“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” II Corinthians 5:7
Ippo Ippo is the Japanese equivalent for the phrase “step by step.” It is also the name we chose for a disaster relief ministry among the displaced population of northeastern Japan following the devastating earthquake and tsunami that occurred on March 11, 2011. In the days following that national disaster, our team of relief workers moved and served among people who had lost everything. Each day required new steps of faith for both us and the hundreds of volunteers who scrambled to respond to ever- changing conditions. The name Ippo Ippo, which was on our ID badges, served to reassure the disaster victims that we were there to move forward with them, one step at a time. It also reminded us to lean daily into God for His enablement and guidance in the midst of adverse circumstances.
Since then, ippo ippo has lingered in our hearts as a catch phrase as it seems to characterize our 34 years of ministry and life in Japan. From the moment we took our first faltering steps as new and inexperienced missionaries in the spring of 1984, we were keenly aware that we were sojourners in a culture and country that was not our own. But by the grace of God, we learned much about ourselves, the amazing people of Japan and more importantly, the faithfulness of God. Since then, our journey has been comprised of many steps that eventually expanded into a marathon as we inched forward, ippo, ippo, trying to keep our eyes on God through the many twists and turns on a road through uncharted territory.
Over the years, people have frequently asked us “What’s Japan like?”, which is a very difficult question to answer when limited to a brief verbal exchange. While our conversation can easily turn to topics such as sushi, anime, hot springs, bullet trains, earthquakes and all the things commonly associated with Japan, such an approach fails to capture the uniqueness, simplicity and yet complexity of this unique country. Our protracted journey in Japan has taken us to many destinations, so I have tried to capture these steps through short devotions centered on cultural examples, short vignettes and personal experiences. Hopefully, this collection will provide further enlightenment on the Land of the Rising Sun and encourage each of us as God’s children to walk deeper and purposefully with the Risen Son.