God’s Word and encouragement, along with humanitarian aid, are the gifts City Harvest Church brings to help Christians in Japan.
Contributed By Melissa Chen
The Japanese term “ganbatte” means “persevere.” That is the message a team from City Harvest Church brought to Fukuoka recently.
Following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that brought devastation and a nuclear crisis to Japan, the land of the rising sun is sinking with discouragement and it appears its future will remain bleak for a longer period than the Japanese hope.
Naomi Lee, a Japanese national living in Singapore and a member of City Harvest Church, wrote an email to Kong Hee, senior pastor of CHC, to urge him to go to Japan and minister to the Japanese Christians. Lee explained how discouraged the Japanese were—they had been struggling economically for 20 years and now, they have to deal with this disaster. To add to that, some have said that the tsunami is God’s judgment of the Japanese for the atrocities they committed during World War II.
Touched by her email, Kong and a few CHC members made a short trip to Japan to minister to the churches there, including Fukuoka Harvest Church and Kumamoto Harvest Church. At the meeting venue of Fukuoka Harvest Church, the turnout included key pastors from different denominations in Japan. The main purpose of the CHC team’s journey was to encourage the church pastors, leaders and Christians there in the wake of the recent disaster.
BRINGING A WORD OF ENCOURAGEMENT
The trip was coordinated by Lee, and involved an eight-person team including CHC pastor Bobby Chaw, worship leader Alison Yap, and members Xie Jiahao, Janet Chew and Jaclyn Chong.
Kong preached two sessions with different messages. The first session ministered to 53 Japanese pastors from different parts of Japan. The senior pastor of CHC preached a message on the love of God. He also openly shared the trials and difficult experiences that he has encountered in the last 11 months. Hearing Kong’s testimony brought comfort to the Japanese pastors.
The second session was like a mini-conference that catered to the church members. Kong preached to a congregation of 140, sharing a message he had preached in his home church, “Counting Your Stars”—an analogy for believing and holding fast to the promises of God.
“The spirit of the churches in Japan was one of desperation when we arrived,” said Lee. “The catastrophic crisis in Japan added grief to Fukuoka Harvest Church, which had recently lost Pastor Yukari Kido, one of its founding members to cancer, a man who had served and built the church with Pastor Kunio Nishida.
“There was also the accidental death of the father of Pastor Yoji Nakamura of Kumamoto Harvest Church in southern Kumamoto. All these tragedies have caused the members of the churches to be grieved and disheartened. These Christians in Japan felt despondent and helpless.”
Kong’s message proved to be a word in season for the Japanese, and the fellowship that followed made a difference to the lives of the Christians in Japan. Kong’s visit lifted up the atmosphere, bringing to his meetings a strong presence of love and unity. Nobunari Funatsu, one of the pastors who attended the meeting said, with tears in his eyes, “Many have supported us by prayer and finances, but only Pastor Kong comes personally to minister to us.”
There were a total of 19 churches and 30 pastors at the fellowship meeting.
Lee added, “I am very grateful to God that I could participate as part of the team on such an important and meaningful trip. I could witness the work of Christ; especially seeing that we are of different nationalities and living in different countries. To quote from 1 Corinthians 12:26: ‘When one member of the body suffers, all the members suffer as well.’
“God’s mercy and love permeated the hearts of the Japanese pastors as they were weeping with tears throughout the meetings. What impacts me the most is that the pastors drew strength from God by Kong’s testimony.”
RELIEF WORKS: WHAT’S HAPPENING
The Japanese pastors, together with CHC, are working to bring relief to the disaster-hit areas of Japan. To date, they have donated funds, food and bicycles to the Japanese community. Twenty rice cookers were donated to Onagawa Town in Miyagi Prefecture, which proved to be a blessing to the residents as they had been unable to cook rice since the earthquake. The bicycles were useful for getting around the debris-clogged areas as few of the roads remain accessible by car.
The devastation of the affected areas was beyond the imagination of the Japanese church. The CHC team is currently searching for practical ways to help the country. In the coming weeks, a CHC pastor, together with the Japanese pastors, will be visiting the damaged areas in Sendai Prefecture as well as Miyagi Prefecture to see how they can further develop aid and construct facilities to help the Japanese community. Lee believes that in such a time of crisis, the church must become hope to the world, by strengthening the local churches in Japan.
Kenneth Sim, a CHC pastor, has had extensive disaster relief experience, having brought aid to Szechuan, Haiti and other crisis-stricken areas in the last decade. Sim will be going to assess the areas that have been destroyed. “My plan is to explore whether physical buildings can be built for worship, and how we can practically help the community in an effective way.”
Monthly follow-up visits to the Japanese churches by Kong and other CHC pastors are being scheduled.
Kong told his congregation that CHC must help the churches in Japan, “just as Paul collected whatever he could to help the poor churches in Jerusalem. We have made a commitment to help the churches in Japan, perhaps to build a few churches. While we have a nice building here to worship God, our brothers and sisters there are meeting in open spaces, because they have no building.”
CHC’s vocal supervisor for the worship team, Alison Yap, was part of the mission team to Japan. Yap was the sole praise and worship leader during this trip—no easy feat. Within a day, she had to learn an old Japanese hymn titled “A Light On The Cross: Seika 397.” This hymn was composed during the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 which saw widespread devastation in Japan not unlike the March 11 disaster. The song speaks of an unchanging God and the light of the cross that brings comfort.
This being her first time working with the Japanese worship team, Yap also had to quickly learn to connect and flow with them. She revealed that one of the difficulties she faced was the lack of time to practice with the band—they had to overcome language barriers and different working styles. Yap was busy from the word go, preparing and rehearsing for the services, making sure the band and the music came together smoothly.
“I was touched by their devotion and hunger for God and divine encounters,” shared Yap. “They definitely made it very easy for me to lead in the praise and worship. I would say it was a very fruitful trip—I was very blessed to be able to witness the love of God falling upon the Christians that gathered in the meeting. At the end of the day, the pastors were greatly strengthened and were very appreciative of what we had done.”