Grieving What Is No More
During my first and last full days in Japan, October 3 and 8, I experienced considerable sadness at the strong likelihood that this would be my last time in Japan. Especially on Monday evening, I walked around familiar places with tears in my eyes because the next morning I was going to be leaving the place I have loved so much.
As I was jogging early Tuesday morning, though, I started thinking about the words that I had called to mind last week after visiting my good friend Otsuka Kumiko-san, who has terminal cancer: Don’t grieve over what is no more; rather, give thanks for what once was.
I began to apply those words to myself and my grieving because of leaving Japan for the last time.
Giving Thanks for What Once Was
So, yesterday morning I began to give thanks for each thing I had been feeling sad about, including the following:
** I am thankful for the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board, as it was called then, for appointing June and me as missionaries to Japan in 1966 and for supporting us throughout our 38 years there. The Southen Baptist Convention has changed through the years and I am no longer able to be a Southern Baptist; nevertheless, I am deeply grateful for what once was.
** I am thankful for Seinan Gakuin, the school system in Fukuoka City that Southern Baptist missionaries founded in 1916, and for the trustees electing me to the university faculty 50 years ago. I am deeply grateful for the privilege of being able to teach there for 36 years and to serve as chancellor during my final eight years in Japan.
** I am thankful for Hirao Baptist Church, which June and I joined 50 years ago and which was our church home for twelve years. I am also thankful Hirao Church sponsored us in starting the Fukuoka International Church (FIC) and that I was able to serve for 24 years as part-time pastor of that church.
** I am thankful for many Japanese friends, mentors, and co-workers--especially Otsuka Kumiko-san (about whom I wrote, here, on Sept. 5) and Kaneko Sumio-sensei, who was the pastor of Hirao Church for most of the years we attended there. I am thankful for the good visits I had with Otsuka-san on Oct. 3-4 and with Kaneko-sensei on Oct. 4.
** I am thankful for the many former FIC congregants whom I fondly remember--and especially those I was able to visit with over a delicious meal on Oct. 6. That gathering was organized by Fukuoka Kikuko-san, who was the first person I had the privilege of baptizing as pastor of FIC.
** I am thankful for the many students that I had the privilege of teaching at Seinan Gakuin University and especially those with whom I still have contact--such as those I met with on the afternoon of Oct. 8 for a delightful two hours.
What a Difference It Makes!
At dusk on Monday when I left the gathering of former students just mentioned, I walked around familiar places for about two hours, grieving at having to leave Japan for the last time the next day. It was a sad time of thinking of what will be no more, at least of direct experience in Japan.
But Tuesday morning each time I began to have sad thoughts, I would give thanks for what has been--and what a difference that made in how I felt!
Thank you for allowing me to share some of my thoughts / experiences of the past week. In spite of this article being mostly about me, I hope many of you will remember, and profit from, the main point:
Don’t grieve over what is no more; rather, give thanks for what once was.