March 11 changed the psyche and coastline of a nation. The earthquake and tsunami claimed the lives of over 20,000 souls, erased whole towns and communities up and down 300 miles of the Pacific coast. The tidal wave-damaged nuclear reactors are not under control and still pose a potentially catastrophic threat to the nation.
The economy is reeling. Uncounted businesses have failed due to factories and workers being washed away. With the damaged reactors out of service, inadequate power supplies have led to rolling blackouts. Unstable power is driving even more companies out of the area, and even out of Japan, attempting to stay solvent.
Not just in the disaster area, but all over the country, Japanese are asking what does life mean? Can it have any value if it can all be swept away so easily? What was the point to all the hard work those 20,000 victims spent, building up their lives and families? What is the point of striving to improve our own families and lives even now, if life is that fragile and nature that capricious?
But even in this valley of the shadow of death, God is with us and is working among the Japanese. The disaster struck the area known as " the Tohoku" -- Japan's least churched area. While the churches are few and far between, (and a few haven't survived due to the disaster), they have been very active in the relief work. Of course the government and agencies such as the Red Cross have handled the primary relief efforts. But as Christians and Christian organizations from around the world have sent gifts to aid the Japanese, it is the pastors and local believers that have been Jesus' hands and feet on the ground.
At this point, the emphasis is rightly on the immediate food, clothing and shelter needs of the people rather than evangelism. And yet, the people can see who is helping them and loving them. Church attendance is way up, there are people being saved and baptized, mission groups are planning new projects to plant churches in the Tohoku, and more.
BJapan, Japan’s only 24/7 Christian radio is reaching out into the Tohoku area. The USEN satellite and cable radio company that we broadcast on placed tuners in the evacuation centers -- making BJapan's "Friendship Radio" programming, as well as USEN's other channels, available to the hundreds of thousands of evacuees who had lost everything and were living in school gyms, civic halls, etc., etc.
We were able to produce a program series based on the Book of Job, that was well received. A listener wrote, "This is the first time I've contacted you. I'm not a Christian, but listen to this channel on USEN sometimes. Through the earthquake and tsunami disaster, I've seen such horrible things that I just can't calm down - my heart is full of unrest. And yet, strangely, when I listen to the pastor on this broadcast, several times I could feel a sense of calmness return for a while. What you said in the message today -- that God did not create anyone just so that they could live as they please -- really made an impression on me."
Another gentleman wrote, "This is my first time to contact you. How do you do? Here in the disaster zone, faster than even the phones, the fastest service to be restored was USEN's broadcast. The TV was down, so radio was the only diversion available. I was so grateful for the music that was aired each day. The music coming from your station was really full of comfort. I can't say I understood much of the various pastors' messages, but the talk that spoke of the love of God that draws men close, struck a note with me. Compared to other victims, I'm not in too bad of shape, but there are many tough times ahead of us that will have to be overcome. Please don't forget us here in the disaster area."
The Japanese religious world view is such at odds with Christianity that at first the gospel and the scriptures make very little sense. But praise God with us that He is using the broadcast in people's lives.
By Tim Selander
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