Pastor Akira Sato and the First Baptist Church of Fukushima
by Jeffery Sonnenberg
Pastor Akira Sato is a pastor, faculty for the Asian Access JCGI Network leadership development program and author. His most recent book was written before the earthquake and published just days afterward. It is entitled, "Fair Wind is Good, Adversity is also Good."
The day of the Tohoku earthquake (March 11), Pastor Akira Sato was in Tokyo for his son’s university commencement ceremony. Pastor Sato's church, the First Baptist Church of Fukushima, is located less than 10 km from the Fukushima First Nuclear Power Plant. The people living within a 20 km radius of the power plant were all evacuated after the nuclear power plant accident. Pastor Sato was unable to return to his home or the church building.
Some of his church members were evacuated by bus, others by car. One member actually swam to safety after the tsunami hit. The church members were scattered to different evacuation centres and homes. A group of ten church members ended up at the Keisen Christ Church Aizu Wakamatsu Chapel. This church and others in the Keisen network are deeply involved in the JCGI network. The Aizu Chapel building would swell beyond its capacity as more church members gathered outside of the evacuation zone. Their first post-tsunami service was marked with tears.
The growing numbers necessitated a move to a larger space, so a large group travelled in convoy to the Keisen church in Yonezawa, Yamagata. As a church, they cooked together, studied the Bible together. They held a graduation ceremony, complete with handmade certificates, for students whose schools’ are closed in the disaster. They are a model of the New Testament church, sharing everything and living in community. People have lost their livelihoods and cannot get back to their homes; there is stress and fear, and yet the people declare that their God is a wonderful God.
Though they fled with only the clothes on their backs, their lives parallel Elijah in the wilderness. God has provided food and clothing from believers and churches all over Japan.
Several church members are part of the team that is involved in the on-going efforts to bring the nuclear power station reactors under control.
Most recently, a core of 50 people have moved to a Christian retreat centre on the west side of Tokyo. The diaspora continues. Though visibly tired by the experiences of the past months, Pastor Sato feels that he was chosen to be a pastor for this time.
Pastor Sato wants to say thank you to the church in Japan and around the world, thank you for your continued prayers.
Above: Pastor Sato shares his earthquake/tsunami experience with leaders from A2/Japan's JCGI Network, who prayed for him and his church.