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?
I came up with an idea to engage our UCC and Disciples churches in global outreach through prayer. I sent an email to all 70 churches that I visited this past year on home assignment with an invitation to join in sending Christmas cards to the 86 churches in the Northeastern Conference of the Kyodan (our partner church in Japan). 40 churches responded from across the US. I promised the US churches that I would send them the addresses of two or three churches, with name of pastor, membership and short history, as well as prayer concerns. I asked that each church in the US include a picture and brief introduction of themselves in their Christmas cards. I also wrote a cover letter in Japanese to be included in the mailing. This year every Kyodan church in Fukushima, as well as the two neighboring prefectures, will receive a Christmas card, and they will know that we are lifting them up in prayer for the Christmas season.
I received many enthusiastic responses from the US churches thanking me for tying them in in such a meaningful way to the global family. It is truly exciting to think of how God will unite us through our prayers this Christmas, praying for peace on earth for all of God’s children. The true challenge however may be ahead of us. How will we continue to pray for our brothers and sisters in Japan? They are on the front lines BEING THE CHURCH on our behalf, facing realities that few of us have yet faced. I hope we will be able to continue to walk with them through prayers of solidarity. One tool that I have created to keep people informed about the ongoing nuclear crisis is my blog (http://jeffreyfromjapan.blogspot.com/). Sometimes all we can do is pray, and yet we also know that God can work miracles through our humble gifts of heart and soul.