This is a great story of one victim of the disaster struggling in his life and how a group of serious Christians can cause him to think about his life. A great story of really sharing Christ, a changed life, and the power of prayer. These are the kinds of relationships our volunteers and our partners are in everyday we minister.
Some of you may be aware of a network called Churches Helping Churches which has been very instrumental in assisting pastors in the Tohoku area with support, retreats, and other ministries to keep them from falling apart or burning out. They have been partnering with Asian Access and JCGI Network all across the Tohoku area.
One of those Japanese pastors cooperating with them is Yoshi Ohari which shares a thank you to all who have helped. He shares with many of us a vision for what God can do through this tragedy. Pastor Ohari is a friend of mine and also is the key leader in the South Tokyo Church Multiplication Network which includes the Crossroad church. I cannot wait to get back to Tokyo to be a part of Crossroad as they multiply their church.
If you have not already you will hear a lot in the news about the recovery efforts after the triple disasters in Japan last March 11th. Much has been done but this is a 10 year project to rebuild the 86 communities affected in the greatest disaster for Japan since WWII.
From a Christian perspective of missions – Japan has even farther to go. Before 3.11, for the Church of Jesus Christ Tohoku was hard very difficult soil for the Gospel. The difficulties are revealed by the statistics. I blogged this a year ago: The areas affected by the earthquake and tsunamis of Miyagi, Fukushima, and Ibaraki are some of the most spiritually needy places in Japan. With over 4.9 million people yet only about 9,000 active Christians (about 0.15%). There are one city and 44 towns with no church. One town in Ibaraki has over 46,000 people with no church and several others have over 24,000 people with no churches. Average attendance for all the churches in Japan is the lowest (only 19) in Fukushima prefecture. Ibaraki prefecture has the least number of people claiming to have any religious beliefs.
Current Encouragements – Throughout the Christian relief efforts we would hear stories of Christians ministering being termed Kirisuto san (Mr. Christ) by victims receiving help. Some would say “I got this food/clothing from Jesus.” This illustrated that the incarnational approach of Christians meeting real needs have made Christianity to be seen in a great light. In some cases Japanese have overlooked some other answers such as Buddhist cults or the communists. The wall between the church and the community has disappeared, local churches and believers are now visible to Japanese. Churches are gradually springing up all over the area. In Ishinomaki the number of churches has increased from 7 before 3.11 to now 11.
Post 3.11 Opportunities
Last Christmas my wife and I sat with many disaster victims we had been helping. We came to share the story of Jesus. We had never experienced more openness in our 26 years of working in Japan. The traditionally hard soil has been loosened in a country of less than 1% labeled as the second largest unreached people group in the world.
Future Challenges – The often used word since the disaster was “overwhelmed.” The challenges of recovery are still staggering, yet for the Gospel of Jesus Christ even more so. There has been much progress but are there enough Christians and churches to capitalize on this apparent openness? Who will plant the churches in the places that historically have never had a church? Who will help equip and support those who plant these new churches? Missionaries have declined in number by 25% over the last 8 years. Like General MacArthur after WWII, we need to make a great appeal for missionaries to head to Japan right now.
Please pray more fervently, and work more diligently that God would send out workers into his harvest field (Mt. 9:37-38).
This video to us has very familar faces. Besides the families of victims there are people we worked side-by-side in Urayashiki with Dean Bengston. Some notables in the video are Paul Suzuki, SEND Japan director, Warren Janzen, SEND world director, Jonathan Wilson head of CRASH and a few people we worked with mudding out the Watanbe’s house. You can even catch a photo of our dear friends the Fujinos with Southern Baptist. Scenes are also of Minami Sanriku just up the coast. Keep playing, soooooooo much still to be done.