Bryan Backus is an AGWM missionary to Japan.
On Monday, July 6, 2020, I was running errands for Rock Point Church in Iwakuni, Japan. The first time I lived here was in 1992, while serving as a United States Marine. My family and I now serve as pastors of Rock Point, which ministers to U.S. military personnel as well as Japanese families.
I called my wife, Erica, telling her that after one more errand, I would be home.
It had been raining at record levels in Iwakuni for two days. Flash flooding had forced nearly 300,000 people out of their homes. I knew the Nishiki River would be up on the Kintai Bridge — I wanted to get some photos. I began taking shots on the side of the river nearest Iwakuni Castle, but I went back to the main side for additional photos, I discovered Japanese riverside vendors trying to rescue their equipment, which is their livelihood. Quickly I began helping move things from the water’s edge to higher ground.
While doing so I saw another vendor enter the water — chest deep — in an effort to remove from a power pole an electrical pump needed to operate his vending stand. As the man waded into the water, his wife came over to thank me for watching him. I asked her for some rope, which she gave me. I tied a loop in the rope and threw it out to the man several times, but he didn’t put it on, even after we demonstrated to him how to slip it over his head and under his arms.
He finally got the heavy piece of electrical equipment off the pole. He tried to get to the river’s edge, but the water was moving fast and kept pulling him downstream. He missed the first possible exit. I ran up ahead and threw the rope to him again, but he still had the equipment in his hand and lost his grip on the rope. He sank, pinned underwater by the force of the current. His body hit a steel pole and became trapped — all I could see of him was a small piece of his shirt. I went after him into the water and was able to drag him out.
The vendor and his wife expressed their gratitude. When I Identified myself as a pastor at Rock Point Church, he smiled and said, “I am Buddhist.”
“That’s OK,” I told him. “But my God is the one that sent me here today at this specific time to save you.”
I invited him to church. He smiled, we hugged, and I prayed for him.
What I thought was just my photo mission, God turned into His lifesaving mission. I wept for the rest of the evening, knowing that the Holy Spirit had used me “for such a time as this.”
Before returning to Iwakuni, I served as a sheriff from 2009-2016. God then led us full circle, back to Iwakuni after my earlier service as a Marine. When I arrived here during my time in the military, there was no church here and no one to disciple me (I had just met Jesus and experienced salvation in boot camp). That lack really affected me. I want to be here now to help Japanese and military personnel because there was no one to help me then.
Erica and I believe that missionary life is rewarding, and that God established divine appointments like these for us. We also believe that every penny invested into missions is more valuable than any of us realize. We thank every supporter for helping send us to Japan (and send missionaries all over the globe) to keep those appointments.
God is so good.