This wasn’t breaking news exactly, but Franklin Graham wanted to drive home the message.
Answering questions from about 30 Japanese media in Tokyo late Thursday morning, he addressed the statistic that less than 1 percent of Japan is Christian.
“God loves the Japanese people as much as He loves any race,” Franklin Graham said.
In fact, that’s at the core of why he traveled halfway around the globe to deliver this very Good News that anyone who puts their faith in Jesus Christ can have the hope of eternity.
“I believe there could be a day where a Japanese man or woman hears the Gospel and God could light a spark and millions of people would put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ,” Franklin Graham continued. “That’s my prayer for Japan and I believe it will happen one day.”
Could that day be this weekend?
Beginning Friday night through Sunday evening, four events will give the 37 million people in the Tokyo metropolitan area a chance to hear the same message of hope that Billy Graham brought to the same venue — the Nippon Budokan — almost 50 years ago in October of 1967.
“It’s an honor to come back and preach the same Gospel message,” said Franklin Graham who came with his father to the 1994 Tokyo Crusade. “I do bring greetings from my father. He’s 97. He just celebrated his birthday a few days ago, and I’m sure he’d appreciate your prayers as he prays for your country.”
The Japanese media largely asked questions about the message he intends to bring this weekend and if there are further plans to come back to Japan. Outside of the United States and Canada, Japan is the country where Franklin Graham has spent the most time preaching in the past decade. He held outreaches in Okinawa in 2006, Osaka in 2010, Sendai in 2012 and Sapporo last May.
And he hasn’t ruled out future outreaches in Japan, but he did explain that sometimes God has other plans for his schedule.
“Sometimes doors of opportunity open that you don’t expect,” Franklin Graham said. “When the tsunami hit the shores of Sendai (in 2011), that wasn’t part of our vision, but we [BGEA and Samaritan’s Purse] responded to help the churches reach out to their communities. And after months of working with the pastors with relief aid and helping people, a door opened to plan a Festival.”
Baseball, Trey Hillman & Ham Fighters
Also addressing the media was Trey Hillman, former Kansas City Royals manager, who became a bit of a Japanese folk hero when he led the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters (in Sapporo) to its first Pacific League baseball title in 2006 and repeated it in 2007.
“Through the game of baseball, God led my path to Japan from 2003 to 2007,” Hillman said. “I have love in my heart for the Japanese people.”
Hillman, a strong Christian who will be giving his testimony on Saturday morning at the Budokan, is still in baseball, hired last October as the bench coach of the Houston Astros. He also came to Japan earlier in the year to help promote the event.
“Just as Franklin Graham said—God loves the Japanese people as much as He loves anyone,” Hillman said. “It’s great to be back in your country. My hope and prayer is that the hearts and minds of the Japanese people would be open to the Gospel.”
The Greater Tokyo Celebration of Love takes place Nov. 20-22 at the Nippon Budokan, featuring Michael W. Smith, Lena Maria Klingvall, Hillsong Worship, a 1,500-member choir and much more.