A Year Later: Restoring Hope to Tsunami-Ravaged Japan

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IWAKI, Japan - The nation of Japan is still suffering from the effects of the devastating earthquake, tsunami, and subsequent nuclear meltdown that happened one year ago Sunday.

As a result of the diaster on March 11, 2011, some 19,000 people died and thousands are still missing.

Fortunately hope is still alive. CBN News recently visited one community where Japanese Christians have been working non-stop to help survivors.

Honda Tadakazu said if it hadn't been for Christians, he would have abandoned the seaweed factory that has been in his family for three generations.

"If they had come a month after the tsunami, I wouldn't have made it. But they came two weeks later and started helping me clean up," he told CBN News.

His company, named Honda Shyoji, sits less than 500 yards from the ocean. About a half-hour after the earthquake, multiple tsunamis swept through his factory, destroying everything.

Thanks to the help from Christians like Kouji Oshima, Tadakazu is only months away from re-opening his company.

"Since the earthquake, the Holy Spirit has been telling me to travel around the affected areas and help people get back on their feet," Oshima told CBN News.

Helping the Hurting

The same story is happening all across Japan's tsunami-affected areas. Entire churches, as well as individual Christians, moved quickly in those early days and are still working to help the displaced and hurting.

"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways then I will hear from heaven and forgive their sins, and will hear their lands," Daisuke Yokoyama, an evangelist, quoted 2 Chronicles from the Bible.

Moments before the earthquake struck the island nation, Yokoyama and a handful of Christians were in Tokyo for a prayer meeting.

"A few young people met that afternoon to pray and cry out to God to bring a spirit of repentance and revival to our nation and then the earthquake happened," he said.

Within minutes of the tremors, they started ministering to the grief-stricken and frightened people who watched the drama unfold on TV screens.

"We went to the subway and train stations where thousands of people were stranded. We served coffee and tea and tried to share hope with people," Yokoyama recalled.

Sharing God's Love

In the 12 months since the disaster, Yokoyama left Tokyo and moved just 25 miles from the Fukushima nuclear plant where he's using worship to share the gospel with non-believers.

"People are coming to the Lord. They see the love and compassion displayed by Christians, and they are touched," he explained.

Domae Shogo is one of them. A former gang member, he spent 22 years in prison for multiple infractions. Last November, he received an invitation to attend Yokoyama's church and he gave his life to Jesus Christ.

Today, you'll find him making friends among the thousands still displaced by the earthquake and tsunami.

"I spend my time listening to their stories. These are very lonely people who have lost everything, so I am here to show them the love of Christ and to tell them how He changed my life," Shogo told CBN News.

That same change theme echoed this past weekend as Japanese church leaders invited the Rev. Franklin Graham to hold a Celebration of Hope festival in Sendai.

"Did you know God has a plan for your life?" Graham told the crowd.

The event featured a number of Christian artists like Kirk Franklin and others. Graham, the son of famed evangelist Billy Graham, drew nearly 12,000 people over the three-day event.

"I think for the first time many Japanese people are open to the Gospel of Jesus Christ," Graham told CBN News.

It's something Pastor Ikarashi Yoshitaka said he can testify has happened in the weeks and months since the tragedy. He co-leads a congregation not too far from the nuclear power plants.

"This is going to be a sad and happy weekend. Sad because we will remember all those who died last year, but also happy because we are seeing God move like never before," he said.

Find out how you can help CBN's Operation Blessing International meet the needs the people of Japan and others around the world.

 *Originally aired on March 9, 2012. 

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