I marveled at the serenity of the young woman sitting across from me at our breakfast table. The coronavirus was spreading. People were panicking. I dared ask the question on everyone’s mind. “Are you still going to Japan?”
Softly smiling, Kristen replied, “Yes. The mission has okayed my flight to Tokyo on Thursday…” She paused, “Perhaps people will be more open to the Gospel because of their fear of death.”
As a retired missionary to Japan myself, I was thrilled that God had also called Kristen to help sow the Gospel in Japan. I certainly didn’t want to plant doubts. But the danger of disease was real. Just days before her scheduled flight across the Pacific Ocean, Japan’s Prime Minister had closed schools nationwide for the month of March.
Over a year earlier Kristen had applied to serve at a Christian coffee shop in downtown Tokyo. After being accepted, she raised support for her first three months in Japan. Now, days before walking onto a jet and into her call, a plague propelled across East Asia.
Kristen, undaunted by the danger, refused to wait for a more convenient time. Her heart to spread the love of Jesus in Japan was undimmed by the growing threat of the coronavirus. True, her once calm circumstances had risen to critical. Still, God calls us to serve Him in fair weather and foul: “He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap.” (Eccl. 11:4)
As she shared her plans, I remembered another plague. Another time when heading into the storm looked crazy, foolhardy. The Israelites’ continual complaints against Moses and Aaron had greatly angered God. A plague began to sweep through the congregation, mowing down people like grass.
Rather than watch from a safe distance, Moses told Aaron to grab his censer, quickly add incense, and race toward the onslaught as fast as he could. Anyone watching the scene surely would have thought, “How foolish! How presumptuous! Aaron’s running the wrong way!” But look! The moment Aaron reached the onrushing wall of death the wave of destruction stopped. “Aaron stood between the dead and the living.” (Numbers 16:48)
People often accused the Apostle Paul of acting crazy, of being out of his mind. In defensive of his "foolish" actions, he explained, “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” (2 Cor. 5:14-15)
What about the rest of us? Is the call of God to “go and tell” limited to a few adventurous souls? Only to be heeded when all is safe and secure? Granted, we should behave wisely, but free from fear of losing our lives.
The safest place in the world is in the center of God’s will, regardless of the outcome. Because Jesus embraced death and overcame it, “he destroyed the Devil's hold on death and freed all who cower through life, scared to death of death.” (Heb. 2:14b-15)
“You say, 'Four months more, and then it will be harvest time.' But I tell you, open your eyes! Look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest right now.” (John 4:35) You and I have a story to tell to the nations, beginning at our front doors and going as far as we can go.
Let us, like Aaron... like Kristen... run toward the plague.