In the last four years, we’ve held two major evangelistic Crusades in Japan–in Okinawa and then just a few months ago in Osaka.
Historically Japan has been a difficult society for evangelism. Many believers see the recent triple disaster of earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear radiation as a development that could soften the hearts of the Japanese people to the Gospel, “to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, … that they may receive forgiveness of sins” (Acts 26:18, NKJV).
Our heart goes out to the people who have suffered. Many are grieving for lost loved ones and friends, tens of thousands are still missing, and hundreds of thousands have lost their homes. One eyewitness told me that after the earthquake there were three massive tsunami waves with one as high as at least 90 feet–a mountain of water. The devastation runs along the coast for about 300 miles.
Every pastor I spoke with in northeastern Japan last month has church members who are missing. One pastor of a church with 250 members cannot locate 50 of them. We visited this pastor after the earthquake and heard testimonies of how God spared the lives of many people.
Most churches in Japan are small. Many pastors do not have extensive training. At the request of church leaders, the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team is now in Japan providing training in how to bring God’s hope and comfort to people whose lives have been shattered by loss.
None of us understands why things like this happen, but we know that God cares about the Japanese people. The Bible says that “when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd” (Matthew 9:36).
My father held many Crusades in Japan over the years, and BGEA has an office there. Prior to the earthquake we had already been talking with church leaders about going to Sendai for a major Crusade. I visited Sendai after the earthquake, a city at the center of the destruction, and we are praying about returning next year for an evangelistic campaign.
While there, I met some missionaries who had been serving in Japan since World War II. It was thrilling to hear of the work God has done through them and to see them bringing God’s love and comfort to the Japanese people in the middle of this disaster.
Even for a developed country like Japan, it will take years to recover. Pray for the churches as they share the hope of Jesus Christ among those who have lost hope. With your help, we intend to stand alongside them for as long as we are needed. My prayer is that out of the rubble of this earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster, the Name of Jesus Christ will be lifted up to the people of this land. God loves Japan.
The Joy of the Lord
The Fukushima Daiichi Baptist Church had recently moved into a new church building less than 2 miles from a huge nuclear power plant. The growing congregation of 250, large for a Japanese church, had a retirement home and a thriving nursery school. Pastor Akira Sato has authored several books, the newest about how Christians can respond to negative events in their lives.
When the earthquake struck, followed by the catastrophic tsunami, the church building became a shelter for survivors. Days later, authorities gave orders to evacuate the area near the nuclear plant. Officials told Pastor Sato that they would need to leave quickly because of radiation but should be able to return in a few hours. They took nothing with them. Many weeks later, no one has been allowed to return, even to retrieve belongings. The congregation members, along with their neighbors, are living in public shelters. Pastor Sato has not been able to account for about 50 members missing since the tsunami.
Nevertheless, when our BGEA team came to encourage him, the pastor said that he and those with him are filled with joy, the joy of the Lord. “We do argue with each other occasionally–these living conditions are challenging!” he said. “But we are reaching out to others in Christ’s Name, and we are living our faith in the circumstances we are in.”
Running to Jesus
A few days before going to Japan, I was in the West African country of Liberia for a Crusade. Liberia was founded by freed slaves from America during the time of President James Monroe. Christianity has never been restricted in Liberia, but pagan tribal religions remain strong and Islam has made gains. A brutal coup in the 1980s launched two decades of political violence, ethnic massacres, and civil war. The economy was destroyed. An entire generation grew up knowing only instability, poverty, and bloodshed.
With the country now emerging from the carnage, churches throughout Liberia invited us to come and “preach the gospel of peace” (Romans 10:15) that can heal hearts through Jesus Christ. In preparation, Liberian Christians organized prayer meetings across the country and held a continuous prayer vigil in the national soccer stadium day and night for several days before the meetings began. God answered those prayers and yours.
Leading up to the Crusade, Associate Evangelist RV Brown went to three large towns in outlying parts of the country, proclaiming the Good News to 30,000 people before joining me in Monrovia. Even though transportation is limited and difficult, more than 90,000 people attended the Crusade in the soccer stadium in the capital city. Each night I preached repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation through Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit moved thousands to make life-changing commitments.
So many were eager to respond to the Gospel that when the invitation was given one evening, people began literally running to the front, and our hundreds of trained volunteer counselors often found themselves talking and praying with dozens of people at a time.
One man, who had never attended church in his life, whispered to a counselor, “I did terrible things during the war. I killed people. I’ve been so bad. Would God still want me? Do you think He still loves me?” The counselor, named Peter, assured him from the Bible that God would forgive him if he repented and turned in faith to Christ. As they prayed together, the man suddenly exclaimed, “God can forgive me!” and joy broke over his face.
To The Ends of the Earth
As this letter is being mailed, my son Will is headed to the Philippines for a four-day Crusade. Pray for him, that people will hear the Gospel “not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God” (1 Thessalonians 2:13). Later in May he will lead a Crusade on the Jersey Shore.
I will preach at a Hispanic-focused evangelistic Crusade in Los Angeles in June. Pray for us as we reach out to the fastest growing segment of the population in America. We’ve talked about doing this for several years, and we believe now is the time to take the Gospel to people who live in some of the toughest communities in Southern California, with gang rivalries, drug dealers, and many other problems. Over 500 churches are cooperating with us.
Across our nation and around the world, so many people hunger for hope but don’t find it. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only source of lasting hope and the only power that can bring real change in hearts, lives, and communities. We need your continued partnership.
God uses your prayers and your financial gifts to bear fruit. We pray that the Holy Spirit will “multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits” (2 Corinthians 9:10). I am grateful for your support.
May God bless you,