Japan Disaster Update

Last night I met with a wonderful group of Japanese students and Christians here in Lynchburg to come before the Lord on behalf of Japan. We spent a lot of time praying together and it was a very emotional and bonding time. I’ve been wanting to weigh in on the situation in Japan as many have asked how our friends are doing. I must first say that we are very thankful that everyone we know has been accounted for and is safe. Being that we are no longer in Japan, I thought it best to pass on an eye-witness account. Below is a letter from our dear friends and fellow missionaries Steven and KyeHee Taylor. I hope it is encouraging and challenging to you.

From: Steven Taylor
Sent March 18th, 2011. 7am JST

Just got back from a prayer meeting with other missionaries here in the small town of Karuizawa. We discussed the situation in depth, and had a great season of prayer for Japan.

The home we just moved from is still available to us, and we’re living out of suitcases, sleeping on the floor. We returned here as part of our “pre-quake” plan to attend our kids’ school graduation. We are the same distance from the reactor as Tokyo, but more to the west.

There is a lot of death, destruction, and misery….in the quake / tsunami zone. The rest of eastern Japan is worried, out of gas, buying up certain groceries like we do in Alabama when James Spann says “snow.” We’re trying to keep a balanced perspective, sorting through all the hype that is so often in “news” these days. I’ve read news reports that say Tokyo is a “ghost town” and that grocery shelves are bare. Baloney. A city of 36 million simply can’t become a ghost town. Friends in Tokyo reported today that there was plenty of fruit, veggies, and meat in the stores. Everyone is pulling together to reduce energy use, and rolling blackouts have been mostly avoided.

About the nuclear emergency: We’re constantly evaluating the situation. Right now, I believe the experts who say the real danger is for those in the immediate proximity of the reactor. There may be some low-level spread, depending on how the wind blows, but I really don’t think we’re looking at a “nuclear cloud of death” scenario.

We are not looking to evacuate right now. This could change. We have plans in place to the best of our ability if things really get unthinkably bad. I don’t think it will come to that, however.

Bottom line: we are aware of the risks, plan for the worst, pray a lot. AND….

We strongly believe IT IS FOR THIS TIME that God has called us to Japan. Generations of missionaries have poured their lives out trying to reach the Japanese, to little avail. Japan is a spiritual stronghold. But God will not, I strongly believe, ignore the multiplied prayers of so many, offered up so long. This may be the moment, the open door, the harvest season for Japan. We mourn and grieve with the Japanese people in this situation, but we were ALREADY mourning and grieving over the 127 million sitting in the great spiritual darkness of Japan. Perhaps now, many will turn from their FALSE HOPE to the only TRUE HOPE, Jesus Christ. Everything you build your life upon can be shaken and washed away, but He is the Rock who will never fail. Now is the time to reach Japan with the gospel of Christ.

So our basic mission hasn’t changed. But we are expecting new, exciting doors to be opened as God moves in Japan. Let’s watch and pray in expectation together! Here’s how you can pray:

1) Pray for us as we seek to express Christ’s love and hope to the Japanese people. Many are shaken and somber, perhaps pushed deeper into depression. Pray we will have God’s wisdom as we reach out to them.

2) Pray for the Japanese people, that these events will lead to many turning from idols (wood, stone, and monetary) to the true and Living God.

3) Pray for us and all missionaries to have wisdom in our decisions regarding the crisis. We are scheduled to return to Tokyo next Tuesday. We’re evaluating that every day as we go along.

4) Pray for a new generation of missionaries to Japan to come out of this situation. The current crop is aging, and there is great need for new workers.

Thanks to everyone who has written with encouragement and concern. We deeply, deeply appreciate your prayers and support for our ministry and our family.

Recent Pictures

We’ve uploaded some new pictures on Facebook. We’d like to eventually post them here as well, but they should be public on Facebook so you can see them without needing an account. Please shoot us an email if you can’t see them.

Sushi Time

Yesterday, we reunited with a close old friend at the College Festival. We decided to go out for a late lunch and everyone was excited to eat sushi. So our friend drove us all out to the sushi place and we had a great time together. He graduated last year and told us about his new job. He’s working about 50 minutes away (by car), so we may not get to chat with him as much as others. As a result I was kicking myself for not guiding our conversation more towards Christ. We know our time is short here and we want to make the best of it. Please pray for these meetings that we might be able to balance catching up with boldness in sharing the Gospel.

