With two large screens flanking the stage and projecting a crystal clear image of Will Graham at the Fukuoka Kokusai Center on Saturday evening, it was hard not to admire the advanced technology so prominent in Japan.
Will himself noticed the video quality was better than any he’d ever seen at an event of this sort.
Yet, even in a nation with more than a hundred million people and some of the most modern technology connecting them, “We’re seeing more and more people experience loneliness,” Will said. “We live in a time where there are wonderful electronics and ways to communicate with one another.”
Yet countless people feel alone.
Loneliness is a very real issue in Japan, especially among young people. Celebration Director Mark Roberts said “hikikomori,” a phenomenon of withdrawing from society, has become more widespread. Many Japanese won’t leave their homes for several months at a time.
“Even my grandfather Rev. Billy Graham experiences loneliness,” he said. “My grandparents were married for almost 64 years and now my grandmother is in heaven. She died in 2007 and since then, my granddad has been lonely.
“Here in Japan, sometimes I feel alone,” Will continued. “I can’t read Japanese, and it’s hard to communicate with people in this country because we’re separated by language.”
The same applies in our relationship with Christ, he explained. We’ve been separated from God by sin, and that’s why we experience loneliness.
With his translator by his side, Will preached from John 5:1-9, the story of a man healed at the pool of Bethesda. Before being made well, the man cried out to Jesus: “I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up.”
“This man had no family, no friends, no one seemed to care about him,” Will said. “Like the paralytic man you may feel like there’s no one in your life.”
As hundreds of people filed to the front of the stage during the invitation to accept Christ, he assured them, “You’ll never be alone after tonight.”
Jesus’ power to transform lives was made known throughout the evening.
“Without Jesus I would be nothing,” she said with a confident smile.
Jason Standridge, a professional baseball player in Japan, talked about how fame and money could never satisfy him as much as his relationship with Christ.
A connection with God and with other believers is something 20-year-old Aogu Irie hopes those who walked forward Saturday get in their lives. His father, Rev. Irie Kikuo, serves on the Celebration committee.
“I wanted to help people believe in Jesus. I wanted to rejoice with God and get closer to Him [through this work],” Aogu said of serving with his dad for the Celebration.
With Shinto and Buddhism as the most widely practiced religions in Japan, Aogu said some new Christians may be hesitant to go against the norm and talk about their beliefs.
“But it’s a good thing to share your faith,” he said. “And it’s very special for young people to believe in God. It’s important that they find other young people and encourage one another.”
Will’s hope is that the peace Christ brings to combat loneliness will continue to spread Sunday, the second and final night of the Celebration.
“He’ll always be there for you. He’ll never leave you or forsake you,” Will said. “That’s who Jesus is.”