Japan is a beautiful place. The people, the hospitality and the culture is something I can easily say was one of the best experiences of my life. I know that was greatly aided by the number of wonderful Japanese Christians so willing to take my team and I and in and show us their marvelous country. It was truly a great time for me.
I had been praying a lot before this mission trip. I had a year under my belt now since my Guatemala trip (read here) and the Lord had already spoken a few times through dreams to me, so I was excited about going to Japan to share the gospel with one of the most unreached nations on earth. After the ways the Lord had spoken and moved in my life in the past year, I was sure He was going to have much to say about this trip.
I knew God cared about His people who were yet to follow Him. I knew He cared about me. I was sure God was going to speak in dramatic ways to increase our ministry in Japan. I prayed and fasted and asked God to show up. I knew He would.
For months leading up to my team’s trip to Japan we had problems. I had to convince two different team members not to drop out. They were afraid they weren’t going to be able to go for various reasons. I assured them God always comes through and to hang in there. I had to whisper a prayer under my breath each time I reassured them asking God to “please come through.” But come through He did. Just in time God provided everything we needed to be on our way for a successful trip. Even though I’d not heard anything prophetic from Him before the trip I felt like I’d seen Him move powerfully just to get us there.
I was excited to be in Japan once we landed. It was instant culture immersion, and I loved it. I was just waiting for God to start speaking to me about which Japanese person I met was going to come to know Him. I was waiting for God to reveal to me the secrets of the hearts of those around me so that what Paul said would happen:
But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!” 1 Corinthians 14:24-25
The ministry we were engaging in was exciting, but I kept waiting. I kept waiting and asking. I asked the Lord to speak a lot, but no matter how much I asked I got nothing from the Lord. I didn’t hear from God about a single person in Japan. But our ministry went really well. We actually had a tremendous impact on the little church we ministered at, and they had an even bigger impact on us. They were so good to us and I have such a special love for them even today.
After about four weeks in country I wondered if God was going to speak. I had figured, incorrectly, that God was surely going to speak clearly when I went on a mission trip. I knew He’d have lots to say to start a revival in Japan. I do know He wants to start a revival in Japan, but it obviously wasn’t through prophetic evangelism while I was there.
One evening I was crying out to God before I fell asleep. I begged Him to speak. I asked Him if He really cared about these people like He cared about the Guatemalans. Then I instantly retracted that. I knew He did, but I told Him I didn’t understand why He seemed to speak to me about seemingly trivial things over the past year but when I was doing the Lord’s highest calling in Japan He had nothing to say. And it wasn’t for lack of me paying attention.
I fell asleep that night wondering why God was so quiet now. Had I done something? Was it me? My confidence in the God who spoke was definitely shaken.
About 4 am I awoke from a dream sobbing. I’d never experienced anything like it. I was actually sobbing uncontrollably when I woke up and I couldn’t stop for thirty minutes. It was out of my control and it was beyond my understanding.
The dream was short. I saw my older brother in prison. He was in a big “tank” as they often call them. I’ve been involved in prison ministry before, so I know a little bit about prison life. A tank is like a big dorm where everyone’s bunk is in a giant open room. They may have 30 or more men all in the same room so that they make more efficient use of their space. The people in the tanks are usually the more docile guys; they reserve the small cells for the ones they can’t trust.
In the dream I saw my brother sitting on his bed in the big open room. Just then a group of thugs came up to him and surrounded him in a circle. They started mocking him and made some comments about his mouth had gotten him in trouble. I was watching the whole thing as if I was twenty feet up and twenty feet away. I had a bird’s eye view of the whole thing.
Immediately I was overcome with emotion. I knew they were going to kill my brother. I wanted to shout out “NO!” but I was mute. I felt helpless. I knew my brother was. He has palsy in one of his arms, so I knew he didn’t have a chance to defend himself against the angry mob.
One of them took out a shiv, a makeshift knife, and began to advance at my brother with it. He was desperately trying to talk his way out of the situation, but there was no use. As the man drew closer to my brother he swiped horizontally at him as if to slit his throat. My brother dodged, but in the process the bridge of his nose was slit. I could see the blood gushing from his nose from a horizontal slice right where the bone meets the cartilage.
Just as I saw all this I was finally able to shout “NO!” The only problem was I realized I was awake now. My shout was probably heard throughout the neighborhood and I was out of control. I couldn’t stop my sobbing. For the only night my entire stay in Japan I was sleeping in my own room, so my roommate never saw it. For thirty minutes I couldn’t stop crying. I sobbed and cried out to God to save my brother. He had to come through for him. I begged God to rescue him. I pleaded for angels to be released to his aid.
