Japan (MNN) — The emotional effects of a disaster-torn country are beginning to show.
The Evangelical Alliance Mission, better known as TEAM, has had a presence in Japan for decades. There are several missionaries on the field, and they know the Japanese people well. Ministry Area Leader Steve Baughn says the average Japanese has few perceived needs, thus spiritual interest has consistently been low.
After Japan's recent 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami, however, fears are beginning to escalate. Needs are being realized even for those who were not directly affected by the quake.
TEAM does not have work currently in any of the strongly-affected areas; their work is further southwest of the region. Nevertheless, in recent days, all people seem to be shaken.
"They need to just talk; they're scared," says Baughn. "They don't know when the next big earthquake's going to come in their area; they don't know about the nuclear reactor. This is going to have an ongoing effect throughout the nation that…is going to give Christians opportunities to share the love of Christ with people who are going to feel more needy and more insecure than they ever have, possibly, no matter where they are in Japan."
It's too early for most to have started asking deep spiritual questions in response to the quake, but opportunities have already begun. Baughn's wife owns an evangelical coffee shop, and since the tsunami, customers have come in for more than just coffee: they need to talk and process.
"I do know that this will indeed become the opportunity at some level–for churches, for missionaries, for missionaries working in cooperation with churches–to really give forth a message of the love of Christ and the Gospel," says Baughn. "We will have a platform from which to give the Good News because of what's happened here."
That is, of course, the positive side to the story. Several TEAM Japan members have already dropped other work to dedicate themselves to helping the thousands of now-homeless victims and coordinate with other ministries to effectively provide hygiene kits, blankets, food, and other aid.
In an interview with Greg Yoder, Baughn reminded us that many people have lost everything. Baughn saw one man on the news express how his good life suddenly had been swept out from under him. People have lost their possessions, their families, even their towns to an unpreventable disaster; comforting words and messages are vital.
Thankfully, Baughn notes, "People in West Japan, from Tokyo on down, are going to have opportunities to comfort, to speak love and truth into peoples' lives all through the nation."
Now, Baughn says, "The biggest prayer is that we would just be ready–that we would have things in place and hearts prepared to really aggressively approach this situation and deal with it and share with people."
Pray that God would guide the actions and words of TEAM as well as the church of Japan in coming months.
100 percent of TEAM's Japan relief fund will be divvied up by TEAM Japan to trustworthy ministries involved in immediate aid distribution. To give to a ministry on the ground, click here.