|The church situation after 3.11|
The church situation after 3.11 from a Japanese pastor's perspective
Yoshiya Hari, Pastor of Saikyo Nozomi Chapel
Do you see changes in the spiritual climate of Japan?
Yes, it is obvious. Tohoku (Japan's northern region) has always been known as a spiritually closed place. However, since the churches became bases for supply distribution after the earthquake, the spiritual soil of Tohoku has been softened. Locals now have a much more positive image of Christians. The reputation of the church is being built up.
How has God been working in the affected areas?
The number of churches in the Miyagi and Iwate prefectures is increasing and the cooperation among churches and pastors is stronger than ever. About sixty pastors and other church leaders gathered for the first meeting of Miyagi Mission Network. God has been working on non-Christians directly, too. The survivors are sensing God's presence even in the areas that have no churches. They appreciate visits from pastors. One survivor in temporary housing said, "It was good for me to go through this time of tragedy, because the experience made me think about what's really important in life."
How has the church has been used for restoration of the affected areas?
Local churches are gaining a lot of trust and credibility by serving people in practical ways. Before the earthquake, few people living in the devastated town of Ishinomaki knew about their local small church of about ten members. However, after 3.11 the church became a distribution center and played a significant role in the recovery of that community. Many other churches across the Tohoku region have become significant presences in their communities.
How should churches be involved in further restoration efforts?
Churches have been meeting the needs of local communities through providing supplies and volunteers. As a result survivors have a good image about churches today. Now local churches need to have a vision to disciple and train people in their communities. Churches need to continually provide Biblical values and the meaning of true restoration (hope in Jesus Christ) in their communities. Christians need to connect with the administrative officials in their community. We shouldn't be satisfied with simply increasing church membership; rather, we must have the perspective of impacting whole communities in positive ways. We need a paradigm shift in how we view the church. I believe that planting churches is at the heart of what it means to bring real restoration to affected areas.