For months now, Pastor Tajima (our pastor from Koriyama Baptist Church) has been encouraging us to visit his sister, who lives in the historic city of Kyoto . Apparently, she loves to host folks from out of town, especially if they have never seen the city and its world-famous sights. So on December 26th, we embarked on a long-awaited journey to see the ancient capital of Japan. Our hosts, the Haras, were incredibly generous and kind, and took us all around the city on a two-day, all-expenses paid guided tour. It is said that Kyoto has a temple or a shrine on every corner, and that reputation held true as we were taken from one ancient Buddhist temple to another.
Historically, architecturally, and aesthetically, these old temples were certainly very impressive. But for all their history, technical skill and beauty, these places still felt empty to us. They claim to house all kinds of gods, buddhas, and bodhisattvas, but they are spiritually empty because they are devoid of the one true God. We felt this emptiness keenly as Buddhist monks rang their temple bell 108 times to atone for sin; as people superstitiously burned candles, threw money in boxes, and rang bells to wake the gods; and as we walked down a dim hall past countless statues of Buddhist gods and goddesses. All these things made us sad, and pierced our hearts with the desire to do what we can to bring true light and true joy to the people of this land.
Rather than overwhelm you with the names of the places we went and their historical significance (which overwhelms even Mike, who studied Japanese history in college), we figured we would take you on a photo montage journey through our travels in Kyoto. Enjoy!
Overall, we are glad we went; it is part of our journey towards a deeper understanding who the Japanese people are. It is also a part of becoming more knowledgeable, and more “at-home” here in Japan. And it has given us more of a heart for gospel ministry here.
Please pray for Japan, that millions would seek Jesus and the joy he brings. Pray also for the Haras, who have a very large buddhist altar in their home that was full of fresh offerings and incense. Pray that they (and our students, our friends, and our neighbors here in Funehiki) would come to see the emptiness of such worship, and that they would be overwhelmed by the love and grace of the One who made them.
-Mike & Jen