I took the train for a four day trip to Fukushima. I visited pastors and friends, met with an elder lady who is one of 1470 people suing the Japanese government for damages due to the nuclear disaster, visited the Asian Rural Institute which has long been a partner of Global Ministries, and sat and listened as young mothers shared with me their concerns about living in present day Fukushima. It was a pilgrimage of sorts - listening for God's still small voice in the midst of great turmoil.Read more
The World Council of Churches (WCC) President for Asia, Rev. Dr Sang Chang, met in Tokyo with the Chief Cabinet Secretary of Japan, Yoshihide Suga, on 4 August to convey two recent statements by the WCC Central Committee related to nuclear dangers and to preserving the peace clause in Japan’s constitution.Read more
Allow me to introduce some of the stories of the mothers who come to our Center. Mrs. A lives with her husband and son in the city of Fukushima. The family had just moved into their new house six months prior to the disaster. They had received financial help from her husband’s parents to build a large house, hoping that her mother would also be able to live there with them in her old age. However, their neighborhood was covered with very high levels of radiation. Because Fukushima prefecture did not designate her neighborhood as an evacuation zone, it was left to each member of the community whether they would evacuate or not.Read more
Japan has been a major country of destination for human trafficking, especially into its notorious sex industry. Women and children are trafficked to Japan for commercial sexual exploitation from China, South Korea, Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, Russia, and Latin America. The majority of identified trafficking victims are foreign women who migrate to Japan with hopes of working and sending remittances to their families back home. Upon arrival however, they are subjected to debt bondage and forced prostitution. Debts of up to $50,000 are imposed on the women and they are subjected to physical and psychological violence and coercion. Japanese women and girls are also targeted for exploitation in pornography and prostitution. Many female victims are reluctant to seek help from authorities for fear of reprisal by their traffickers, who are often related to Japanese organized crime, called the Yakuza.Read more
Lectionary Selection: John 17:1–11
Prayers for Japan:
“Protect them,” Jesus prayed in his last hours. “Protect them because they believe.” On this day we lift up the small and yet vital church in Japan, and all of the people to whom they minister. We lift up the children of Fukushima who are exposed to high levels of radiation. We lift up all people who are made to feel small and insignificant in society: the indigenous Ainu people, immigrants working in Japan, the LGBT community. We lift up the peace-loving people of Okinawa, whose voice never seems to be honored by politicians in Tokyo. We lift up the resident Korean population that was targeted by a public show of "hate speech." We lift up all those who call for justice to be done, for women who were abused as sex slaves during wartime. We lift up the environment, which quietly suffers the heavy footprint of human existence. Jesus prayed for others' protection. Jesus prayed on account of all who dare to believe in the promise of life despite the realities before them. God, allow us to pray as Jesus did, “Protect them.”
Mission Stewardship Moment from Japan:
I spoke to a class of 260 college students in southern Japan on the topic “Fukushima and the Christian Response.” It is remarkable how little coverage Fukushima receives in the press here. The young people admitted in their written comments to me that they had almost forgotten that the disaster ever happened. I had a lot to share about my friends and colleagues who still live and work in the Fukushima area. Following class one young lady came up to me and said, “I am from Fukushima,” after which she immediately started to tear up. I shared her tears, knowing that the people of Fukushima are suffering greatly on account of this technological disaster. National policy has prioritized “recovery” at the cost of “safety.” Many people feel betrayed, hurt and powerless to speak out.
Our partner, the Aizu Radiation Information Center, is a beacon of light for such people. The church-based non-profit joins with concerned citizens to gather information, educate themselves about the dangers of radiation, create support groups for concerned mothers, sponsor “fresh air camps” to allow families to spend quality time away from Fukushima, and provide thyroid tests and health consultations. In a nation that is more concerned about controlling than caring for the situation, the church is a refuge of hope. Thank you for your generous support and prayers that make this ministry and these programs possible.
(Prayer and Mission Moment by Jeffrey Mensendiek )
Mission Partners in Japan:
- Doshisha University
- Asian Rural Institute
- Emmaus Center
- Kobe College
- Korean Christian Church in Japan
- Miyagi Gakuin Women’s University
- National Christian Council in Japan (NCCJ)
- Tohoku Gakuin University
- United Church of Christ in Japan
More information on Japan:
Global Ministries Missionary in Japan:
Jeffrey Mensendiek, a member of First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, Berkeley, California, serves with Kwansai Gakuin University in Kobe, Japan as Chaplain for the Center for Religious Activities.
This March 11th will mark 3 years since the triple disaster in northern Japan. Last November I took a trip to the coastal area where the tsunami damage was so great. A friend and I rented a car and drove up the coast, and saw the scars left by the tsunami. Many villages/towns –where houses once stood and fishing businesses once thrived, are now gone. It brought tears to my eyes to see this beautiful coast so changed and so desolate. We also saw lots of trucks transporting soil – part of the government plan to raise the sunken land and rebuild communities.
For the past 18 months I have carried stories with me about my friends and colleagues in Japan. I have spoken nearly one hundred times during this extended home assignment. My travels took me to 67 churches, two seminaries and two colleges. I met so many wonderful people – people who listened, who shed tears with me for what is happening in northeastern Japan. I was blessed to meet a grand community of people through the United Church of Christ and Disciples of Christ who shared my prayers. Thank you for your hospitality, and for the chance to share the story of how God is working through our partners in Japan.Read more
I was feeling the weight of our 127 year relationship with churches in northeastern Japan as Christmas was approaching. For the past 23 years I have been working in Sendai, Japan. I was there when the great earthquake struck in 2011. I lived through the disaster and worked with our partners to reach out to tsunami survivors. I also collaborated with my colleagues to respond to the desperate and ongoing nuclear crisis. Their story has become my story. What could I do for the small churches in Japan as a sign of solidarity and Christian love?Read more
Fall has arrived, but without the color in this region yet. The sun is warm by day, but nights are chilly. Without heat in the buildings, we wear hats, scarves and coats to supper. However, Harvest Thanksgiving Celebration weekend, October 12-13, was spectacular.Read more