None of us will forget Friday, 11 March 2011. It was an event than has altered the world, literally. The 9.0 magnitude megathrust earthquake, whose epicenter was 81 miles east of Sendai, was of such a magnitude that it actually shifted the earth on its axis, affecting its tilt and the speed of its rotation. The implications of that are yet unknown. The earthquake released a surface energy that was nearly double that of the 2004 Indian Ocean quake and Tsunami that killed 240,000 people. The total energy released was more than 600 million times the energy of the Hiroshima bomb. We will never forget the surreal images of a Tsunami that reached 30 ft in height and wiped out whole towns within minutes. In the affected area of Sendai and surrounding towns approximately 7200 are known dead, and another 10,200 are missing. The people in Japan had no more than a minute to prepare after hearing the Earthquake Early Warning alarms. And those near the epicenter that heard the alarm had less than 30 minutes to escape the oncoming Tsunami. Many thousands of lives were saved as a result. However, many more thousands were lost who never heard the alarm or did not have the means to escape. As if that were not enough, the earthquake and Tsunami have left the nation in another crisis, of a nuclear facility in Fukushima that could be experiencing some meltdown, and releasing radioactive material into the atmosphere and into the earth and water system. Radioactive iodine was detected in tap water in Fukushima city on 16 March at 8.00 am JST. Milk and spinach have also been detected with radioactive contamination. Tokyo, which is 200 km away has experienced radioactivity that is 10 times normal levels. Each day the Japanese are daily awakening to what appears to be a nightmare. One Japanese man said: “I pinch my cheek daily to see if this is all a bad dream. But it is still there.”
As we try to imagine the daily struggle of 400,000 homeless Japanese in the affected zone, without water, food, and sufficient heat for the winter conditions we need to remember that they are from the most advanced nation in the world. The government had taken all the precautions with an advanced seismic warning system, billions invested in an anti-tsunami 12 meter (40 ft) sea wall that extended up most of the coast, and the latest safety precautions and instruments in their nuclear plants. The Japanese were living comfortably and securely with the measures of protection in place. However, all of that was to no avail with the March 11 megaquake that could not have been anticipated. Many from the destroyed prefectures, reflected on 3 generations of family and memories now gone. We need to remember that. It could have as easily been us through some other tragedy. The reminder of our complete fragility, in spite of all of our attempts to protect and insulate our lives and families materially and financially is sobering. It should move us to compassion for those affected, and reassessment of our own values and purpose for life. In the immediate, we can make a difference by linking with coordinated emergency response teams like the Christian relief, assistance and support effort called CRASH. They are coordinating the efforts of Christians living in Japan, and Christian organizations onsite in immediate response to the crisis (www.crashjapan.com).
Even beyond our response of compassion is the realization that the earthquake that brought the poorest nation, Haiti, to its knees a year ago, and this earthquake which has done the same to one of the worlds richest nations, are no coincidence. The Bible is clear that the earth is in the process of upheaval like birth pains, wanting to be free of a curse that resulted from humankind´s sin and rebellion against the Creator, God (Romans 8:22). When Jesus Christ died on the Cross, taking on himself the sin of mankind, there was a great earthquake (Matthew 27:51). When Jesus rose from the dead there was another great earthquake (Matthew 28:2). Jesus said the sign for his return would be earthquakes in many places, like birth pains (Matthew 24:7,8). Friday morning, 11 March 2011, the Lord awakened me with the hymn “Man of sorrows what a name, for the Son of God who came. Ruined sinners to reclaim: Hallelujah what a Savior!” It was a hymn I had not sung in years. I knew nothing yet of what had taken place in Japan. As my wife stunned me with the news, I struggled to reconcile the earthquake in Japan with the joyous reality of a Savior, until I remembered the Scriptures about the earthquakes. A letter then arrived from some coworkers living in Japan with an amazing statistic. These were the words of the letter: “The areas affected by the earthquake and tsunami of Miyagi, Fukushima and Ibaraki are some of the most spiritually needy places in Japan. With over 4.9 million people yet only about 9000 active christians (about 0.15%). Fukushima has the lowest average worship attendance with only 19 per church. There are 44 towns and one city with no church, and yet there are 86 international christian workers assigned to these prefectures.”
There has been great resistance to the missionaries and their message of trusting Jesus Christ in this advanced nation where work and wealth have been worshipped, just as in North America and Europe. However, a missionary named Phillip, whose home rests on a hill next to the beach on Sendai, rushed to the town after the tsunami: “I was expecting to find twenty-five of my close friends had died – but instead I found all of them sitting together in a shelter. There was more hugging and emotion than I have ever experienced in Japan. It was one of the happiest moments in my life.” As I read these words I had the answer to why I had awakened on the day of one of the greatest earthquakes in history with the joyous song “Hallelujah, what a Savior¡” Out of the tragedy, the joy of Christ is about to be born in a people who are about to discover a foundation for their trust that can never be shaken. It is no accident that Japan´s flag and identity is “The Land of the Rising Sun.” While the earthquake and ensuing tsunami has been a nationally traumatic event of historic proportions, the greatest since World War 2, they are the birth pains of a new day that is about to dawn on their nation. They will discover that their greatest hope and future is not in their own creativity and productivity but rather in their Creator, the Son of God, who has returned and arisen with healing in his wings for a nation that is broken. The Son is about to truly rise over Japan. “But for you that revere my name, the Sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.” (Malachi 4:2) There is a day soon when the nations will return to the true Creator God, Jesus Christ. As we see these events taking place place with greater frequency around the world know that this time of repentance is near. God spoke through the prophet Haggai: “I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and the desired of the nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory” (Haggai 2: 6,7).
Pray for the following: 1. Please pray for the Japanese people, especially in this area of the North East, that they will respond to the love and message of Christ´s forgiveness that will be coming to them during this time. 2. Pray for the body of Japanese and international believers in Christ that have united to be Christ´s feet, hands and mouth to the people of the affected zone. 3. Pray that God would give them grace and favor with the government and local agencies to be able to fulfill the mission of love that they have undertaken. 4. Pray for the nation of Japan to discover and fulfill their God given identity and purpose as a nation that will display Christ´s glory to the rest of the world through this tragedy.