Just before Christmas, we had a new opportunity to reach out into our community. I shared a little about in on Facebook, but now I’d like to share the full story here.
Over the past year and a half, I’ve been dealing with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, a condition that makes the nerves in my arms and hands painful. However, with physiotherapy, it’s manageable. At the start, I used to require physiotherapy every week or two, but now that my muscles are stronger, I only need a tune-up once every three months.
My case is complex, so the physiotherapist who treats me is the head of the rehabilitation unit at our local hospital. We’ll call him Henry.
At the beginning of December, I had my regular appointment. Resting in the large rehab room on hot packs used to loosen my muscles, I had a brainwave. Usually, when Peter or I have a new idea for ministry, we run it by each other before suggesting it to anyone else. This time, however, I felt some sort of inner urgency to suggest it to Henry right away. With a prayer, I was off.
“You and your team have helped both me and Peter a lot over the years. We would like to say thank you. If you like, we can come to the hospital before Christmas and Peter can play Christmas carols on his violin. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. We could come to this room and Peter could play while you and your staff are working with the patients. That way we won’t be inconveniencing anyone’s work day, but you’ll have a chance to enjoy Peter’s violin playing. We’re so grateful.”
“That sounds interesting. Let me talk to my staff and I will get back to you.”
I gave him a list of all the days we could be available before Christmas, and told him he could pick one. We exchanged cell numbers.
After a week, I received a text message. “We would like to take you up on your offer,” it said. “Would December 21st still work for you?”
On the appointed day, we went to the rehab room. We were a little early, so we waited outside. No need to interrupt anyone until the scheduled time.
Peter had printed out about 10 songs that he could cycle through, based on how people were enjoying the time. I brought along some Christmas goodies and drinks that we could set on a side table.
That morning, we’d both independently had the idea to print out lyrics to Silent Night (a famous carol here), so that people could sing along if they liked. Not sure if singing would be appropriate in this context, we resolved to keep the song sheets hidden in our bag unless we deemed them necessary.
“How many should I print?” I asked.
“I don’t know. Fifteen?”
That afternoon as we waited outside the rehab room, Henry came out to greet us. At the same time, a doctor stepped off of a nearby elevator and also greeted us. We carried out the usual Japanese ritual of exchanging cards on first meeting someone. The doctor did a double-take on seeing ours.
“I’m a Christian, too!” he said. We’ll call him Ian.
“Ok, let’s go up now,” said Henry.
Up? We were already at the big physiotherapy room.
We followed the two onto the elevator.
Peter pulled out a flyer to his Messiah Christmas concert. It was scheduled to take place the next day at a different church in our area, Naha Baptist. “Is it okay if I hand these out to interested people at the end?”
Ian stared at the flyer. “What are you doing with a flyer from my church?”
The elevator doors opened, and we stepped out into a rehab inpatient unit. It was set up for a proper concert!
This picture was taken when about half the people had assembled.
The space filled up with walkers and wheelchairs, and soon patients, doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, and even a few hospital administrative staff were standing ten-deep, lined up all the way down the hall.
After everyone was assembled, Ian gave a talk about the reason we celebrate Christmas—going from manger to cross!
Ian starting us off (and the only picture I got where Peter's kind of in the shot).
During the concert, Peter played violin, and I acted as MC. We had the patients sing along with Silent Night, though we’d not printed nearly enough song sheets. They shared with each other, and most of the staff went without.
Near the end, everyone enjoyed singing along to a traditional Japanese folk song, called Furusato. This song is one full of nostalgia for one’s hometown, and it seemed to be especially touching for those present.
After, another physiotherapist played a few Disney songs on her clarinet.
When the music was finished, some of the crowd sampled my Christmas baking, and the physiotherapists asked us to hand out small gifts that they’d purchased for all the in-patients. We enjoyed connecting with each of the patients individually and getting to wish them all a merry Christmas.
Even now, this event is particularly dear to our hearts. Usually, outside-the-church events are based on the relationships that Higa sensei or one of the church members have with someone in the community. This is the first time that we’ve done something gospel-related outside our home or the church, on their turf, where the event was based solely on contacts that we had.
How amazingly God provided His gospel message when it was far beyond our authority and capabilities for the context—yet another example of His provision of exactly what’s needed, no matter what the circumstance.
Picture source for hospital image