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.”