We all have had those moments in time in which we will always remember the exact time, the exact place, and the situation that we will carry for the rest of our lives. Like November 22nd, 1963, when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. It was 12:30 pm and I was standing in line at the school cafeteria. I was only thirteen but my young world felt the shock waves that rocked the nation. Then there was the attack on September 11th, 2001 at 8:46am while I sat working on my computer in my office. These indelible moments I experienced through the media of television.
Then there are the unforgettable moments where I was physically present. April 3, 1997 at 3:00pm I stood at the death bed of my father and again in February 29, 2004 I was present at the passing of my mother. I can testify that there is a tremendous difference between seeing a powerful event unfold from a safe distance through the media, and experiencing a life-changing moment first hand.
My travels as a speaker took me to Japan for several weeks where I spoke for public education as well as Christian schools and churches. Being only a few hours drive from Nagasaki we planned a day trip there to take in the culture and history. Nagasaki was the industrial city where the 2nd atomic bomb was dropped three days after Hiroshima. It had all happened five years before I was born.
We headed for Ground Zero where the Nagasaki Museum stood. I had minored in history in College, and was well read on World War 2, the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the atomic bombs that ended the war. I had seen videos and pictures of the atomic devastation. As we entered the doors of the museum I felt the solemnity sweep over me. My brain couldn’t comprehend what my eyes were seeing. Room after room housed things that were forever fossilized, such as a lunch box still containing food which was turned into charcoal. A green tinged glass coke bottle had melted and folded around the bones of a human hand. The clock that stopped at exactly 11:02 AM when the clockworks imploded with the impact, memorializing that one moment in time when 42,000 people would evaporate off the earth.
God used that day at the museum to prepare me for another moment in time. I earnestly believe that all things are from Him, for Him, with Him and in Him and there is nothing by chance or by luck. God was directing each step and had another divine appointment waiting for me in Nagasaki. I was to meet with Eiko Yamazaki, a deaf woman, who had survived the atomic bomb at Nagasaki.
Who was this woman, Eiko Yamazaki? Aside from both of us being profoundly deaf, we had little in common. We lived on opposite sides of the world. She was Japanese, and I am an American. I am a lip-reader, and she used Japanese Sign Language. She was a Buddhist while I am a Christian. What could we talk about? Why had God arranged this amazing appointment? I felt I needed to get to know her before our meeting and to get an idea of who she was even if I couldn’t understand her so I asked to view the video of her giving her address at the 58th Peace Ceremony at Nagasaki. I studied her face and her body language as she signed her message using Japanese Signs. A slight black haired lady, she was very animated, and although I had no comprehension of what she was communicating, it what was I saw in her that gave me insight into what to share with her.
The hour came for our meeting. There were five other women in the room besides Eiko and myself. Two sign language interpreters, two Japanese-English interpreters, and my oral interpreter in case I couldn’t read the English interpreter’s lips. I was grateful that I had ‘met’ Eiko through the video and felt very much at ease as she walked toward me. Her small frame had a frailness but it was her eyes that grabbed my attention. She had a calm and direct look that also held strong reserve. We sat across the corner from each other at a table, with interpreters positioned where we could both best see them. I was to speak in English, which was then interpreted into Japanese, another Japanese woman then signed it in Japanese Sign Language. Then when Eiko signed, it was to be interpreted into Japanese, and from Japanese into English so I could read it on my interpreter’s lips. It was going to be a very slow conversation but I had been praying for this moment since the appointment was arranged. God, why do You have me here? What should I say? How can I be used as your instrument to encourage this woman? I sensed this was not some chance meeting but something much bigger was at stake. I didn’t know what so I poured out my heart in prayer that God would be in our midst and that He would give me words.
First she shared her story. August 9th, 1945 was a beautiful hot sunny morning. Eighteen year old Eiko had tea with her mother and sister in their home until Eiko had to leave to work in the fields outside of the town. That short walk is what saved her life. At 11:02 AM the atomic bomb, “Fat Man” hit the industrial city of Nagasaki. From a distance she felt the earth rippling with the shockwaves and saw the mushroom cloud rising over her city. She saw people screaming and running, with their flesh falling off their bodies. Black smoke hung thickly in the air and the acrid stench of burning was everywhere. Climbing through rubble it took young Eiko hours to get back into the heart of the city where her home was within the hypocenter of the bomb’s devastation. There was nothing left of her home, her mother, or her sister except a few teeth. I can only imagine her confusion as a profoundly deaf woman, who could see and smell the incredible destruction and death surrounding her, but who could not communicate with those survivors to learn what had happened. There was no visual media such as TV or internet to see what had happened. It was a first-hand experience that took her years to comprehend what had transpired in that one moment of time.
