Reflections on 10th Anniversary of Japan’s Triple Disaster
By Kent Muhling
As the ten-year commemoration of the March 11 disaster approaches, many of us think back to our experience of that day and the days that followed. I am reminded of some of the lessons I learned then, lessons that continue to shape our ministry today.
One memory that stands out is when we visited a 76-year-old pastor and his wife, whose church was just blocks away from where the tsunami had hit. Their community had been devastated, and they were themselves in shock and exhausted.
After delivering our relief supplies, we sat down with them for about 45 minutes, drinking tea and talking. This pastor and his wife appreciated so much that we would stop and take the time to see how they were doing and encourage them.
Before leaving we prayed with them, and they both had tears in their eyes when we were finished. It felt so good to minister to them in that way.
A New Perspective
Experiences like that changed my perspective about what “ministry” is. I had been taught to focus on sharing the gospel and making disciples. But it is easy to turn that focus into an agenda that pushes out other important aspects of who I am supposed to be as a follower of Christ.
What I mean is: In the past, I would not have thought much about simply sitting down to listen to a pastor for his encouragement. "Real" ministry would have been to teach or equip, not just listen and small talk.
I would not have thought much about bringing relief supplies if there were no opportunity to share the gospel. "Real" ministry would be sharing the supplies and the gospel message.
The question is: what if there is no opportunity to give a verbal witness? Is it still worthwhile to do mercy ministry? My earlier answer might have been, "I've been called to make disciples, so I won't get involved if there’s no opportunity to share the gospel.”
My earlier answer might have been, "I've been called to make disciples, so I won't get involved if there’s no opportunity to share the gospel.”
Called to Be Good News
But serving as a relief volunteer caused me to begin thinking not only in terms of what I’ve been called to do, but who I’ve been called to be:
- I am called to love my neighbor as myself. Period.
- I am called to feel compassion and respond as the Good Samaritan did when he helped the man on the road. Period.
- I am called to "do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith" (Gal 6:10). Period.
Of course I want to share the gospel every chance I can. But even if I can't witness with words, I am still called to love my neighbor, show compassion, and do good to everyone as I have opportunity.
Through the efforts of the relief volunteers, many Japanese people learned that Christians are genuinely compassionate and loving people. And as relationships of trust were built, opportunities to share the gospel followed. But even if that gospel-proclaiming opportunity never comes, I am called to do good, to care and respond.
In the years since the disaster we have been serving in a city-center church plant in Sendai — well outside the tsunami disaster area, and yet surrounded by hurting people. Life is hard in all sorts of ways! And God calls us not only to proclaim the good news, but to be good news, to demonstrate the love of Christ. In short, simply to care.
What has this looked like for my wife and me? It has meant:
- Counseling a young lady suffering from chronic depression (and many others)
- Ministering to an unbelieving couple whose marriage is in crisis
- Bringing meals to a sick friend or the mother of a newborn baby
- Inviting a man with mental health issues live with us while trying to help him put his life together
- and more…
May we truly be the people God wants us to be, that our life witness and our verbal witness would convey the same good news.
"Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” — 1 John 3:18
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kent and Yuko Muhling have served with A2 in Japan for 15 years. As a family of five they moved to the disaster area in 2012 to help start Grace Center Church Sendai, a city-center church plant. God has blessed the work with a vibrant international community. They continue the work of being Good News in their city.
- See other staff members' reflections on the 10-year remembrance of Japan's Triple Disaster:
- Reflections during the first year following the 3.11 Disaster: asianaccess.org/reflections
- Related posts about Japan's Triple Disaster: asianaccess.org/japan-disaster
- Video clips on the Triple Disaster...