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EDITORIAL: Showing love in a land of thorns

Compassion fatigue is understandable as images of unbelievable devastation flash across the screen from Japan.
The 9.0-magnitude earthquake that leveled villages and cracked open nuclear reactors fills us with a sense of awe and despair. More than 11,000 are dead, more than 17,000 are missing and hundreds of thousands are homeless. Millions more are at risk of radiation exposure.
The disaster follows a massive earthquake in New Zealand that destroyed much of the city of Christchurch. Last year, Chile endured a similar quake. And Haitians continue to endure the aftermath of the January 2010 quake that destroyed their capital city.
How can Churches of Christ, in the midst of an economic downturn, even begin to address the world’s suffering? Can our meager attempts to show Christ’s love to the hurting make a difference?
The need — and the opportunity — to reach out in love and faith to the Japanese people is great. (Find a list of churches and ministries accepting funds for Japan on Page 12.)
Nearly seven years ago, Japanese church leaders and former missionaries gathered in Oklahoma City for a Mission Forum to discuss Churches of Christ in Japan.
Akira Hirose, an elder of the Mito church, used one word to describe more than 100 years of mission work in Japan: “Inefficient.”
“Japan is a land of thorn bushes — of fetishism, polytheism and community-consciousness,” Hirose said. “Even though Christians work very hard … few have been saved.”
Nonetheless, “Japan is one of the ends of the earth where the Gospel should be preached,” Hirose said.
That land of thorn bushes is shaken to its core. We abhor the loss of life and the suffering that has followed the earthquake and resulting tsunami. But we pray that, through this tragedy, more Japanese may come to know Christ.
We pray that thorns will cease to choke the gospel message. May the people of Japan see the hands and feet of Jesus and come to praise his name. Let us not grow weary of good works.
Jesus never ran out of compassion. Throughout the gospels, we read about him healing the sick, feeding the multitudes, giving sight to the blind — all because of his great compassion.
As we consider Japan, the words of Matthew 9:35-37 seem particularly appropriate:
Jesus went through all the towns and villages … proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
Even if our relief efforts in Japan — or any part of the world — result in only a handful of new souls, the work is worthwhile. Just ask Nao Fukushima, another Japanese minister who spoke at the Mission Forum.
“The only reason I’m standing here is because a missionary came and extended his hand with the love of Christ,” Fukushima said. “Your home is not America. My home is not Japan. Let’s finish the work and go home.”

Filed under: Editorial Staff Reports

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