The dream felt so real that I couldn’t distinguish dream from reality. After the sobbing stopped I still had a burden for prayer for another half hour. For an entire hour after my dream I cried out for my brother in prayer. Pleading and begging I longed for the dream to be just that. Then finally after an hour, the feeling of dread and helplessness left. The burden for prayer left.
And I was tired, so I fell right back asleep.
The next morning when I woke up, quite drowsy from losing an hour of sleep, I couldn’t make sense of my dream. I wondered if it was an allegory the Lord had given me about the Japanese people in response to my pleas for Him to speak. I was confused because if it was God speaking to me about the Japanese people I was no better off than the day before. If it was God speaking, I’d need another dream or prophet just to figure out what the dream meant.
A couple days later after wrestling with the dream’s meaning I decided to email my mother. I thought there was a chance the dream was actually about my brother. I know that seems obvious now, but in the midst of all my crying out to God to speak about the Japanese I was sure He’d answered and I just wasn’t getting it.
I asked my mother if my brother was doing well. I said I’d had a dream about him and he was in trouble. I wasn’t going to tell my mother he was attacked, you just don’t ever tell a mother something like that.
What happened next really surprised me. My mother was overly interested in knowing what my dream was. Then she told me that my brother had been attacked in prison. I hadn’t told her that; only that he was in trouble.
When I had come back from my trip to Guatemala the year before my parents were in the room when our friend Loretta was telling me the dreams she had and how they were exactly what was going on while I was there. It was a new experience for all of us and I think it had left an impression on my parents the same as me. God speaking in dreams and things like that was new to all of us, but I think my mother had really taken to heart the fact that God could and would still speak like that. Ane when it came to one of her sons, she was going to take it seriously.
The rest of my time in Japan flew by. We had a great time finishing up the ministry we were involved over the next two weeks. I still love Japan and I long to go back. I’ve not had the opportunity in over a decade, but my heart longs for Japan more than any place on earth. They are a beautiful people who have a great need for the gospel. If you’ve ever been interested in going, check out my friend (and former teammate there) Robert Adair’s web page and sign up to go!
When I got back from Japan I had one thing in mind. I had to go to prison and visit my brother. I had to find out if what I had dreamed was real. After a couple days of jetlag and catching up with my parents and friends I made the four hour drive to visit him. I wasn’t prepared for what I was going to see. If someone had described it to me, I don’t think I would have believed it. If someone had sent a photo I would have been skeptical that it was a fluke or Photoshopped.
As I sat across the table from my brother I was speechless. He had a healing scab across his nose right at the bridge where cartilage meets bone. The cut that was healing wasn’t sort of in the same place I’d seen in the dream but in the exact place. It looked 100% like what I’d seen–a clean cut straight across his nose.
As we sat there and talked about it and later with my mother I realized that my dream had been within an hour of when he was attacked in real life. I was asleep dreaming on the other side of the planet and my brother was being attacked during the day back here in the daytime. God surely knows no time zones.
I’m convinced that God showed me my brother’s peril now because He always longs to include and partner with His people in every way. God hears our prayers, and He longs for us to join in with His purposes and plans. I know God has great plans for my brother and He wanted me to know the trouble he was in so I could intercede for him. God wanted my partnership in the situation the same way He’d used Loretta a year before. I was in trouble and crying out to God and He showed a woman through dreams and visions. My brother was in trouble and He showed me.
God really cares about us!
Answering Questions We Don’t Ask
I learned something important through that experience. I still ask God to speak about specific situations, like my ministry in Japan, but I no longer expect Him to answer the exact question I ask. Think about the number of times Jesus refused to answer people on earth with a straight answer. He often posed another question to them entirely or His answer almost seemed to have nothing to do with the question. There’s too many examples of this to list here.
Why did Jesus answer questions this way? Because He’s a lot smarter than us. Often our questions are based in preconceived notions that we’re correct about something. Jesus knows our hearts so well that instead of answering our questions directly, He’ll often go back to the root issue that created our question in the first place and deal with that. Sometimes we’re so removed from the root issue that the answer (or question as it often is) seems nonsensical to us. It certainly did to the Pharisees over and over again.
What I learned was that when I ask for God to speak, I have to be open to hearing what He wants to talk about. He sees everything that’s going on and I need to trust Him that if He speaks, whatever He says is for sure the most relevant thing for me to know at that moment. I’m no longer disappointed when God doesn’t answer my question directly. It doesn’t stop me from continuing to ask questions because God still answers those even when He’s dealing with us on separate issues, but I always take whatever He says with a great deal of seriousness.
I encourage you to write your dreams down. Journal your prayers and questions from God. And definitely begin to ask Him to speak to you. He loves to speak to people who are asking and listening intently.
What do you think? Is God changing the direction of the conversation on you? Is He answering a question you didn’t think you asked? Is he talking about your brother when you’re asking about your bank account?