DALLAS?On March 11, a massive 9.0 earthquake shifted the island nation of Japan eight feet closer to the United States. Half an hour after the quake, the resulting tsunami swept through the northern portion of the country, washing away entire villages. A week and a half later, more than 9,000 people were confirmed dead and 12,000 were still missing. Thousands more were in evacuation centers with dangerously low levels of food, water, and little or no heat.
Meanwhile, one small Japanese congregation in Dallas prayed and waited. Futoshi Shingaki is the pastor of the Japanese congregation at First Baptist Church in Dallas. Of the 25 members of the church, none had lost family members in the terrible disaster. But their hearts remained with the people in Japan dealing with this devastating crisis.
Days after the tsunami, they longed to be with family and friends, but were content to do what they could from here. They must wait in the tension between frustration and trust.
“It is very difficult to visit Japan right now,” Shingaki said, “because of all the confusion and especially the transportation problems. We cannot go to Japan; we cannot do anything. But we can spend time in prayer and raise money to donate.”
Prayer for the people of Japan has been a primary focus of the group. Each Sunday before and after services, the church has met for intense prayer meetings for Japan. During the first prayer meeting on March 13, they prayed for missing family members.
“One of our members’ nephew was missing,” Shingaki said. “We heard last Sunday that he was now safe. Another member’s uncle was missing, but we heard this morning that he was also safe.”
Other prayer concerns included physical needs of the people, such as food, water, clothes, medicine and temporary shelter for the thousands of refugees.
“We prayed for the healing of the injuries sustained, both physically and in the heart. We prayed for the salvation of the Japanese people, that they would put their hope in Jesus Christ. We also prayed for the solution of the problem with the power plant.”
The cooling pumps at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, 140 miles north of Tokyo, were damaged by the earthquake, putting the plant in danger of a nuclear meltdown.
Another way the church plans to help is through donations.
“We can send donations through evangelical Christian organizations so that they can help the victims with not only their material needs, but also with their spiritual needs. Only Christians can give them true hope,” Shingaki said.
Conditions in the area make it difficult for aid to reach the people hardest hit. Despite the hardships, Japanese government and Christian aid organizations are working to meet people’s needs. Damage to roads and shortages of gasoline and electric power are major obstacles. The need is overwhelming with too few supplies to go around.
“The greatest need for the Japanese is true hope in Jesus Christ!” said Shingaki, but, he emphasized, Christian organizations on the ground must meet physical needs before they can tackle the spiritual needs of the people.
“The local pastors can help by giving water, food, medicine and shelter. They can care for the hearts of the victims. Then they can explain the true hope in Jesus Christ. I think that is the necessity for the church in Japan now. Many religious groups are helping the refugees, not just Christians. But many Japanese are on their guard against religious groups trying to take advantage of the disaster. Many Japanese think that Christianity is the same as any other religion. Christians need to relieve the Japanese of these misgivings. Churches need to help the Japanese understand that Christianity is different from other religions.
“I pray that God opens the spiritual eyes of the people of Japan to see eternal hope. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:4, ‘The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.’ I really think that the enemy has blinded the minds of unbelievers in Japan. I want to see their spiritual eyes opened.”
Due to the nature of the disaster, Southern Baptists Disaster Relief efforts are being managed through the local churches in Japan. The best way for Southern Baptists to help is through prayer and donations.
Shingaki urged prayer for the physical and spiritual needs of the people affected by the disaster, the continuing crisis at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, and for local churches as they respond to the needs around them. Pray that the Lord would open spiritual eyes
If you would like to donate through SBTC Disaster Relief, mail checks designated “Japan Disaster” to the SBTC office at PO Box 1988, Grapevine, Texas 76099-1988. You may also give online through Baptist Global Response at gobgr.org.