One year after destruction, Japan’s cherry blossoms announce a growing hope

By March 9, 2012

Japan (MNN) — One year ago this Sunday, a huge earthquake — the
fifth-largest ever recorded — ripped through the seabed about 40 miles off the
coast of Japan.

At magnitude 9.0, the quake shifted Honshu Island 8 feet to the east
and made the Earth wobble on its axis. It
also sent tsunamis crashing into the coast, tearing a swath of destruction six
miles inland and wrecking the nuclear power station at Fukushima.

From that disaster, a meltdown–releasing 600 million times the
energy of the Hiroshima bomb–occurred. 15,000 people are known to have
died; thousands are still missing a year later.  

President Joe Handley with Asian Access says the repair task was
daunting. "86 communities were
completely washed away. People lost their homes, lost their jobs, lost their
loved ones." Yet, rebuilding quickly began, and the
picture of Japan today is painted amidst the hope of the cherry blossoms
falling now. "Out of ashes of this disaster, we've
seen hope on the rise."

As word of the scope of the disaster spread, so did the number of people who wanted to
help. "The Japanese Self Defense Force were some of the first up in the
region bringing help and hope, then believers across Japan–Japanese churches in particular–have been the unsung heroes. Then, believers around the world came to rally."

Here's the irony, says Handley. The hardest-hit region was also "the
single least-reached region of Japan. Japan is known as one of the largest unreached people group in the world, and
this particular region is the single most unreached sector of Japan."

The walls of disinterest in the Gospel began to give way. "Out
of this situation, people have been asking, 'Why would you do this? Why would
you care for us so much?' and, 'Why are you the ones that are helping us through
these emotional situations when many others are doing nothing?' Because of that, many are coming to Christ."

Asian Access mobilized 30 tons of aid with the help of a $1 million dollar matching grant last year. That aid has gone a long way to spiritual healing. "The
churches have been at the forefront of providing relief. So, as people have really faced the emotional
and the spiritual trauma that has hit them, the Church has
really risen to the occasion to meet people's needs."

Asian Access launched a strategic sending partnership with SIM USA
to help meet the needs. Handley remarked
that for the first time in his 30-year cross-cultural ministry career, "This
pastor was asking me to send hundreds of missionaries. I've never in my life
seen local pastors from a country practically begging me to send hundreds of missionaries. It wasn't just one pastor. It was a few."

It's just the beginning. Asian
Access hopes to continue to provide funds and also missionaries to support them
in this work. "Pastors think we
have about a two-year window to really invest in Japan, spiritually. This is a
unique time for Japan. Some have called it a 'kairos' moment, or a 'God' moment,
for Japan."

The good news: A2 just received a second USD$1,000,000 matching
opportunity to bring hope and healing to the country. These new funds allow A2 to continue to
bolster the strategic partnerships created over the last year.     

Handley explains, "We continue to invest in key pastors and
leaders throughout the region, developing community centers that are centers of
hope, centers for transformational and church planting efforts, even investing in
small businesses that have been completely devastated."

"It's cherry blossom season," Handley says. In
Japan, cherry blossoms symbolize clouds, besides being a metaphor for life.
In this case, A2 teams have given life
meaning through the Gospel. "Through
this season of hope, this million-dollar matching opportunity will help us come
alongside key churches and send more missionaries to help them share the
love and hope that lies within us."

To give toward the match, either send a check to Asian Access
marked: "$1M Matching Gift" or give online. If you indicate "For
Japan Matching Gift" on your check, your gift will be doubled.

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