Thursday, May 29, 2014

And everyone's chains came loose

There’s this park where I go to talk to God sometimes. I go there because it was built over the bones of a prison. The prison was called Sugamo, and during the war the Japanese government locked up people like political dissenters, communists, and pastors there. After the war, under American occupation, suspected war criminals took their places in those cells.
(keep reading, I promise this isn't a history essay!)

Sugamo prison, then and now - that's right, they built Sunshine City on top of it! 

History mostly forgot, but there was a little old Irish missionary woman named Irene Webster Smith (here is the book about her you should read: who went into that prison too. She went on behalf of the Christian wife of one of those men facing execution, to tell him about Jesus. He listened, he believed, and he started telling others. Irene went back with Bibles, and 14 men faced execution carrying them.

That happened.

War criminals sat in cells where praying Japanese pastor had sat before them, and they heard about a God who loved them. As they faced death they came face-to-face with God, and many of them met Him soon after.

That happened.

So I go to this park, and I pray, because when I talk to God, I want to remember that He does the things we think are impossible. I want to remember that He saves the impossible people, I want to remember that no one is beyond the reach of His grace. And I want to remember that I am never beyond the reach of His grace, that it extends into all the broken, hopelessly unreachable places in me too, and it is making them into something beautiful.

Because sometimes I lose sight of that.

The world gets so loud and insistent, with all of its measurements of value, beauty and success.

And as soon as I start listening, it steals my peace and leaves me quietly reeling.

I don’t think most of the people who come to this park even know about the prison. There’s nothing but an engraved memorial stone to remember it by, shamefully tucked away in a corner. It doesn’t even actually mention the prison, instead it says simply, ‘Pray for Eternal Peace’.

So I find myself going there when I’m looking for peace – the seeing God kind of peace. Other people go there for all kinds of things. They skateboard, and dance, and hold hands on the benches. There’s an impressive population of friendly stray cats there too, and everyone goes around petting them and feeding them scraps.

Cats everywhere!

But there’s something else tucked shamefully away in the corners of this park -- tents. Today one of the homeless men who lives in them was sitting on the ground in the sun. He had one of the stray cats cradled in his lap, and she made that happy-cat face as he stroked her head. He smiled, and I smiled, and our eyes met for a second.

‘Pray for eternal peace’

Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. A t once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone's chains came loose. - Acts 16:26