Note: This post is from pastor Yutaka Takarada who is currently in Japan ministering alongside Texas Baptist Men volunteers in the wake of the recent tragedy. Takarada pastors the Japanese Baptist Church of North Texas. To support the ongoing ministry efforts of Texas Baptists, click here.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
This is the day of worship. We had three choices. One is to go to Tokyo Baptist Church for worship. It would have been easy for John, Gary, and Rex, because it has an English service. Or going to the church where Pastor Kato is serving as an assistant pastor, which is one of the largest churches in the Japan Convention. It has an average of 200 in attendance on Sundays.
The final alternative was to go to a church that is closer to the norm in Japan, with average of 40-50 worship attendees. My commitment in the last few years for the churches in Japan has been to assist those churches operating without pastors, so at this time I took the team to the last one. Team members didn’t have anyone who could translate in English for them, but each of them went to different Sunday school classes to establish relationship with members of the church. During the service, John, Gary and Rex sat on a pew together worshipping the Lord without understanding what was going on.
We were introduced to the congregation at the end. I thought that this service was just as normal as it could be, and I didn’t expect anything extraordinary, but during the announcement, one young mother was called out to the front, where she stood before the microphone and started to share her testimony relating to her father and mother. Now I will try to share that story with you here as much as I can.
This is the story that she heard from her parents’ friends who saved themselves from the tsunami. They lived in a quarter-mile from the sea. When they heard the news of the tsunami, they, together with her parents, evacuated to a hill where they watched the tsunami approaching the city. There, they realized that the place where they were standing was not safe anymore, so they decided to retreat to higher ground. At the time, some said that it is better going by car together, so her parents and their neighbor and his wife volunteered to go back to their house to get their cars. When they got on their cars, the tsunami already was just behind their houses, the people on top of the hill all shouted “Tsunami is approaching! It is right behind you! Get out right now!” As they were shouting and watching from the hill, the neighbor couple got away from the tsunami, but her father and mother were not that fortunate. Her father was already in a car, but her mother was on a street still. When they heard the voice of the people on the hill, they attempted to escape from the area. The big wave, like a giant sea monster, devoured them in front of the eyes of those who were on the hill.
Later her mother’s body was spotted and was cleaned by her friends, so she could have her funeral and could send her body for cremation. When her mother was found, she had a bag and inside it was her insurance card, banking book and such that were to be their life line after they escaped the wave.
The woman speaking to the congregation showed her finger to the audience. She said the ring that she was wearing was on her mother’s finger. She received it as her mother’s memory. Her father is still missing and there were hundreds of bodies lined up, and her younger brother is still searching for her father. Because all dentistry offices were destroyed, there are no dental records that they can check their bodies on. So, she is losing her hope of finding her father’s body.
This is just one story of many hundreds more victims in the Northeast region of Japan, but I say that with the Lord Jesus in their heart, people can still find hope in the future and find strength to move forward in positive attitude. All of our efforts should ultimately bring people into this peace in Christ, and that is what we are here for today, and we will continue to support the Japan Baptist Convention through or by many means such as money, supplies and volunteers so that they by helping people in the area can share their faith in Christ to those who were very difficult to reach in Japan. We are going to support those who are weak in love of Christ and we do whatever we can do to help providing their needs because we know that God through us does open their hearts and with the help of the Holy Spirit bring them into the eternal salvation. Here I am, Lord, send me to where you want me to go and teach me how to share your love and guiding people to the salvation in Jesus Christ!
Another reason the Lord led us to this particular church was that the members had an arena as a shelter for one city in Fukushima that there were about 3,000 tsunami refugees staying until the end of this month. They have to find another place to move until they find a way back to their respective home towns. I was told that the city is now preparing an abandoned school for them to use as temporally housing. After having fellowship with church members over a luncheon, a man took us to the arena who was very close to salvation but hasn’t to reach to the final decision, and the pastor asked for my assistance to help him understand about the true faith. I took the opportunity and shared with him the gospel message and he listened. On a way back from the arena, he asked me where in the Bible he can find the message that I just told him. I am praying that God uses this short conversation to open his heart and help him made his profession of faith and to be baptized.
At the arena, we wanted to go inside so we asked for the permission, but unfortunately the city didn’t allow us to do so to protect their privacy and also they didn’t want those refugees to upset by the presence of unknown people taking pictures, but they gave us permission to take pictures of the area where many volunteers are gathered.
There was a reason why we had to go to that church. We should always consult with God what we should do even though we know what we can do to the best of our knowledge because there might be better opportunity. We mustn’t forget that God is in control of everything. Give glory to God!
Even without visiting the disaster area yet, we have already blessed so much and we have learned a lot.
This is the third day in Japan.