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At the Heart of Japan’s Tsunami

March 25, 2011

I remember the moment when I heard that an 8.9 magnitude earthquake struck northern Japan.  I know my close friends and partners in ministry are based 300km north of Tokyo in Sendai.  The initial report I received on my mobile phone said the quake was centered 280km northeast of Tokyo.  All I could do was pray.  Sure enough, within a short time we heard and saw the devastation hit Sendai.

I have been to the airport many times and the pictures of the waves were horrifying.  I have been to the port and recognize the buildings and streets as the Tsunami’s destruction is recorded.  All I can do is pray for my friends there.  I know their offices, schools and homes are situated on hills.  Each day, however, these servants of Christ go door-to-door sharing the gospel pleading with people to repent and believe in Jesus before it is too late.   Where were they when the Tsunami hit?

My friend Paul Jr., who has lived in Sendai most of his life, sent this message:

“Thank you for your concern and prayers. We are encouraged to know of many American Brothers and Sister’s love to us. When God’s children pray even “after” an event, we know that because our Lord Jesus exists outside of our time, those prayers and supplications do actually reach him “before” the event. He hears us before we even ask him.

And we praise our Lord, because we are all doing fine – yes, just as Joshua mentioned – like the Israelites in the land of Goshen when the plagues were brought upon Egypt.  Exodus 8:22 says, “But on that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, where my people dwell, so that no swarms of flies shall be there, that you may know that I am the Lord in the midst of the earth” (ESV).”

Paul continues by saying,
“The mega-quake was indeed humongous, and something that we’ve never experienced, even though we’ve grown up here in Japan – the land of earthquakes.

The tsunamis have hit basically all the coastal villages, towns, cities around here. Our missionary community in Marumori is 10 miles away from the Pacific coast where thousands have perished. The tsunamis have not reached us in Marumori.

Our schools in Sendai and our GrapeCity company are also about 10 miles away from the beaches where countless people have been washed away. Though we have some damages in our buildings, we are really doing well.

But thank our Lord that he let it happen right after the kindergarteners had gone home, and before the afternoon classes’ children had arrived. So not one child or staff was injured.

When the earthquake hit, Joshua and I, with a crew from our GrapeCity company, were actually right on the beach in Matsushima, right north east of Sendai city-center. We were on one of the closest beaches — 50 kilometers (30 miles) – from the epicenter in the ocean, doing a photo shoot for our company adds. When the mega-quake hit at 2:46 PM and lasted over 5 minutes followed by many more earthquakes, the sand beach was cracking and closing right under our feet. There were sink-holes forming all over and around the large tarp on which we had laid our camera equipment, props and wardrobe. After a minute, water started to gush out from the sand beach, like huge water fountains.

The earth below us was actually trembling and buzzing, the famous Matsushima islands in site were shaking and vibrating, and the sea was roaring… we could barely stand, and were almost on all fours. This was indeed huge!

Because in Japan we are taught to flee from the ocean when an earthquake hits, we immediately gathered our stuff, threw them in our vans which were – luckily – parked 20 meters from the shooting location. Then breaking the bar of the parking lot checkout (since all electricity had gone out) we sped out into the nearby hills, and then over the mountains to get back to our company and schools in Sendai.

Minutes later, we were hearing over the radio that the tsunamis were starting to come, wave after wave. The beach on which we stood doing our photo-shoot was hit by the first tsunami, being devoured and destroyed, only 15 minutes after we had fled. We were saved!

Lamentations 3:22 “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail” (NIV).

The good news is that we as Christians have been able to take part in helping our neighbors and school-related families with food, water and basic needs. Even allowing people to take showers, do their laundry and have warm meals with our school staff.

Also, for the past 10 days, we were able to provide our schools to be a base for relief efforts for more than 3 entities. Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse has sent 93 tons of relief goods by charter plane from the US to Tokyo’s US military airbase – Yokota airbase – then up to Sendai. Part of our 150+ member school staff, plus our 30+ member Evangelism teams now have temporarily become relief workers.

I myself have been able to go out some to the coastal cities to give our relief goods. Those who have been hit are devastated.

Yet those who have not been hit so badly, are moving on with their own lives and do not seem to care about those in need.

All these cities hit by the tsunamis have been reached with the Gospel of Salvation countless times in the past 60 years. Dad [Paul Sr.], of course, and I personally when I was younger, as well as my other brothers and sisters, all have walked these villages, towns and cities – house to house, school by school – to give out Bible portions and Gospel tracts. Like the tsunami warning systems did when before and while the tsunamis were coming, we warned the people for 60 years of the coming day of the Lord. We plead with them to accept the Lord’s Salvation through Jesus.

Now, most of these places are wiped off the map. But, perhaps now, the people who have not perished can see us participate in these kinds of good works too. We hope the coming days will be a turning point in their hearts. Please pray that the hearts of all these people humbled and crushed by losing much, if not all, of their material goods along with their loved ones, will now turn to their Creator, Savior and Lord – Jesus Christ, thus receive abundant grace plus spiritual wealth. May this disaster and desolation turn into an ever blessing and restoration that flows into Eternity!”


My personal note:  One of my heroes in the faith is Paul Broman Sr. Most have never heard of him. After World War II when General Macarthur called for missionaries to go to Japan, few answered his call and Japan remains resistant to the gospel.  But Paul Sr. and two of his brothers did respond.  For more than 60 years they have systematically shared the gospel walking house to house, apartment to apartment, broadcasting by loud speakers to every single home in Japan and numerous other countries. What started as three single men in the 1950’s is now a community of more than 300 of the most humble and hard working servants of God I have ever met.

On March 11, 2011 when a mega-quake hit Sendai, Japan God preserved these humble servants.  Tens of thousands were killed in minutes.  Instead of looking back with regret and grief at the destruction and loss of life, they knew that every single person had an opportunity to hear the Gospel of Christ and respond many, many times.  The day of the Lord will indeed come one day at a time when we least expect it.

Are you ready?  Are your neighbors ready?  We had better be obedient to God’s call, like Paul in Sendai, Japan, before it is too late.  Even after the Tsunami, they are still pleading with the people to repent and be saved.

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