God is using Samaritan's Purse programs and local believers to illuminate hearts with the light of the Gospel
By Lena Freyler, wife of John Freyler, Deputy Director of International Projects for Special Projects for Samaritan’s Purse
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven” Matthews 5:16.
I had the privilege of seeing the Holy Spirit moving in Japan on a visit with my husband earlier this year. The Japanese people are turning to the Lord for answers in the aftermath of the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster.
A beautiful example of God moving in Japan is the planting of churches. The nation is roughly 1 percent Christian. This is changing little by little as some homeowners who have been touched by the work of Samaritan’s Purse and local believers are coming to know Christ.
The church previously held very little influence in the community. After the tsunami, people saw how churches with the help of Samaritan’s Purse delivered basic relief kits and blankets, and cleared debris from houses. They were touched by the love and compassion of Jesus Christ.
One new church is Watonaha Christian Church (WCC), the very first ever planted in Ishinomaki! We were invited to a luncheon there and experienced what the New Testament church practiced in the first century. “They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
I was touched by their sincere hearts and gladness, even though some of them experienced loss from the tsunami. The presence of the Lord was there and I didn’t want to leave that place.
The story of how this church came to be is amazing. After the March 20011 disaster, Pastor Suzuki, leader of a congregation in Furukawa, Miyagi, began serving wherever he could. He partnered with Samaritan’s Purse, first with our mud-out teams and then mobilizing a team of skilled volunteers to work with our rebuilding program.
He and his team often drove three hours each day round-trip to work at the Watanoha site. Shortly after God opened up the neighborhood to Pastor Suzuki’s teams and to Samaritan’s Purse, one of the homeowners came to faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. It became apparent that God’s plan was to plant a church.
One of the local landowners offered an apartment right across the street from the Samaritan’s Purse work site to Pastor Suzuki for two years. The apartment had been damaged by the tsunami, so Samaritan’s Purse teams mudded it out and renovated it. The first service took place with many invited guests, including area homeowners, church planters, Samaritan’s Purse staff, and special musicians from Okinawa. Because the church was small, it couldn’t hold all the people. They had to open the sliding glass doors and people stood in the yard as well as in the street to take part in this great celebration. Jesus’ light is shining!
The church has been active in the community since its founding last year. In addition to weekly worship services, Bible study, grief counselling, and calligraphy classes, the church has become a hub for the disaster relief and response. In partnership with Samaritan’s Purse, Pastor Suzuki and his wife have facilitated meetings with community leaders from five surrounding districts in order to assess needs for people living within their homes.
For most of these leaders, it was the first time they had been inside a church. One community leader and his wife have come to faith in Christ.
As the community recovers, Pastor Suzuki has a vision to help restore livelihoods. Together with Samaritan’s Purse, WCC donated three sewing machines for a microenterprise project. The pastor would also like to plant benevolence gardens within the Watanoha area, which would bring the community together to work, to share Christ, and to enjoy the fruit of their labor.
Samaritan’s Purse and WCC have hosted many evangelistic outreach events and Thanksgiving and Christmas events, and God is multiplying the new believers. Each time, there has not been enough room to host people at the church building. Plans are now in the works to build a larger church that will accommodate the needs of this growing congregation.
The pain and suffering could not stop them to find any opportunity to share Christ with their communities. This is a beautiful picture of a victorious church!
The task of evangelism is great. The Japanese people are dying without Christ. The victims of the tsunami are still struggling to meet their basic needs. Christians do not have enough resources to build new churches. But what a wonderful opportunity to be part of this great movement of God!
Even though Japan is a leader in the financial world, it is spiritually poor. Pray that the people will have hunger for the things of God and see the need of Jesus in their lives. Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest field.
The call is now!