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Japan: A missional opportunity to care in center of a community

August 8th, 2011 at 9:47 am

DALLAS –Texas Baptist Men has been asked to build a community center in Japan for people living in temporary housing since the March earthquake and tsunami, opening a unique opportunity for Texas Baptists to provide tangible assistance to victims of the natural disaster.
Community centers are common in Japan, particularly in smaller towns, said Yutaka Takarada, pastor of Japanese Baptist Church of North Texas in Dallas and point person for Texas Baptist disaster relief and response efforts in Japan. Community centers provide a place where people commonly gather socially and for special programs.

An invitation by the non-profit organization Tohno Magokoro Network to build a community center for people living in temporary housing as a result of the earthquake and tsunami is a special opportunity to provide help and encouragement for those who need it, Takarada said. This building, which is to go in a location determined by Japanese leadership, is a practical way Texas Baptists can help Japanese affected by the natural disaster.

The community center also is way Texas Baptists can share the hope of Christ, Takarada continued. The center will carry the Baptist name and the government has indicated church meetings can be held in the building. Texas Baptists are partnering with the only Japan Baptist Convention-affiliated church in the region to make sure gatherings take place if the building is constructed.

“The Japan government has asked TBM to build this community center in the middle of hundreds of temporary housing units,” said Chris Liebrum, who leads Texas Baptist Disaster Response. “Although it will be mainly be used for community meetings, the government has said that if we build it we can use it for Baptist meetings each week. That will put the gospel in middle of thousands of folks who have never heard the message of Christ.”

Because Buddhism is deeply entrenched in Japanese culture, it is difficult to effectively share the gospel there, Takarada said. Christians must first form deep relationships with Japanese residents. This community center could jump start that process, providing a way for Christians to share the hope of Christ.

“This is the rare chance God provided us to reach those people for Christ,” Takarada said.

Texas Baptist Men Interim Executive Director Don Gibson believes this distinctive invitation is God providing a way for His people to care for people who are hurting.

The construction of a culturally-appropriate community center that includes a small library, eating area and two restrooms will cost $225,000. TBM and Texas Baptists each have contributed $25,000 to the project, meaning an additional $175,000 still needs to be raised. Organizers are hoping churches will contribute to the mission project, and together they will provide enough resources to make the community center a reality. Leaders are hoping individual congregations will give $1,000 a piece until the giving goal is reached. Woman’s Missionary Union of Texas also has volunteered to help raise money for the work. TBM will not begin the project until it has all the needed funds.

“It will succeed if the Holy Spirit of God empowers it and churches respond to God’s invitation to give what is needed to build it,” Gibson said. “Whatever God invites His people to do, God is the source for it to happen.”

To support the project financially, send checks designated “Japan Community Center” to the BGCT at P.O. Box 159007, Dallas, 75315-9007.

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