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My Own Personal "Aftershocks", Part 3

(Continued from Part 1 and Part 2)
by Nozomi Johnston

So, if the topic of radiation is not the main focus, what is?

It is the Japanese Christians who are shining, and the believers all over the world who have either come here physically, or are here in their hearts through prayer and financial support.

  • The Japanese local church is shining in the rubble!
  • The Japanese believers are speaking out in love and Truth!
  • The Japanese believers are being the hands and feet of Jesus Christ as they help to clean, feed, and hold the hurting.

THAT is what is happening here, and THAT is what we want the Japanese and American media to show—but unfortunately is not. Every question, and every angle is about the radiation. Jeff and I looked at each other the other day and said, “Have they forgotten about the TSUNAMI???”

So, I would like to focus on the real stories. Here is Pastor Chida, founder of Keisen Christ Church. Jeff got to go up to Sendai to interview some pastors, and he was one of them.

Don’t you LOVE what he says about our current role?: “Our role right now is to ENVELOP each person with the love of Christ, and to protect them from further hurt, and not just to protect but even bring them to complete healing through Jesus Christ.”

I also love his boldness in saying that he doesn’t believe that a person has to be stuck in trauma, only to be traumatized every time they remember this disaster. Instead, if a person is completely covered by God’s grace and comfort at this time, then THAT’S what he can remember.

“Tsunami of God’s love”—now that’s a powerful word picture. We’ve seen what the water can do in all its fury. Imagine God’s love coming at you with the same force and intensity!
These are the kinds of believers who are the unsung heroes now, and who will be around for years to come. This is the intensity in which the Japanese pastors and local churches are loving the neighbors around them. And people from all over the world are coming to do what they can to come alongside these pastors, to serve the Japanese.

I hope you’ve been encouraged anew on HOW to be praying for Japan. Pray that thousands and thousands of NEW LIVES in Jesus will result as the believers simply love these precious souls until they are spiritually “hatched”.

One of the frustrations that I’ve felt over the last 4 years of living in Japan is the fact that many of the Japanese Christians are not bold in sharing their faith. Many are cloaked and invisible, blending into the Japanese society so they would be able to function without cultural collision or awkwardness. Oftentimes believers feel that it’s the work of the missionaries or the pastors to do “evangelism”, because they believe that they can’t.

Could it be that NOW is the time for Japan to forever get rid of the “under 1% Christian” title that we’ve carried for so long? Could it be that now the believers would find it so natural to share the LOVE, HOPE, and COMFORT that Jesus can provide? Could it be that believers will now know that they CAN be a bold witness to their friends in words and action?  Could it be, just like in the life of Joseph in Egypt, that what Satan meant for evil, that God would use this for His glory and honor? OH FOR THE NAME OF JESUS TO BECOME FAMOUS IN THIS LAND!!!!

As a final note, I would also like to point out the fact that it’s not only the Japanese Christians who are working and helping. The locals who live there and have survived are doing everything they can, from dawn until dark. The Japanese military, the construction workers, the Japanese Red Cross, and caring citizens from all over the country (even the Yakuza are helping!), are united in helping their people. Actors and sports celebrities are offering millions of dollars. I saw that the 19-year-old professional golfer, Ryo Ishikawa, has committed to giving his entire year’s worth of earnings to the relief work! That is commendable and amazing.

I read an interesting article the other day that gave me a perspective that I had not considered before, and it is that perhaps this tragedy will actually decrease the “hikikomori/recluse” problem, because now those who have had no purpose in life are beginning to see that they can help others who are less fortunate. The article even suggests that perhaps the suicide rate might even decrease, because they have heard so much about the value of the survivors, and the value of life through this. If you are interested in reading the article, here it is:



Could Japan Be Leaving Suicide Behind In Quake Aftermath?
Apr 04, 2011 1:05 PM EDT

The heartbreaking tragedy in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan continues, but those looking for green chutes emerging from a new Japan are already noticing what could be new trends. Volunteerism seems to be on the upswing and at least some among the large population of severely depressed youth are coming out of their shells to pitch in. And, not insignificantly, so far no major officials either in government or business have tried to commit suicide, the most common way that such officials have traditionally taken responsibility for their mistakes.

The concept of mass volunteerism, especially in times of great tragedy has not traditionally been what Japanese have been known for and yet in this tragedy young Japanese have been reportedly volunteering in large numbers, with one report noting that a shelter needing 500 volunteers had to turn away an additional 1,500 who hoped to help.

There have also been reports that Japanese victims of hikikomori (a phenomenon that causes those in their 20's and 30's to stay indoors, eschew meaningful work and relationships and rarely leave home) have begun to venture out after the tragedy, perhaps finding meaning by helping others less fortunate.

But it's the nation's sky-high suicide rate which may provide the most interesting indices of whether this act of nature will have long-lasting effects on the nation's psyche.

Contrary to popular opinion, Japan doesn't have the highest suicide rate in the world, a dubious distinction which belongs to Lithuania, but it isn't far behind, coming in at #5 with a whopping total of over 30,000 per year. As anybody who's spent time there knows, however, suicides in Japan often involve public spectacle, as many choose very public methods of killing themselves, most notably jumping in front of trains.

Of course none of this is terribly surprising considering that it's a culture which has at various times seemed to honor ritual suicides as acts of valor both during and outside of times of war. Seppuku, or hara-kiri, was an honorable exit to this life and many of the best and brightest of Japanese fighters were chosen to be Kamikaze pilots, embarking on one-way missions for the glory and honor of their nation.

Some historians trace the prevalence of suicide in Japan to 1192 around the time of the introduction of the Bushido Code, a code of conduct for Samurai heavily influenced by Buddhism, Shintoism and Confucianism which seemed to encourage suicide:

"It was a process by which warriors could expiate their crimes, apologize for errors, escape from disgrace, redeem their friends, or prove their sincerity," noted one historian. "When enforced as a legal punishment, it was practiced with due ceremony."

The New Yorker has weighed in with a report that these types of tragedies are often followed by reduced suicide rates which makes some sense, since presumably those who have gone to great lengths to stay alive in a time when their lives were in peril may think twice about then killing themselves, but the emotional toll on those whose lives have been turned upside down can't be known conclusively.

In any event, a new generation of Japanese has for the first time in half a century come face to face with widespread death and destruction and it will be left to be seen if the equally widespread needs around them will cause them to realize the value of life in new ways. Perhaps new paths will emerge and that whatever honor Japanese have traditionally seen in suicide will be outweighed by officials who consider a value higher than death at their own hands: living in order to help others.

Mark Joseph is a producer/writer/editor in California.


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