go to home page

My Call To Japan

by Stephen A Metcalf.

In 1947 the CIM wrote to father and mother telling them as father was coming up to retirement age, and their furlough time was coming up they would now be retired. My sister had just entered Bible School. My parents wrote back asking for an extension in order to finish the translation of the Eastern Lisu New Testament. The extension was granted. I had to make some decisions about my future. I had for some months been looking through papers, and making endless enquiries regarding employment. All the armed forces had come back & were being reemployed. As I had been living with my parents I would now have no place to stay. My parents had been praying with me. The Berri employment office in South Australia was the only place that had replied, saying they had jobs in the dried fruits industry. I didn’t want to put any more worry on my parents. So I began to consider it as perhaps what God wanted me to do. Although it seemed to raise more questions than answers. I thought it might give me time to think things over. I could tell from my parents prayers that my future hung heavily on their minds as they faced up to leaving me in such uncertain circumstances. In my mind the Bible translation was more important than my future.

On the day my parents left for China, I took our dog over to the MBI. They had been having problems with burglaries and were looking for a dog. Then I said goodbye to my sister. I also resigned my temporary job. So after fare-welling my parents, who were going east I caught the train to go west to Berri. Over the last year I had had a good number of people both Christian and non Christian who had asked me if I was planning to go back to China. Always I had answered with an emphatic no! I had far too many hang-ups due to the war, to consider a missionary vocation. It wasn’t long before I found myself living in my own little shack, beginning to come to grips with life on the river Murray.

Some months later, I was sitting with Dot (my girlfriend) in this huge Christian Endeavour Convention meeting in Adelaide, thoroughly enjoying all the singing and the messages. When the speaker made an appeal for people to respond by giving to the Lord’s work the extra four hours they would be getting from the new legislation to reduce the 48 hour week to 44 hours. Dot was amazed to see me stand up. I just felt it was the right thing to do. Dot sheepishly asked me what I thought I would do. I said I had no idea, but I reminded her she already was giving more than 4 hours a week to Christian causes. While I was not doing anything other than attending Church.

When I arrived back in Berri I had a visit from the pastor asking me to preach at the neighbouring little church. I remonstrated with him that I was not a preacher, only a missionary’s son. Seeing he was desperate I gave in. I wrote everything out and was amazed how easily the words came; I ended with a word of testimony. After the service the organist asked for a word with me. She said I was the answer to her prayers she was a High School teacher and wanted me to start a Christian Endeavour on Saturday nights. She said she would give me all her support.

It was extraordinary, the way God opened up Christian work for me to preach and lead young peoples work in the Berri area. During a holiday weekend in Adelaide. Dot had suggested we went to a special missionary meeting with a dozen or more students from MBI, who were giving their testimonies, and singing and preaching. Both of us were interested because this was where my sister was studying. Mr Jack Robinson who was leading the meeting had gone to China in the same group as my mother in 1919. There were a number of testimonies how one & another student had been led to volunteer for missionary service overseas. I spoke to Dot after the meetings about my changing thoughts regarding missionary work.

However she told me learning a foreign language and becoming a missionary was not for her. I felt that just as God had changed my attitude and thinking, so in time He would also change hers. We were so happy together I could not see my future without her. Some time later she wrote and said she would like to come and spend a week in Berri. I spent every free moment with Dot. We talked about our possible engagement, also about my growing conviction to offer for missionary service. My parent’s weekly letters often reinforced the fact that the mission field was sadly neglected. After she went back she wrote me a brief note saying. She couldn’t face up to becoming a missionary’s wife and didn’t want to come between me and God’s calling. She had accepted someone else’s offer of marriage and had become engaged.

Some time later CIM wrote me saying they were having a special missionary retreat in conjunction with “Campaigners for Christ” J.O.Sanders the new Australian Director for CIM would be the speaker. During this retreat I had a very worthwhile talk with Mr Sanders who gave me a lot of helpful advice in preparing myself to be a missionary. He warned me of becoming a missionary just because my father was. He stressed that I must have I must have a call. He also stressed that I needed a few more years to mature otherwise my studies would be merely academic. He wrote out a list of essential books to study. We talked quite a bit about the way Communism was beginning to close the door on China, but even then he pointed out that there were all kinds of opportunities among the Chinese overseas.

Later that year we had a missionary meeting in Berri. Alan Burrows was the speaker. He spoke about the work in Bolivia and showed slides of the work among the tribal peoples high in the Andes. So much of this reminded me of the tribal work among the Lisu. I went home and prayed saying. “Lord I’m willing to go where you want me to go.” At this time I remember reading the life of J.O. Frazer “Behind the Ranges” I had known him and his wife as a child. As I read I often felt I was with him there in Yunnan. Then one day I heard a rebroadcast on the radio by General Macarthur in it he made an appeal for missionaries to go to Japan. His appeal was also written up in a Christian weekly paper I was reading. It came like the voice of God reminding me of how after Eric Liddell’s death. I had told God if I came out alive I would go to Japan as a missionary. But life had moved on. Common sense told me it must be China. After all I had had knowledge of both Mandarin and Lisu.

When I finally gave up my life on the River Murray and entered MBI. My roommate David Brook was training to go to Japan. He asked me to join him in praying for Japan. As I prayed with him I recalled how in the prison camp. Eric Liddell had urged us to pray for our enemies the Japanese. Now what with the communists expelling the missionaries from China. I began to seriously consider going to Japan. I was still attending the weekly CIM prayer meeting. Then the new Overseas Missionary Fellowship (OMF) had now started work in Japan. When I graduated from Bible School & resigned the pastorate I offered to OMF for missionary service, I made an open offer saying my preference was Japan. However the Lisu work in North Thailand was very much in my thoughts. When I was accepted for Japan I was told that there was a great swell of communist growth in Japan, which looked very ominous. Shortly after, they wrote to say that had had word from the OMF in Japan that they needed young men for the future development of the work and they wanted me to go out straight away. After arriving in Japan and settling down to language study. If I needed any further assurance regarding my call, the revival in Karuizawa at New Year 1953 was a landmark experience. I was studying Japanese at the time. Day after day I attended revival meetings, with scores of young missionaries pouring out their hearts in prayer for the evangelization of Japan. I too was caught up in this united cause, born in revival. We prayed passionately to see the Japanese turn to Jesus. The revival had a life changing effect on me.

I spent the next 40 years in Japan having married my wife Evelyn, who gave me four boys and a girl. We retired and made our home in London where my children had settled down. This is all recounted in my biography which should be published by January 2010.