‘Christianity Today’ magazine features special report on the Church in Japan

This month’s issue of Christianity Today includes a special report from long-time friend of the DNA Soohwan Park who has been closely involved with the recovery efforts following Japan’s massive series of disasters in March 2011.

Redeeming Disaster

Click here to read the full story

As an associate with the Marketplace Institute at Regent College in Vancouver, Canada, and in collaboration with the DNA (including DNA Korea) , Friends with the Voiceless (Japan), Food for the Hungry Canada and Food for the Hungry Intl., Soohwan completed extensive field research in Fukushima, Japan’s prefecture now famous for its nuclear disaster following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Her story in Christianity Today, titled “Redeeming Disaster,” takes a sober look at emergency-relief efforts and their tendency to overlook three vital aspects: spirituality, story and sustainability. She recounts how many local churches made great sacrifices to meet deep, invisible needs in Fukushima.

“Disaster relief is complex,” Soohwan says. “Theologically, it involves restoration of all things that were broken and all relationships that are in need of reconciliation in order for a community to flourish (Col. 1:15-20). Fundamentally, this is not the work of a professional agency but of ordinary people in a local church loving their neighbors out of love for Christ. Christian relief work happens only when the local church realizes its mission to serve the world, giving themselves for others and restoring the fabric of a broken society.”

Soohwan’s report reflects many of the DNA’s Seven Core Truths, particularly #4: The local church is God’s principle agent in his primary agenda of advancing his kingdom.

This story will appear in Christianity Today – Korea this September.

Click here to read the full story and gain a better picture of how God is at work in Japan.

Follow Soohwan's blog at www.FearNotFukushima.blogspot.com.

Follow Soohwan’s blog at http://www.FearNotFukushima.blogspot.com.

Fukushima, Japan: being restored from the inside out

When you have just a bird’s-eye view of the catastrophes that laid siege to Japan about 16 months ago — earthquake, tsunami, nuclear disaster — it could seem impossible to find a loving, restorative God in the midst of it all. But if you get up close, on the inside, you will find incredible power and renewal — you will see Him working all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

Even in such destruction, He uses the local church to heal, restore, and build His Kingdom. Over the past year, DNA national organization Friends with the Voiceless, Intl. (FVI) has been instrumental in this work.

(From left) Midori and Eisuke from FVI spent time in Fukushima relief shelters, comforting the residents who left their homes behind. (photo from DNA partner Soohwan Park)

A 2006 Gallup poll found that Christianity is the fastest-growing faith among Japanese youth. Japan is thirsty for the gospel, and FVI is helping pave the way for its people to receive it.

As many doctors, nurses and pastors fled the district of Fukishima, the area most damaged by the nuclear disaster, a few stayed — one pastor explaining that he dreamed he saw Jesus walking with His cross toward the power plant.

Aside from physical destruction, in Fukushima, families have been torn apart as many husbands have gone to find work elsewhere. Divorce has skyrocketed. In this country where 29 percent of youth describe themselves as “very lonely” and suicide rates are high, FVI helps unite and equip the Church to bear the hope of Christ.

Since the nuclear disaster, FVI staff members have made 15 trips to the province, conducting “Fukushima Future Forums” with dozens of pastors in attendance. In March 2012, one of these Forums geared for young Japanese Christian leaders had 50 attendees — half from Fukushima. At these events, Christian leaders are invited to recommit their lives to the Lord and commit to rebuilding Fukushima from a biblical worldview.

The first Fukushima Future Forum ended with husbands washing their wives’ feet: a biblical but counter-cultural act in Japan. (photo from DNA partner Soohwan Park)

As a result, while many people continued to flee the province, one Forum participant moved in and planted a church. Another started an out-of-the box “listening ministry,” and a network of young participants formed to practically serve Fukushima residents.

Also at the Forum last March was a pastor from Ukraine who ministered to survivors of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. He offered great encouragement and invited Fukushima pastors to come to Ukraine and meet other Christian leaders with similar experience. That visit is planned for October 2012.

(From left) Eisuke Kanda and Shun Jinnai co-lead Friends with the Voiceless, the DNA national network in Japan. To contact them, e-mail info@disciplenations.org.

The Explosive Power of Listening

Shun Jinnai serves as co-leader of Friends With The Voiceless, a ministry bringing a message of hope to churches in Japan and around the world. Shun was introduced to DNA in 2005 when he heard Darrow Miller and Bob Moffitt at a Vision Conference in Japan.

“I attended one session especially held for youth. Bob taught us about the Discipline of Love.”

The conference was held in Yokohama, hosted by Japan Food for the Hungry and Japan Cell Church Mission Network.

