My dear friend Harumi is from Japan. I met her thirteen years ago at our church in Rhode Island and I have always been inspired by her faith.
As soon as I heard about the earthquake/tsunami last month, I immediately contacted her to inquire about her family. Thankfully, all were safe and sound.
Earlier this week, she forwarded me the online diary of a faithful Japanese pastor who lived and led his congregation in the town of Fukushima, which is also the home of the troubled Fukushima nuclear power plant.
He wrote that “…all the residents were forced to evacuate and my church members had to get on a bus without any belongings (and were) sent to schools and gyms separately…I heard that there were not enough blankets for everyone and some couldn’t sleep all night because it was cold in the shelter. In some shelters, no water or food were distributed all day.”
Imagine having to leave your home for an unknown destination in the middle of a catastrophe with only the clothes on your back.
He continues, “…my biggest prayer request is that there would be no more radiation leaks. The worst possible scenario would be that people would never be able to go back to their town and homes, and that the church would be closed down…I have no idea for how long church members have to wander being unable to go home…I feel depressed just to think about it. However, I do believe and confess that almighty God and the Lord of history who reigns over everything including nature WILL open a new page of mission and lead us on.”
Now imagine the possibility that you could never return to your home. Everything has been left behind, never to be seen again.
I love the honesty of this pastor. He doesn’t try to paint this in a positive light. It hurts and he is depressed at the new reality that he and his congregation are dealing with.
YET…after acknowledging the pain, he calls to mind the only source of his hope and help: Almighty God who is in control of all…even this.
God is always ready to “open a new page”…even in the most devastating of seasons. He is the Author of our faith (Hebrews 12:2) and He is writing a story with your life. As Beth Moore states in her study on Esther: “When we trust our lives to the hand and pen of an unseen but ever-present God, He will write our lives into His Story and every last one of them will turn out to be a great read. With a grand ending. And not just in spite of those catastrophes. Often because of them. Don’t just wait and see. Live and see.”–p.14
Eventually, the pastor and some members of his congregation were able to travel to another shelter 10 hours away from their homes.
He writes, “…Our nomad life has started. When I asked people whether they had any laundry, their reply was that there were no clothes to wash. All they have is what they’re wearing.”
What if all you had was what you were wearing?
“Nothing is clear to us. Will we be able to go back home? If so, how long will it take? Will we ever be able to worship in our church again or will the town simply be abandoned? Like the Israelites in the desert, all we can do is follow God as He leads us with pillars of fire and clouds.”
He then quotes Psalm 121:
I life up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of Heaven and Earth
He will not let your foot slip—He who watches over you will not slumber
Indeed, He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep
The LORD watches over you—the LORD is your shade at your right hand
The sun will not harm you by day nor the moon by night
The LORD will keep you from all harm—He will watch over your life
The LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.
“The most miraculous thing to me is that I never get asked questions like, ‘Why did God allow this?’ or ‘I can’t believe in God; there is no God.’ From the 160 (church) members I have been in touch with, all I hear are words like, ‘God is great. I want to trust Him as I walk with Him from now on.’ I marvel at the strength of their faith in the Lord. Yesterday, three of those who were with us prayed to receive Jesus. Hallelujah!”
The pastor and members from the congregation then drove through a blizzard further south to church facilities: “The facilities here are blanketed with snow. In extremely cold weather, church members welcomed us with hot udon and soba. I ate a rice ball, trying not to cry. ‘Lord, make our hearts as white as the snow that surrounds us.'”
“Are we going to be a diaspora people? Are we going to lead a stable life? What is obvious is that God is shaking everything through these extraordinary events. Some people are receiving the Lord Jesus without question. Others are repenting saying their belief in God was dormant. They say that what sustains us as human beings is actually very little. We don’t really need any material possessions. The Lord challenges each one, shaking them from the bottom of their souls. Is this a beginning of an Exodus into a new frontier that the Lord is opening for us?”
“People around me say they left home thinking they would only be gone an hour or two. They literally have nothing with them…Our group of 50 is kept well by kind donations. Many of us are tired…Yesterday I felt numb. My heart ached. Two or three layers of loss suddenly engulfed me. My home was gone, so was my church. I was driven from my town. My ministry is gone. I can’t see what is going to happen next. I am trying to grasp the whole thing but find myself unable to.”
“We had a worship service yesterday, the first in two weeks….I cried…it seems that if you have to cry, you should do it without embarrassment. I will cry 50 years worth or a lifetime worth of tears.”
He closes his journal by quoting Isaiah 42:3: A bruised reed He will not break and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out and a final prayer: “May the Great Shepherd embrace this flock and carry them on His wings.”
THIS is what real faith in Jesus Christ looks like.
It is messy.
It is real.
It blazes with triumphant joy, even in the darkness.
It simply refuses to let go of the Savior who never lets go of us… regardless of circumstances.
This is not pie-in-the-sky, wishful thinking. This is not ‘religion’. This is a living, vibrant, passionate relationship with God- in- the- flesh, JESUS.
It is because of the risen Christ that we can look straight into the face of unimaginable disaster and heartache on this fallen planet… and through tears and questions and pain…STAND.
This is life reduced to its barest essence.
True life has nothing to do with our possessions…or how much money we have in the bank…or our job…or our looks…or our awards.
True life is found only in Jesus Christ…the Creator and Sustainer of all. (Colossians 1:15-17).
We can lose every single thing we have on this earth and still possess the same radiant, gritty, enduring faith as this dear pastor… because we can never lose Jesus! (Hebrews 13:5). This broken world is not our home. When we leave this earth, we don’t take any of our possessions with us. The best this world has to offer are mere trinkets in light of our glorious eternity in Heaven.
HE is our Treasure.
And as this pastor and his congregation so beautifully prove: HE. IS. ENOUGH.