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Ounce of Prevention

One of the most fascinating biographies I ever read was that of Irene Webster Smith by Russell Hitt. The title of the book is Sensei which means “teacher” in Japanese.

Irene Smith was a Quaker and a missionary to Japan for some fifty years. Sensei became her name to the Japanese. She first went to Japan about 1915 under the Japan Evangelistic Band from her native Ireland. Her first assignment was to serve in the Tokyo Rescue Home, which sought to save prostitutes from their entrapment in the government-licensed brothels. In this early experience, Sensei learned how these young girls, who were unwanted by their parents, were sold into a life of prostitution and trained from their earliest years to know no other experience. These days in the Tokyo Rescue Home were very discouraging to Sensei, because these girls, no matter how they seemed to repent of their past, would so often revert to their life of immorality as soon as they regained their health.

In the midst of this frustrating job a thought came to Sensei. It would be better to put a fence at the top of the precipice than an ambulance at the foot. And with that thought a vision was born–a vision of a home for unwanted girls–a home warmed by love and bright with God's grace, a home where little girls, once destined for brothels and disease, could be brought up in happiness to lead full and useful Christian lives. And so for many years Sensei turned to the work of endeavoring to keep young girls from falling over this particular precipice.

Which is most important? Picking up the pieces in people's lives after calamity has struck (running an ambulance service), or catching a few, as it were, midair in a net, or building fences to keep people from trouble in the first place?

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–James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 112.