Remembering a Hero(ine)

Lottie MoonTonight marks the 100th anniversary of the death here in Japan of one of my (John writing) heroes. Although she spent nearly 40 years of her life as a missionary in China, in Shantung province—the birthplace of Confucius and the site of a great outpouring of God in the 1930s—she died 100 years ago tonight, on board ship in the port city of Kobe, Japan.

She was connected to Japan—although few who remember her remember that fact—and her life affected many things I did growing up.  And it even affects me, where we are as a family, and what we’re trying to do, and be, today.

I remember every year the churches I grew up in set a goal—usually one that would surely stretch us!—for our foreign missions offering, to be taken during the Christmas season. This offering bore, and still bears, this missionary’s name. The offering was eventually named after her as a remembrance of her deep desire to see more missionaries supported so that more people could come to the Lord, and her work encouraging the women of the churches that sent her to organize for missions.

I remember the members of the boys’ missions organization of my church—of which I was a member—going out into the countryside on our bicycles, delivering Christmas cards so that church members could put the money they would’ve spent on postage toward the foreign missions offering. Then one or two of the dedicated men in the church built a case with “pigeon holes” so that people could pick up their cards themselves, with the same intent of senders giving the money that would’ve gone to postage to the offering.

Many years that church and others like it, including the church I was part of during seminary, had a map of the world with lights that could be lit as we moved closer to reaching our offering goal.  Or a thermometer marking the amount that had been given. Or something similar, to let us know where we stood and to help keep us on track, for the goal!

As I said, this missionary heroine died on board ship in the port of Kobe, Dec. 24th, 1912. 100 years ago tonight.

More about her can be found here:

We—and I believe you, too—have surely been affected by the lives of other missionaries, like maybe Paul Carlson, William Carey, Hudson Taylor, C.T. Studd, and David Livingstone or Jim Elliot or Nate Saint.  But tonight I’m glad to remember the life of Lottie Moon, of Virginia, Kentucky, Georgia, China and Japan, and all she did to serve her Lord so that people who never would’ve heard of Him might come to know Him.

A Symbol of God’s Kindness

“Ever since God created the world, his invisible qualities, both his eternal power and his divine nature, have been clearly seen; they are perceived in the things that God has made. . . . “  Romans 1:20

A month or so after we arrived in Japan in 2002 I was surprised by some of the most beautiful flowers I’d ever seen. There were literally waves of them, bright red, just suddenly appearing in so many places—beside train tracks, along roads and rivers, beside rice paddies, and near temples and in cemeteries.

I learned that these red, red flowers, just suddenly revealing themselves, were manjushage or higanbana (after higan, the equinox, and hana, flower).Their botanical name is Lycoris radiata, but in American English, at least, we call them simply “red spider lilies.”

Over the years, as I’ve thought both about the flowers and the verse from the letter to the Roman Christians above, I’ve come to believe that these red spider lilies are a symbol of God’s great kindness to us all, and a particular invitation to Japanese people to know him.

First, blooming just when there’s a touch of coolness in the air in the fall, the flowers symbolize to me mercy in a rest from the oppressive heat of Japan’s summer.

Second, most of the time, the flowers are hidden away. They’re NOT there. Then, all of a sudden, they’re THERE!

This seems like a good picture of God working, hidden, in ways we’re not aware of, and then, all of a sudden, revealing results of what he’s been doing in our lives or in the lives of others.

Third, it’s been said that red spider lilies on their own are poisonous. But I’ve heard also the starchy roots can be made into a medicine to help heal people. And, I’ve also heard that when they’re properly prepared, the roots can sustain life if there isn’t enough “regular” food for people to eat.

I remember sometimes God shows his mercy–and his power–working even beyond what can be harmful or is evil. And yet, he has the most unbelievable good planned for us all.

Finally, the amazing red color of the flowers reminds me of the blood of Jesus.

We Christians understand, of course, that Jesus’ life, given voluntarily to take the punishment justice would rightly require of each of us, is the supreme sacrifice and the most amazing picture of God loving us. We who should be punished are instead welcomed by this God—a righteous judge who loves us so much he himself pays what we owe. Amazing!

I was so touched by manjushage those years ago that I planted some at the ministry center where we were serving at that time. I’m still touched when I see them, blooming as they are just now.

I hope that when people see those red spidery flowers, they’ll be reminded, too, of God’s amazing and unbelievable kindness—and that God’s kindness is also for each of them.

And maybe when you read and see this now, you’ll be reminded that God’s kindness is for each of you, too!

Hello world!

Hi!  We’re John and Etsuko Martin. John from Kentucky in the USA and Etsuko from Yokohama in Japan.

Followers of Jesus. On a journey. Now in Japan.

“Johnetsu,” a name that obviously combines how our names are written. And although pronounced a little differently, also one of the ways of putting in Roman characters the Japanese word for “passion.”

Our vision, our passion:  Building relationships and working to let Jesus work through us to call people into God’s Kingdom, even as we work to know Jesus better ourselves.  Coming alongside people who are already Jesus followers and accompanying them on their journey, celebrating with them how God’s worked, and is working, in their lives, and encouraging them.  Helping to enable people—both in Japan and elsewhere—to use—both here and elsewhere!—the gifts God’s given them, so that many people in this world will know Him.

We hope to share through this blog some of the things we’re learning on our journey of “passion” and how we’re working to live all of that out.

Simply. Not perfectly. But we hope authentically.