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Unite and Rebuild
It was one year ago when the world scrambled.
In the wake of last year's devastation in Japan when an earthquake and tsunami caused a nuclear plant disaster, the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said 88 countries offered or sent aid to Japan. Churches in Japan collected and distributed food, clean water, clothing, and heating fuel to the country’s hardest hit areas within 24 hours of the disaster.
Neighbors in the Electronic Age
We see things fast. To consider Jesus’ parable of the good Samaritan in the 21stcentury calls us to a perspective and a response never before known to the world. Our technological capacity has given us the earth as our neighborhood. Americans, as residents of one of the gated communities of planet earth, should and for the most part have been generous to help. The point of the parable is that the person in need that you see is your neighbor. To love your neighbor is to help them, even when it costs you.
Disaster wakes us up to realities that need to be faced. We realize that life is short. We become aware that the world is out of our control. Many consider the spiritual life. In the wake of the events a year ago, psychologists said, “It may be that life-threatening and uncontrollable events challenge the assumption that the world is a benevolent and ordered place.” This leads many to reconsider life. They begin to measure what is important in their lives and what lasts. Many awaken to spiritual needs.
Japan's spiritual needs are great. The country is less than 1 percent Christian. While Shintoism and Buddhism have a history, their impact is waning. Only 10 percent of college students in Japan today recognize any religion as their own.
After the tsunami hit, Shintaro Ishihara, Tokyo's 78-year-old governor, said that he saw the tsunami as “divine punishment” or tenbatsu, a term used in Japanese to describe a righteous and certain punishment of the wicked. He said, “We need a tsunami to wipe out egoism, which has rusted onto the mentality of the Japanese over a long period of time.” He later apologized after Jin Murai, governor of the Nagano Prefecture and Ishihara's superior, condemned his statement. Regardless, these disasters caused even the powerful to turn inward and look upward.
A Problem Too Big for Us to Fix
There is a problem with our world that is too big for us to fix. There is an inevitable judgment coming. The good news is that there is also grace in Jesus. While the church reflects God's grace in service, in demonstrative acts of mercy and justice, it is best and most clearly understood when that demonstration leads those who have been blessed by it to ask “why?” The church can then tell them the important message that they have lived out with their actions: God loves you and he has given you relief, not just at this time for this particular crisis, but for all time, and for every need. Christ entered into our world, and took on our suffering. He lived and died in perfect obedience to the Father and so his death is counted as justification for each of us to stand right with God through faith in Christ. He has sent his Spirit into believers to make them holy and gift them to be effective.
It is in loving obedience to Jesus that we are here to serve and to speak.
The Iversons, Devoted to Japan
Dan and Carol Iverson, along with their nine children, have served in Japan for 25 years. Japan is his family's home. On the day of the disaster, they spent over a $1,000 dollars to rent a truck, fill it with food, and drive into areas most people were desperately fleeing. They, along with the Christian church there, have continued to go into the most dangerous places to bring relief and care to those hardest hit by the disasters.
The Iversons know their Lord, know their adopted home country of Japan, and know the value of the demonstration and proclamation of the gospel.
Over the centuries, Japan has dug out and rebuilt after multiple earthquakes and the nuclear devastation and ravages of World War II. Each time, there was change as things were rebuilt: economic, social, and political. We want to aid those in the church who are seeking to rebuild.
We can continue working to unite and rebuild in Japan for the glory of the name of Jesus.
As we have so many instant neighbors in our global village with so much need, it is easy to become lost in a sea of options. I like a strategy. I like to have a plan and direction that is thought out. Here are the thoughts that help people make a difference in this world.
Focus. You can’t help everyone. A laser emits a powerful light because it is focused. Spread too thin, it is just dim light. Choose a few places or causes on which to focus. You want to have an impact that is narrow and deep. This means saying yes to some things and praying that others say yes to the things you’ve said no to.
Partner. The people on the ground know more than you do about how their country or community works. Choosing partners can seem overwhelming. When you want to give money, resources or volunteers you will find you are now popular. How do we choose? Just like navigating life online in a world too big to control, you need to find partners you can trust. Has your church already vetted folks working somewhere? You might know missionaries of relief ministries in a country. If you choose to work with people you don’t know, be sure to check the track record of their organization.
Root. Problems are long-term. We often have a short attention span for crisis—the problem is not stabilized, let alone solved, and yet we move on to the next one. Connect in some way longer term. The longer you stay, the more relationship weaves together with cause. When that happens, you have lasting commitment and therefore lasting impact. You will stay long enough to see the next level of solutions.
A Way to Help
One of the options we’ve come up with to continue to offer help to Japan is through selling posters that were designed by Kevin Richardson (who gave the design to the cause) with all the proceeds going straight to Japan to aid the Iversons.
This can remind you to pray, give, and maybe go to Japan or somewhere else in the world where see your neighbor in need, not just of food, shelter, and clothing, but of Jesus, who will feed them with life, who has prepared a place for his own to dwell, and who clothes them with his righteousness.