“Right after the conference, Bob mentored our Kikiya group for a year. His encouragement helped us continue the ministry.”

In this brief video, Shun tells the story of a remarkable movement that has spread all over Japan; a movement that started with the simple act of picking up garbage at a train station.

Into the Radiation: Loving Sacrificial Service in Japan

Dr. Eisuke Kanda is executive director of Friends with the Voiceless International (FVI), the national DNA organization in Japan. Dr. Kanda shared earlier about the initial work he and his team did in the early days after the ravages of the March 11 earthquake, tsunami, and radiation contamination. Inspired by Rodney Stark’s book, The Rise of Christianity, he led his team into Fukushima, the city most threatened by nuclear radiation.

Dr. Kanda filed this further report of what God’s people have been doing in Japan’s time of trouble.

“The city of Iwaki, population 350,000, saw over 150,000 people flee because of the fear of radiation from the nuclear plant. This exodus happened in spite of severe restrictions on fuel—when gasoline was available, you had to wait in line 8 hours to buy 10 liters. Those who fled included many doctors and nurses as well as pastors. Of the 35 churches in the city, only four pastors remained. We asked them why they remained. Here are two of their stories.

Tiny Church Serves Large City

“Many people told Pastor S. to escape, but he dreamt that he saw Jesus walking towards the nuclear plant bearing the cross. He woke up from this powerful dream and thought, If Jesus is walking toward the nuclear plant, I should not escape; I should stay. So he decided to stay.

“The next day he started getting lots of relief goods—water, food, etc—from his denomination. His church building was soon filled with these goods. He didn’t know what to do. So he put up a poster in front of his church, inviting anyone who wanted food, water, and other supplies, to come and receive them without charge.

“People saw the poster, and he was amazed at the numbers who came. Few people knew anything about his little church, but some drove a half hour to his church for the food and water. At that time the city government was not operating or doing anything to help affected people. All the shops were closed. People had no way to get food.

“Pastor S. counted about 1300 people who came to receive those relief goods. He says ‘What I tried to do in ten years, God did in a few weeks.’ In the first week, 13 new people came to the Sunday service, an unheard-of result in a church of about 20 people. The next week, 9 new people came. We met a few of those people. They said ‘Since coming to church, I feel peace here, I feel power here.’

Loving Church Fills a Gap

Pastor M serves another church in Iwaki. A couple of years ago their building was destroyed when a neighboring house caught fire, so they had to move. They purchased a gambling hall with an empty first floor. They tried to borrow money to renovate the first floor, but the bank declined their request. Then March 11 came. They decided to use the whole first floor as a warehouse and it was soon packed with relief goods from all over Japan, even from non-Christian sources.

“Because the city wasn’t doing anything, this church became a center of food and water distribution. At that time, there were 4,000 refugees in 154 evacuation centers, and this church distributed 100,000 meals to these evacuees. Volunteers came not only from all over Japan but also from all over the world. The church housed them and sent them to the evacuation centers to serve the people. The weather was cold and no one had hot water for a bath, so the volunteers brought hot water to wash the feet of the people (as Jesus did for his disciples). They were able to have significant conversations with people as they washed their feet.

“As a result of their loving service, the church now has a very good relationship with the city government. In fact, the government is asking the church for advice about how to help the people.

FVI Offers Seminar on Radiation and Food Safety

“We have visited Fukushima seven times since March 11 to minister there. Now many people are starting to come back to Iwaki. The nuclear reactors are still unstable, but the radiation levels have dropped. By this time, several Christian NGOs have started coming into Fukushima at this stage.

“Recently we held seminars on radiation and food safety in the cities of Iwaki and Koriyama. The people are fearful of radiation and afraid to eat food that were produced in Fukushima. We invited an expert who spent six months at Chernobyl eating food and drinking milk that had been contaminated by Cesium-137 radiation. He spoke an hour and then entertained questions for an hour. In early July we are planning another seminar in Fukushima city.

Opportunity to Create a New Fukushima

“On July 25-28, we are planning to hold a conference on the future of Fukushima. We have invited pastors and their wives from all over Fukushima. We want to hear how the Lord is going to bring his kingdom to Fukushima. The region is in a disastrous condition now, but he is going to bring his kingdom there, also. So we want to pray together and discuss how He is doing this. Everyone is saying it is impossible to recover the old Fukushima; we need to create the new Fukushima. The church has a golden opportunity now to present a biblical worldview in the creation of a new Fukushima.”

