Surprising Grace

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“Ian, I feel called to be a pastor.”

Not the words you typically hear from someone who just came to faith. Two months prior, my friend Maki asked me if I’d meet Yuki, her co-worker. She brought him to my apartment for a guitar lesson, after which we sang a couple worship songs, shared our testimonies and prayed for him. That night on the train ride home, he surprised us by announcing that he decided to become a Christian.

But as soon as Yuki began attending Maki’s church, he started disturbing the order of their universe. I’m not sure how. But within weeks, emails from fellow members started trickling in: “Could you bring Yuki to your church?” “Can you please talk with him?” I’m sure his asking out Maki didn’t help.

As you’d imagine, his idea of becoming a pastor didn’t only fall on deaf ears; it fell on cold shoulders.

So we met up and talked. He shared his desire to grow in his faith. My Japanese was getting to the point of handling deeper conversations, so I figured meeting regularly would be a good for us both.

For the next year, Yuki and I met once a week, every week. We planned a big trip to the beach with his church and mine. I got to pray for him at his baptism. Then my transition to company life abruptly ended our discipleship meetings.

I occasionally would hear of Yuki through mutual friends. Fellow Evergreener, Jim Kagawa, told me that Yuki was very active serving with him at Yoyogi Sidewalk Chapel, a growing homeless ministry. Despite a full work week, he’d be there every Saturday morning at 7am. Another person mentioned Yuki changed jobs and began attending seminary. But I hadn’t caught up with him in nearly two years.

Until last fall when he called me with another surprise: “Maki and I are getting married.”

I’m sure my sense of humor rubbed off on him during our year of meeting, but this was beyond joking. She had rejected him once before. So borrowing C.S. Lewis’ three categories, I concluded that he was a liar, a lunatic, or there really is a Lord.

As I investigated, I found evidence of the Lord’s hand everywhere. I asked his church members — the ones who told me to hold him in custody at my church three years ago. To my surprise, not a single person objected. Protests had turned to praise, accusations to approval.

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This past Saturday, Chi and I attended their wedding. Sidewalk Chapel members, Yuki’s new and old church members, Yuki’s seminary president, family, and friends came to celebrate. Yuki and Maki shared their testimony, and how God’s grace transformed Yuki. As I talked with other guests, their stories only confirmed this. They spoke of how Yuki helped to expand the Sidewalk Chapel ministry. Members of his new church shared how excited they were to have a young pastoral intern, eager to serve.

At the reception, I had the privilege of adding my story to theirs, as Yuki and Maki asked me to give a speech and sing a song. Who’d have imagined that one fateful guitar lesson would lead to me playing at their wedding?

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Yet the greatest blessing for me came at the very end. As I said goodbye to the couple, Yuki shared with me one final surprise: “Four years ago when I knew nothing, and said I felt called to become a pastor, nobody believed in me but two people: Pastor Hayashi (his church pastor) and you. Thank you.”

“Really?” I replied. “You mean there were two of us?”

We laughed. Here stood a man, next to the bride of his dreams, fulfilling God’s call on his life. He’ll be preaching Japanese sermons far better than I ever could preach. He’ll be reaching people I could never reach. And so long as God’s grace is upon him, he’ll continue surprising people I’ll never be able to surprise.

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7 Comments

  • Hilda says:

    WHAT a cool story! God has you making such a difference, one person at a time.

  • FM says:

    such wonderful news! Praise God for this testimony, Ian! and Praise Him for using you in this ultimate blessing. do it again, God!

  • RHM says:

    Wow! I am speechless, as tears flow down my cheeks. The Lord is so amazing and full of surprises. Thank you for sharing this incredible testimony of His grace and power to change lives!

  • Doreen says:

    What an encouraging story and testimony! All glory to God. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • ar says:

    Moments with the LORD turn into eternal calls. Thanks for being the encourager of eternal calls, Ian, given in short moments.

  • John Nosse says:

    You have amazed me with your maturity and faith from when I first meet you and your parents when you were starting college.
    One of the fruits from your relentless pursuit of faith was providing a young energetic minister to nurture the growth of Christianity in Japan

  • Terry says:

    Thank you for sharing, Ian. Such a timely encouragement for me.

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