Japan is heavy on our hearts these days. The immediate need, of course, is for a safe resolution to the alarming situation at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. The news media has a tendency to sensationalize this kind of thing so it’s very difficult to know exactly how serious the situation is and what it might mean to those living in close proximity but we have no doubt that there is potential for a complete meltdown and the release of extremely dangerous levels of radiation. According to John Beddington, chief spokesman for the British Embassy in Tokyo, experts have said that radiation levels would need to be hundreds of times higher than they are at present before the health of anyone outside a very small area would be endangered. In their opinion, that isn’t going to happen. Some found this reassuring while others are less confident. Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Kevin Rudd has told his countrymen in Tokyo that they should leave and French expats have received similar advice. Apparently, an Indian company chartered a plane to evacuate its 185 employees and their families. Several of our friends have taken or sent their children to stay with relatives in Osaka and Kyoto, much further away from the Fukushima nuclear facility.
In addition to the crisis at the power plant, there are many other reasons to pray. The window of time for finding anyone still alive in the rubble of last Friday’s earthquake is rapidly closing. Thousands of people are still unaccounted for. Some of our friends have not yet been able to make contact with relatives living in the area and do not know if they are alive or dead.
People in Tokyo and the surrounding areas including Funabashi, where we lived, are experiencing rotating power blackouts, lack of food and gasoline shortages.
People across the country are living in fear. One expert explained that three of the tectonic plates that make up the earth’s surface meet under Japan. Two of them shifted causing last week’s massive earthquake and there is reason to believe that the third one could move causing further devastation. There have already been hundreds of aftershocks since Friday.
Clearly there are urgent needs that require immediate attention but I believe that Japan has a much greater need that long predates the recent earthquake. In Christian circles, Japan is known as one of the world’s largest unreached people groups. Less than 2% of the population place their hope in Jesus Christ. On our recent visit, God gave me a vision for Japan. Imagine the country covered by a thick black blanket; a blanket of spiritual darkness. There are tiny holes in places where the light of Christ shines through but under that blanket live over 130 million people who put their hope in cleaning their ancestors graves on the appropriate days of the year and leaving offerings there, on visiting temples on other designated days; bowing, clapping and dropping coins in the offering boxes. What is there in those rituals that will help them in a time like this? Is it any wonder that they are traumatized? In the Sendai area those temples and graves are washed away; gone forever! Could it be that God might use this triple tragedy (earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis) to turn the hearts of the Japanese people to himself? We need to pray that this will be the moment in time when the spiritual blanket is torn apart and people find hope in a living God who loves each one of them and “who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20).