DNA Responds to Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan

On March 11, a massive 8.9 magnitude earthquake struck near the coast of northern Japan. The earthquake was followed by a devastating tsunami tidal wave. The two combined for the worst disaster to strike Japan since World War II.

The Disciple Nations Alliance national organization in Japan, Friends with the Voiceless International, and their leadership team of Eisuke Kanda, Shun Jinnai and Midori Yanagisawa, responded to the disaster with a strategy known as “For Such a Time as This: Seek the Remnants for Building His Kingdom in Fear-Stricken Areas of Fukushima Prefecture.” The project involves:

  • Standing with local churches so they know they are not alone.
  • Casting vision for God’s Kingdom using the Vision Conference.
  • Serving affected communities together with local churches.
  • Training church leaders to rebuild communities based on a Kingdom vision.

As of May 1, DNA champions, supporting churches, and national and regional leaders have sent over $100,000 USD through Friends with the Voiceless to support this vital work.

Updates on their work are available here and here.

Eisuke Kanda (left) and Shun Jinnai co-lead Friends with the Voiceless, the DNA national network in Japan. This picture was taken at the 2011 DNA Global Forum in South Africa

New Beginnings in Japan

We are excited to announce the launch of Friends with the Voiceless International, our newest DNA global affiliate! You can view their new website here. At this time, the site is viewable only in Japanese.

Dr. Eisuke Kanda at the 2007 DNA Forum

Led by Dr. Eisuke Kanda, Shun Jinnai, and Midori Yanagisawa, Friends with the Voiceless Int’l brings a message of hope to churches in Japan and around the world.

According to Dr. Kanda, “The concept of the Kingdom of God is not well understood by churches in Japan. To help the church grasp this message of hope, we use the analogy of transforming a desert into a forest.”

“We teach an abbreviated Vision Conference that typically is hosted over a weekend, with two sessions on Saturday, two sessions on Sunday, plus a sermon,” said co-leader Shun Jinnai. “We always begin by asking participants to identify those things that presently make Japan a ‘desert’ and what the church can do to transform the desert into a forest.”

In Japan, a sense of hopelessness abounds. In the past 12 years, there have been more than 30,000 confirmed suicides.  The number of Japanese youth who describe themselves as “very lonely” is 29 percent, the highest rate in the developed world. Eleven percent say, “I should never have been born.” Japan’s birthrate  has dropped to 1.2, one of the lowest rates in the developed world.

Into this context of hopelessness, Friends with the Voiceless Int’l is boldly proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom, and the necessity of the church to practice a lifestyle of love–identifying the needs of one’s neighbors and taking practical steps to respond.

After Shun attended a Vision Conference in Japan four years ago, he was challenged by DNA co-founder Bob Moffitt to do a seed project. Shun said his first project was very, very simple. He started by picking up one piece of trash at a train station he frequented.

Shun Jinnai

This first step of obedience led to others. He came back to the station later and cleaned up all the trash. As he did, the Lord  spoke to his heart. He began to look into the faces of his fellow commuters, and it was as if God were saying, “there is trash inside of people that I want to clean up.”

This led to a bold step of obedience. How to clean up the trash in people’s hearts? He set up a small booth on the train station platform with a sign that read, “If you need someone to talk to, we will listen.” Surprisingly, many people stopped at the booth and began to pour out their hurts and pain. Shun simply listened and prayed. This went on for more than two years, and in that time, several people responded to an invitation to give their lives to Christ.

According to Shun, “Now that station is very clean.” Now there are similar “listening booths” in train stations in eight Japanese cities. One of these was featured on a national television broadcast.

Shun stresses that none of this would have happened unless he had taken one simple step of obedience–picking up that first piece of trash.

Midori Yanagisawa Training Event in Ghana

Today, Friends with the Voiceless Int’l challenges Christians and non-Christians alike to put love into practice and take simple steps of obedience. By the power and grace of God, that is how deserts turn into forests.

Friends with the Voiceless Int’l is registered as an independent organization. This represents a significant step of faith for founder Eisuke Kanda. A graduate of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Illinois, he served as a National Director of Japan Campus Crusade for Christ for ten years before joining JIFH. Eisuke became the general secretary of Japan International Food for the Hungry (JIFH) in 1984. While with JIFH, Dr. Kanda began teaching DNA messages in Japan under the name, “Kingdom Consortium.”

Co-worker Midori Yanagisawa also served for many years with JIFH including extensive service in Bangladesh, and other countries. She recently attended a training workshop in Ghana, West Africa, hosted by Chris Ampadu, West Africa coordinator of Samaritan Strategy Africa.

Please pray for Dr. Kanda, Shun and Midori as they take this exciting step of faith!