Written by Jeff Johnston
Thursday, 13 October 2011 13:29
The Daily Herald, a Chicago suburb newspaper covered one of Pastor Sato's "Exodus Church" presentations. Here's an excerpt from Deborah Donovan's informative article "Japanese church seeks help with rebuilding plans" . . .
"It was very difficult to get food for the 70 people at once. We had no gas. The mountain road was not very well paved and icy. We thought we were going to die if we slipped," said the minister [Pastor Akira Sato] . "It was a drama like a movie."
Eventually, the 70 [Fukushima First Bible Baptist Church] congregants ended up at a retreat center owned by German Christians near Tokyo. Each family has a room in a building similar to a dormitory, and they will be allowed to stay until April.
The congregation has been able to buy land in a town called Iwaki outside the evacuation area but still in Fukushima prefecture, or state.
They are raising money to build a church, but since rental housing is so scarce in the area, they also purchased a small apartment building for members to live in. Ironically, many of the jobs that congregants lost were at the power plants.
"I was surprised the church never died because of this," said Sato, adding that the disaster has strengthened the ties among its members. "We became an everyday church, not a once-a-week church."
Aside from fundraising, he traveled to the area also to talk with a publisher about producing an English translation of his book about the catastrophe and his vision for recovery. The volume, "Exodus Church," has already been printed in Japanese, Korean and Chinese.
He compares the congregation’s journey to Bible stories of the Israelites being forced to go to Babylon and Moses wandering in the desert for 40 years after leading his people from Egypt.
Citing the simple pleasures of a mattress after sleeping on the floor for five days, warm food after days of cold meals in the winter, not to mention the joy of a shower, he said, "We realize that there’s not many things that we need in order to live."
Sato said a good thing about the March tragedy is that it tore down walls: walls between the few Christians in Japan and the Buddhist majority, between the different Christian denominations, and between Japan and the world that came to help. "We lost everything and we receive many things," Sato said. "We are very happy people."
The church can be reached at its website, f1church.com.
Members of Japan’s Self-Defense Force help members of the Baptist congregation evacuate their homes. (photo courtesy Fukushima First Bible Baptist Church)
A portion of the congregation of the Fukushima First Bible Baptist Church form a prayer circle after its multistage exodus journey out of the evacuation zone. (photo courtesy Fukushima First Bible Baptist Church)