It was my turn to talk and I started the conversation by thanking her for taking the time to meet a stranger from a distant land. When she smiled warmly at me I knew the interpreters were getting through. I shared that I had viewed her speech at the Peace Ceremony and although I could not understand any words, I did learn something from watching it. Once again she smiled with understanding. The next words out of my mouth were God speaking through me. “Do you know what I learned about you by watching the video?” Moments ticked by with interpreting before she responded with a quick shake of her head. Compassion filled me as I looked at her, and said, “You have a secret and I know your secret.” The English interpreter gave me a questioning look before she interpreted into Japanese. The Japanese Sign language interpreter also paused before conveying the message to Eiko. My new deaf friend eagerly waited for the communication, and when I saw unconcealed surprised cross her face I knew she had received my message. Her black eyes were intensely searching my face so I spoke again. “I know your secret and I am in awe of it. Your secret is that you have absolutely no fear. You do not fear man, storms, wars, sickness…” The room was very still as all six women in the room turned to look at me. Boldly I continued, “You have no fear, Eiko, because you came face to face with the worst thing on earth, the worst evil of man, the atomic bomb, and you survived and you know that nothing worse than that can touch you in this life. I say to you it was God who let you live through this greatest force known to man – the atomic bomb.”
I sat watching the interpreter relaying what I had just said and all the while my body was trembling. Inwardly I was praying, “Lord, these are not my words and I don’t know where you are taking this conversation but Thy Will be done, use me, Father, if it be your Will.”
Eiko turned to the interpreter to receive the message and then with those steady dark eyes looking directly into mine she bowed her head toward me once with clear affirmation. Her body leaned forward as if asking for more information so I continued.
“Do you know why you survived the atomic bomb?” I waited as the question was interpreted. Her response was a slow shake of her head. “The reason you survived the atomic bomb, Eiko, is so that we could meet today. I came across the ocean from America to give you good news. Has anyone ever told you about Jesus? Have you ever heard of Jesus, the Son of the living God?” She shook her head, no, as the question was interpreted so I continue with another question, “Do you know Buddha, are you a Buddhist?” Eiko responded with a yes to that question which prompt me to ask, “So my question is this. Did Buddha ever die for you and then come back to life?” Eiko sat wide eyed after receiving this news, shaking her head slowly.
I went on to share the gospel of Jesus and how He lived and died for us. “Eiko, the reason God allowed you to live that day when so many others died in the bomb, was that He wanted us to meet on this day so I could tell you about Jesus, the Son of the true and living God, Who took upon Himself your sins that you would be forgiven and live forever with Him in heaven. Before I came and told you this truth, you didn’t know so you were not accountable but today you have been told, and now you are accountable. Can I pray for you right now?” She nodded her head in assent.
In that one moment of time, that frail 78 year old deaf Japanese woman ‘heard’ about Jesus Christ for the first time in her life and received my words. It was a moment in time for me, as well, to seize the opportunity to share about the Man that had so changed my own life, the Man that had died for me, rose again and set me free to walk in newness of life. I realized that this moment was ordained of God for me to speak of Him to a profoundly deaf woman who would never hear the Gospel in any way other than face to face. I knew that God had ordained my steps to travel to the other side of the world, and that this one moment in time was not of my own accord, and was not by chance but was an encounter that the Almighty God of the Universe had planned in detail so that I could make Him known to this deaf Japanese lady who had lived through so much in her lifetime, and who was now nearing the end of her years on earth. It may have been the only time she would ‘hear’ the name of Jesus, but now she knew.
Friends, do you walk with Jesus? Do you know Him? The more you know Him, the more you will want to make Him known, no matter where you are. So the next question is for you. Are you making Him known to those around you? If you believe that God directs your paths, then He is bringing people across that path. It doesn’t matter where you are in life, or who those people are, each moment in time is a divine appointment by God. In that given moment, are you making Him known?