind of small, but then we were a small church and there would easily be enough for everybody.
But when the moment of truth came as I pronounced the words (in Japanese of course), “This is my body, broken for you,” and broke the bun, my fingers were sticky—with chocolate goo. My wife had failed to read the label “Choco Pan.” There was nothing to do but distribute the gooey chocolate bun. People back home would have broken out in laughter but our Japanese congregation only smiled and emitted a few stifled titters. Mr. Itoh asked me with a broad smile after the service if we could serve it with coffee next time.
It was our second term and we were now helping Vic and Ann Springer in a new church plant we called Shirayuri (White Lily), the name of the local housing area.
My wife Kay went out shopping one day and asked me to keep an eye on three-year old Amy, our youngest, who was happily playing in the bath. I was immersed in studying for a message or perhaps I was trying to decipher one of the half dozen notices that our older girls brought home daily from elementary school.
The next thing I knew, Kay showed up at the door and I was in big trouble. She demanded, “Do you know where Amy is?”
“In the ofuro (bath)?” I suggested.
Kay had found Amy down the road with Mrs. Baba, the local barber. Amy had slipped out of the door and gone down the street, turned a corner, and knocked on the glass door of the barber shop, pleading, “Asobimashoo! (Let’s play!)” Stark naked.
Just as Mrs. Baba took her by the hand to lead her home, Kay had returned and was able to lead her naked urchin home.
The “setting up chairs” gift
This is a story Ralph Cox told me. It serves to illustrate something I have often observed, “Every good idea or noble truth is soon overextended and overapplied.”
The Coxes through the years had many short-term workers in Japan that we called “Helping Hands.” Ralph in Takamatsu and Jim Frens in Nagoya were the pioneers of this program even before short term missionary programs became popular throughout churches and missionary agencies. I remember Ralph seeking recruits for this program at Dallas Seminary in the mid-60s. But there could be problems with Helping Hands, both major and minor.
One time Ralph asked a young man, one of his “Helping Hands,” to help him set up chairs for a meeting. The young man informed him that he “did not have the spiritual gift of setting up chairs.”