Persecution in Japan

I received an email from a missionary friend of mine this morning and I thought I would share a portion of it here. He wrote: 

Mr. Manabe, we believe, has trusted the Savior, but now is being called to ‘bear his own cross.’ He is being pressured by the his family and neighbors to be involved in the local shrine. His family has now told them they hate Christianity. He is standing firm though. It must be tough for him. Please pray that the grace of Christ would abound to him. Please pray that he will be baptized October 31.

This is an example of the cultural pressure believers face in Japan. Although there is no legal recourse for becoming Christian, there is loads of societal pressure. Please pray for Mr. Manabe to have strength to stand in this time of trial. It’s never fun to feel alone, and I feel like that is one of the biggest lies that Satan whispers in Japan.

Free Online/iPhone Japanese Bible

Finding a Japanese Bible that’s not on paper is really hard. Even finding on that IS on paper is hard if you’re not in Japan. But I stumbled across a site the other day from a Pastor’s twitter feed and noticed that the site had a Bible app for the iPhone. I already have a great Bible on my iPhone, but I figured “hey, it’s free. Why not check it out?” (more…)

inter // states (Tokyo time lapse)

This is such a cool time lapse. My favorite part is the planes near the end. Very cool! I know Japan can be reached through music and movies.

Giant Salamanders Helped to Spawn

This is really cool! Okayama is about an hour North of Takamatsu and it’s where many of our friends live. We’re hoping to visit when we go later this month. Maybe we’ll see some giant salamanders!

One thing to take notice of is the Japanese attitude towards both advancing and preserving nature. We often saw many trees covered in protective ropes and barriers in order to help them survive. I think it’s a great thing to be conscious of nature. Because they are so limited for land, I think it drives the Japanese to be more cautious than they otherwise would be.

Anger simmers over Okinawa base burden – BBC

High fences with “Keep out” signs make it clear that these areas are off limits to Okinawans.

The huge April rally was held. The Okinawan prefectural assembly unanimously backed a letter demanding the removal of the base off the island. Seventeen thousand people formed a human chain around Futenma.

But – after intense US pressure – Mr Hatoyama back-tracked. In May he said he had been unable to find an alternative site for the base. His “heart-breaking conclusion” therefore, was that the relocation should go ahead as planned. Then he stepped down.

Naoya Iju, of the prefectural government, says that many people think that Okinawans are being treated as second-class citizens.

In April, 90,000 residents gathered to protest, in the biggest show of opposition for 15 years. This is an interesting read on the effects of America’s permanent bases in Japan. We were hearing about this last year from multiple sources and in the news. This article brings up the very touchy issue that many Okinawans feel like the Japanese government’s scapegoat. That their voices have been ignored for centuries and that they alone bear the burden of housing the foreign base.

Former yakuza Tatsuya Shindo turns to God via Japan Today

…From the age of 20, Shindo peddled stimulants in and around Tokyo for a gangster family under the nationwide Sumiyoshi-kai yakuza syndicate. After several stints in jail, he decided to start offering something else entirely: the gospel…

This is an encouraging read! Those tattoos you see are not just part of pop culture in Japan. People with tattoos are outcasts from society and generally signify gang membership. I’d love to talk with this guy.

Japanese Resort Caters to Men with Virtual Girlfriends

File this one under “only in Japan”: A beach town near Tokyo has begun catering to a specific segment of young men, ones who play the game Love Plus and have a strong desire to take their virtual “girlfriends” from this game on a romantic holiday in the real world.

Love Plus is a typical dating sim game in which the protagonist, a high school boy, finds himself in a relationship with a young woman. He must work to maintain the relationship. Players can become deeply involved and engaged (no pun intended) with their virtual girlfriends, to the point that one young man even married his in a Tokyo ceremony last year.

The most recent version of the game, which came out June 24, also includes a “field trip,” created in partnership with the seaside town Atami. In 13 locations around the town, players can find 2D barcodes to scan and call up images of the young women in the game. The girls wear different clothing from their typical in-game looks. One hotel has gone as far as putting a barcode in its rooms, allowing players to see their “girlfriends” in a more private setting wearing summer kimonos.

What does this say about the desperation of men in Japan? Of course many people would not go for this type of relationship, but a rare few would and do. I think the desire is driven by the fear of real-life rejection, the desire for control, the lack of social skills, and a growth in the attitudes of women who seek to be self-sufficient and free of relationships.