The “Skid Row Mama of Japan” was a special guest at a evangelistic meeting held recently by City Harvest Church’s Dialect Church.
On the large LED screen at City Harvest Church’s Jurong West auditorium, a documentary plays, telling the tale of a petite elderly lady, who, together with her son, Morimoto Shito, combed the streets of a tsunami-stricken Japan, delivering much needed supplies. They also performed chores such as washing hundreds of clothing soiled as the result of the earthquake.
This lady is Haruko Morimoto, a 86-year-old Japanese pastor that The Los Angeles Times nicknamed “Skid Row Mama of Japan”. She is affectionately known as Mother Morimoto by the thousands of homeless people she has served over the years. Her motherly reprimands have won more souls than the average pastor in Japan. Morimoto and her son, Shito, were present in person at the service on Nov. 9.
The documentary, which shows them in action serving the homeless in the slums, is part of the “I Surrender All” music and movie evangelistic service, a collaboration between CHC Dialect Church and Passing On Mission, a gospel association from Taiwan that produces Chinese Christian films and organizes active aging events. The worship band, headed by David Lee, led the elderly congregants in worship with more than a dozen Mandarin renditions of traditional hymns as well as original Gospel compositions prior to the screening.
Maria Tok, pastor of the Dialect Church, told of the life journey of Mother Morimoto, who was in attendance with her son. Right from the get go, life was tough for Morimoto. As a 5-year-old with kidney disease, she was often stuck in hospital and only got to see her mother for only a short time every day. Between the daily visits, she suffered lonely pangs from being away from family; thankfully, a priest was there to encourage her. God became her source of comfort and refuge during that period of loneliness and vulnerability.
Her father remarried and Morimoto suffered abuse under her stepmother who beat her, sometimes with an iron bar. She could not bear the abuse and ran away from home at the age of 19, all the while depending on God for strength. She married into riches at age 20 to a Chinese major-general, and her life turned around. However, during the Korean War, she witnessed war orphans and recalling her own difficult childhood. She decided to provide for the needy, raising 17 war orphans in the process.
Her family moved to Tokyo in 1968 where her husband became an invalid after having a stroke at age 40. For six years, she juggled between caring for her husband and five children, doing door-to-door sales, and attending seminary.
It was five years after moving to Tokyo when she was finally ordained that she began ministering to the tramps of Sanya in Tokyo.
At the end of the service, Tok gave an altar call. “Man can be spiritually homeless when we are without God, aimless, helpless, lonely. And when we fail in life, we are often unable to get up and forgive ourselves, just like the vagrant we see in the movie. But God do not want us to be ‘homeless’, Jesus came so we can be accepted into God’s family,” she says.
A time of prayer for healing followed, with Morimoto laying hands on each who came forward.