After Japan Quake, Church Finds New Purpose

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SENDAI, Japan - The March 11 earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan swept away entire towns, countless homes and a number of churches.

But some pastors have since found a new location -- and a new ministry -- in the wake of the disaster.

Three months have passed since the Japan earthquake, and many areas still need lots of clean up. Residents can see stuffed toys and school supplies among the debris. One area sank about one meter, leaving people questioning whether its safe to rebuild their homes on the same land.

The Seaside Bible Chapel wasn't spared by the tsunami's powerful wave. The church is totally gone along with leading pastor Tomohiro Naito's house. Buried in the rubble, Naito and his family found the church sign.

"I spent five years of my life in this place. I lost everything in the tsunami, but I realized the things I concentrated on were worthless," Naito's son Noah said. "I regret that I was not able to reach out to our neighbors and now most of them are gone, swept away by the tsunami."

The church had only 30 members, but small churches are typical for Japan. Most residents are Buddhists and Shintoists. Japanese people are also private, and even Christians don't like to join large groups.

But the March disaster gave Christians an opportunity to share God's love with the victims.

"Japan has always been a difficult place to share the gospel. They have everything, but what they've always lacked is the knowledge of Jesus Christ," said Jonathan Wilson, director of CRASH Japan. "Right Now, there's an openness in Japan. They've realized even though we have everything, we still have a need for hope."

CRASH Japan -- which stands for Christian Relief Assistance, Support and Hope in Japan -- is a network of Japanese and international Christian groups. They work with local ministries during disasters, providing prayer, counseling, trauma intervention and other needs.

"We send teams to the shelters, wash their feet, massage their hands, listen to their stories, pray with them. Their hearts open like never before," Wilson assed.

Crash teams work alongside local government officials who see the value of their efforts.

"I thank the organization for helping our town. There is more unity in the communities and hope for our people," said Nasu Town Vice Mayor Masami Yamada.

CRASH Japan also helps churches like Seaside Bible Chapel rise again. The congregation now meets in a coffee shop provided by the organization.

"Before the tsunami, our church was located 700 meters from the coastline and it was quite an empty place. But now we are in a good place where a lot of people go," Noah said. "So there's a better chance to share the gospel more. It's all part of God's plan."

A cross erected where the Seaside Bible Chapel used to stand signifies that when everything else is gone, only one thing prevails -- God's promise.

"We don't need anything except God," Noah continued. "We only need our faith in Him. Nothing more."

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CBN News
Lucille Talusan

Lucille Talusan

CBN News Asia Correspondent

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