When disaster struck Japan in March of 2011, the church in Japan responded by mobilizing thousands of volunteers. The volunteers from Japan and around the world, often working alongside local pastors, delivered supplies, set up mobile cafes, and did hard dirty work like cleaning mud from under homes. Volunteers also did music, held art classes, handed out literature, gave hand massages, smiled at people, and prayed for survivors. The volunteers were an incredibly positive presence in the midst of a broken land and hurting people. While the number of outside volunteers has dwindled, local pastors continue to reach out and help people in their communities.
Remarkably, in at least one area, local people are calling volunteers “Jesus Person, or Mr. Jesus.” While I heard about this over three years ago when I visited Fukushima, it recently came to my attention when CRASH Japan president Jonathan Wilson posted on Facebook that he was reading the book Living Together With Fukushima. Jonathan translated a section of the book by Pastor Kanari Takanori of Iwaki, Fukushima:
“As we approach the temporary housing area that we visit, sometimes one of the residents will shout out ‘Kirisuto-san is coming, Kirisuto-san is coming’ (Most likely they mean ‘the volunteers from the Christian church.’) But I am always touched by this. No one ever says that the purpose of disaster relief is ‘Let’s go evangelize disaster survivors’, but in practical terms it is through the service of the Christian relief workers that the survivors are given a good witness.”
Wilson went on to comment, “One of the problems that we have as evangelical Christians is that we equate evangelism with what the rest of the world describes as proselytism. We must become more thorough in our emulation of Jesus, who went and walked with the neediest, who then flocked to hear His message. This is what the pastors of Fukushima are doing.”
While doing disaster relief work I had the privilege of meeting Pastor Takanori. His church was so badly damaged by the earthquake that it was condemned and had to be torn down. In spite of facing huge personal challenges, Pastor Takanori set to work helping his community — I was deeply impressed with his humble service in difficult circumstances.
Due to the good work of thousands of Christian volunteers, and local “hero” pastors who have persevered many Japanese have a far more positive feeling about Jesus and Christians than they did before the disaster. That is GOOD NEWS!
Please continue to PRAY FOR JAPAN!
Related Post: “Is There Any Hope for Japan?”
CRASH Japan Video: “Japan Pastors Appeal for Help (日本の牧師からの援助の)” — Featuring Pastor Takanori
How Can Christian Volunteers Respond to Disaster? [Kindle Edition] (Jonathan Wilson’s Book)