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Lessons From A Tsunami

By Rachel Mehlhaff
Asia, FM, Japan, NE Asia
Pastor Hiroshi Minegishi stood on the ground in Kesennuma, Japan, where his church once stood. But it was no longer there. It was destroyed by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devastated the Tōhoku region.

As the then 62-year-old Minegishi stood and pondered the future, he remembered a 90-year-old woman who was writing to prisoners to share the gospel and encourage them.

“God gave this sister a job. I’m still young, I think,” he said, laughing.

Minegishi, who is one of the speakers for TWR's Power of Gospel program, committed to doing God’s work after this disaster.

“God's love never changes,” he said, adding that this experience has really shown him this truth.

He felt like it was God’s grace that he was still alive. He began sharing the gospel with those living in the temporary housing, where some continue to live — even six years after the disaster.

“I think this is my duty to share the gospel with them,” Minegishi said.

Re-evaluating radio

Despite religious freedom, Japan is home to the second-largest unreached people group in the world. Less than one percent of its 126 million people are Evangelical believers.

Following the tsunami, radio was re-evaluated for use in future disasters. This opened the door for TWR to begin sharing the hope of Christ over FM radio with people in the tsunami-affected areas.

Prior to this, it was nearly impossible to secure airtime on local FM stations. Now, station managers are willing to air the gospel programs and have even made their facilities available for recording the programs.

TWR's gospel programs are broadcast over 14 FM stations throughout Japan, especially in the Tōhoku area and the Kumamoto Prefecture, which was hit by an earthquake in 2015.

The Japan team is also working on station 15 in Kagoshima, near Kumamoto.

“The main theme of Power of Gospel is to preach Christ,” said Samuel Tan, international director of the North-east Asia region, which includes Japan, China and Korea.

Currently, 15 Japanese pastors are involved in preaching for the program. Many of them pastor at churches near the FM stations where the programs are aired. As an organization, partnering with local churches is an important part of the ministry. This allows the pastors to do the long-term follow-up with listeners in their area.

Lessons from the tsunami

Minegishi is one of the pastors we’ve partnered with for this program.

In the days since the tsunami, Minegishi's church — Kesennuma Bible Baptist Church — constructed a new building. And the congregation of 18 members continues to worship together there.

Minegishi, who is now 67, has been a pastor for 29 years — 19 years in Kesennuma and 10 in Iwate.

One of the lessons he learned through his experience following the tsunami is that the church needs to go out and share the gospel, citing Matthew 28:19.

He said before the earthquake the congregation stayed inside the church and did not take the gospel message out. Now, churches are being bolder in sharing the good news.

“Japan's revival will come,” Minegishi said. “The Christians need to wake up.”

Softening soil

Japan is traditionally considered a hard ground for the gospel. It has been referred to as a "missionary graveyard."

But Tan senses that Japan’s appointed time is now. “God is doing something,” he said.

A few signs he points to for this change are the opportunity to broadcast over FM and the growing number of people in Singapore who are getting involved, whether as missionaries or through prayer.

“This is the appointed time to bring the gospel to this people group,” Tan said.

The first time Tan approached an FM station about airing Season of Hope, the initial program developed to counsel the tsunami-affected through the aftermath, he said it was a strange process. But at the end of the meeting, he felt led to pray for the two men he was meeting with. As he was praying and after he finished, their posture had changed, he said.

They heard a sample of the program and began airing it.

In 2015, when TWR began broadcasting Power of Gospel over a station in Kumamoto, the station manager said the message in the program is relevant to everything. He shared that is was a hopeful message.

And the feedback we receive from listeners is positive.

“We do hear people are impacted,” Tan said. “They have a different perspective of the Christian faith.”

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