On the morning of March 11th, three of us set off on the train in Tokyo bounded for Fukuoka on Kyushu Island in the south. It had been a smooth and uneventful journey until I scanned the newsflash on the screen in front of the cabin. From what I could decipher from the Kanji (Japanese written in Chinese characters), I realized that a major earthquake had struck the north-eastern part of Japan at 2.46pm. I quickly informed my team. We went online to search for information (there is wifi connection on train!) and saw the massive-ness of the devastation. Right there and then, we knew God’s agenda for us for the second half of our trip in Japan – pray for Japan in her hour of crisis!
Two days before the earthquake, the Lord led us to pray in the heart of Tokyo at the Imperial Palace. Around the periphery of the Palace were stone slabs imprinted with the names of the individual prefectures of the country. We prayed over three prefectures. Of those 3 slabs of stones, 2 were the prefectures of Yamagata and Fukushima. We spent a considerable time standing over the Fukushima slab to pray for open gates and open heavens over Fukushima. We worshipped God with songs proclaiming peace and strength over Fukushima.
As the news of the extent of the disaster unfolded, we found out that both Yamagata and Fukushima were affected. The realization that God had, in his fore-knowledge, led us to pray for these places, left us in awe and speechless. There was no doubt that God loves this nation and cares for his people to have raised prayer covering for them (I am sure that there must have increased prayer for the nation during the week!).
A colleague once mentioned that whenever we hear sermons about signs of the end times preached from Matthew 24, it almost inevitably evoke feelings of fear and anxiety at the impending sufferings. However, was that the intention of our Lord Jesus when he talked about nations rising against nations, kingdoms against kingdoms, famines and earthquakes? Did he also not, in the same breath, remind the disciples that “this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations and then the end will come” (Matt 24:14)?
We have missed the point of Matthew 24 if we merely focused on the signs of the end times. The ability to recognize the signs is to stir a sense of urgency to bring the Gospel to the whole world! When all nations have heard the testimony, the end will come! In view of the sufferings that result from these disasters, be they natural and manmade, the challenge to believers is how can we equip ourselves to be able to share the gospel in a way that the whole world will hear of the hope that is found in Christ alone? And having equipped, so avail ourselves whenever the opportunity arises for us, to go!
The natural calamities and political upheavals the world has witnessed recently remind us of Matthew 24. Tens of thousands of lives are lost and many millions live in fear and confusion. There are still yet many, especially Singaporeans, thankful that we are spared of such sufferings. To end here would have been a letdown of what Jesus was challenging the church about in Matthew 24.
Within days of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, CRASH Japan (Crisis Relief, Assistance, Support and Hope) got into action to bring crisis relief to the disaster sites. It was heartening to hear of churches coming together to help the survivors through supplies of daily necessities, as well as comfort and cheer. What could be more encouraging than to hear of people putting their trust in Jesus as Saviour and Lord through the acts of kindness and testimonies of the saints!
Indeed this is not the time for us to shirk back in fear of the dangers lurking out there (radiation or not!). We need to recognize that God is shaking the world in these last days and hearts are opening up as never before. Now is the time to step up and step out to bring the hope within us to a world lost without Jesus!
Judy Foo (YWAM)