Greetings from Teshio, Hokkaido, Japan. I am Vicki Mansell, and my husband and I are in our 30th year here in a rural dairy and fishing part of the country. While I do not feel qualified at all to share with you here, when I saw Jen’s request I remembered my promise to God when we started furlough—God, I will never turn down a request to speak to ladies. And while I was not asked personally, the Lord just seemed to say, "You should contribute." So I prayed and asked the Lord what to share with you, and I hope it is a blessing to someone today.
I have no gift in speaking, actually no love of speaking before people, and my gifts are in helps and listening—so I am a behind-the-scenes person and the busier the better!! When I asked my mother at the beginning of our deputation (a whole other life ago!), what am I going to do when I am asked to speak? She gave me these wise words—BE YOURSELF!! Just talk about what you know and don’t pretend to do anything else. By God’s grace, that is exactly what I did. Yes, I had to write every word out on my note papers (not just outlines) so when I panicked or lost my train of thought it was right there in front of me to read when I needed to. Yes, I had to write everything out because it was so easy for me to suddenly not know what I had been saying! (I now know that various symptoms I have had since I was in junior high were due to extreme sleep apnea which was diagnosed this last year), but I spoke in S.S., in women’s meetings, at women’s retreats and once just briefly in the ladies’ dorm where my daughter was living in Bible School. It is and was God’s grace that helped me with that difficult desire.
So my first thought is what would we do without GRACE! My life's verse is Proverbs 3:5, 6 – "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him and he shall direct thy paths." As I look back, I can definitely see God’s direction as we sought God’s will for our lives, and I know we were in His will when we were in the youth pastorate in Minnesota. But after we came to Japan, we knew that call was just one of the links for our final work and destiny here in the northern parts of Japan. So by the grace of God we were ‘in the way, the Lord led me…’ (Gen. 24:27). To go along with that verse, I have also claimed the saying (and I know there is a whole poem to this), “The will of God will never take you where the GRACE of God cannot keep you.” By God’s grace I know two things for sure—He has helped me keep that promise to never turn down a request to speak even when it greatly took me out of my comfort zone, to the point of embarrassment a couple times, and has kept us here in Japan—one of the hardest languages to learn in the world and one of the hardest people to reach in the whole world. We have been told by those groups who go to summer or winter Olympics that the two groups who refuse to take tracts or listen to someone talk to them are the Muslims and the Japanese!! I could go into so much detail on how difficult it is to reach people, but I mention it basically to recognize God’s grace to keep going when the going is tough, not one day but every day!
And that brings me to point two—faithfulness! Proverbs 20:6- "Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness: but a faithful man who can find?" In Matthew 25 (and Luke) it says, “His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” In I Cor. 4 we find “Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord” and I Tim. 1:12 “And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry.” Some of you, praise God, are in fields that lend to openness of heart and see people come to know the Lord and follow Him in baptism over and over, and your churches are growing. I do NOT EVER regret you had that opportunity. But I also do not feel our work is any less important. BUT when it comes to writing a prayer letter (which my husband and I work on together each month), pride loves to step in and say, “Well, what are you going to say this month…no new people came; you haven’t seen anyone saved in several years; you have nothing important to tell them.” I have to tell Satan, "Get thee behind me…," for when we search our hearts we know we ARE being faithful: we are sharing the Word with those that will listen both in word and in tracts; my husband preaches to whoever comes to services whether one or many (3 or 4 and we seek to find those that God is calling unto himself. Yes, it takes a long time—we have been teaching one high school nurse for three years now, and she is SO CLOSE to being saved (has finally admitted there is only one God and not thousands and yes, she needs to be saved) but she is afraid—afraid of her family’s response (In this country, it can be equivalent to emotional persecution and possible family rejection); afraid of going a different direction in ALL ways of life if she gets saved. Even when one gets saved here, you must bathe them in much prayer and encouragement for days and months, and age does not count. A young man who lived far away from home in his early 30’s got saved, was discipled, and desired to be baptized; so knew he should tell his family. We bathed that in prayer, and he told us which day he would do it. We received a phone call right afterwards saying he would never come to church again, did not want to see us, and would call the police on us if we tried to see him. When Ken tried ANYWAY, he refused to answer the door. To this day, we have no idea what powerful words his parents said to him about what he had come to believe or why he responded as a grown man to such pressure!!
We also fight the ‘transfer work system’ here in Japan. Most jobs in this country require their employees to transfer to a different town/city after 3-5 years. No option included. So we know that unless we reach a local businessman or family member, the ones we work with will eventually be gone from the work again. But we need to be here for them as well. Maybe we can plant the seed of hope and salvation so that when they move to the next place, God can use someone else to continue sowing and maybe even see the fruit. So faithfulness is the key—faithful to share the Gospel no matter whether we get results or not; faithful to disciple and teach even if they, as one young lady did after five years of study, reject the final step saying she could not break off the family chain of praying for her ancestors by accepting Jesus Christ; faithful to death, the Lord’s return, or other leading—just be faithful day by day, hour by hour.
There is so much more I could say, but ladies, let me just close with this—if you are on deputation: be willing to go beyond your comfort zone to minister what you can to each person and church you are in contact with. Look on deputation as the first stage of your ministry, not just a have-to-raise-funds trip. Be faithful in the steps of ministering to churches as you travel so they can minister back to you! Are you happy in front of your children and positive about this part of the ministry so they do not get the idea that deputation is just a necessary step in getting to the field of your calling?
Then if you are on the field now, whether in your first term and struggling with all that brings—new foods, new people, new customs (Which can I partake in, and which ones are not a good testimony?), new languages…new, new, new—so much to take in and learn. Or are you in a stable ministry and maybe have even had the joy of turning a work over to a national and moving on to a new location—be faithful again, moment by moment, day by day…when the tears of frustration come over situations – turn them into fountains of rejoicing that God IS FAITHFUL ‘who also will do it’!
Thank you for being faithful to His calling in your lives wherever you are and in whatever you are doing!! That is all God asks for—not numbers, not continual positive moving forward—just faithful in all He asks us to do—first as wives and then as mothers and THEN finally to the people He has called us to.
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