A ladies luncheon originally planned for 300 women drew more than 860 people to a Sapporo, Japan, hotel Friday. Some attendees left with a new understanding of Jesus Christ just hours before the Hokkaido Festival of Hope kickoff a short drive away.
Chiharu Kitamura was one woman forever impacted by the event. Kitamura said she felt God tugging at her heart as the Rev. Akira Sato explained the Gospel. Kitamura sometimes attends church with her children, but no one in her family is Christian. She was happy to understand more about Jesus and said she wants to follow Him.
Since 1969, ladies luncheons across Japan have shared the hope of Christ with women like Kitamura through music, a message and fellowship. Many times, if husbands don’t attend church, their wives don’t, either, so the luncheons reach some women who might not be exposed to the Gospel otherwise.
The Rev. Sato knows firsthand how powerful the Gospel can be. He brought several women to tears as he shared his own journey of faith.
In 2011, when Tohoku, Japan, was hit with an earthquake, it sparked a meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, and the area around Sato’s church was evacuated. Sato knew some people who died, and his congregation was dispersed.
Sato began to wonder why God let that happen, but saw his congregation’s faith become stronger through their struggles. Many members still can’t return to their homes, but met as a church for the first time again last month.
That’s the kind of story of survival and perseverance that moves the Japanese audience. And the kind of story that brings some closer to Christ.
Singer Mihoko Yasuda took a moment Friday to share how she accepted Christ at 13. Before then, she found it hard to love her classmates, but realized that “Jesus loves me” and saw her capacity to love increase. She later saw how her violent late husband changed as Christ transformed his life. She hopes other women experience the same transformation.
“I pray they meet Jesus,” she said earnestly, looking around the full dining room.
Osaka pastor Sumako Furubayashi, who helped organize the luncheon, has also been praying as BGEA events bring the Gospel to Japan.
In 2006, Franklin Graham preached in Okinawa, the southernmost part of Japan; this year, he’s in Sapporo, the northernmost part.
“From the bottom to the top,” she said. “It’s answered prayer.”
Watch the Hokkaido Festival of Hope May 9-11 by visiting http://BillyGraham.org/Japan. The event will be streamed each night at 9 p.m. ET.