Ten years ago, at which point we had been living in Japan for seven months, a 9.0-magnitude earthquake shook the country for six minutes, and in horror we watched the coverage of the subsequent tsunami that swept in to devastate a total area of 217 square miles. Over 20,000 people were lost that day. In a country that is less than 1% Christian, the implication of that statistic is heart-wrenching, and I felt it in my soul. I couldn’t stop wondering if the next time each of those 20,000 people come to consciousness, they’ll wonder who this Person is in front of them, and why they don’t know Him.
I didn’t realize how much Japan had saturated my heart until that day, when every person I saw being swept away felt like someone I knew. Nothing could have made the temporal nature of our earthly lives more obvious or more urgent to me than to watch a people of whom I had become a part see their world shattered—quite literally—in a matter of minutes. This ended up being a major factor in our family deciding to dedicate ourselves to mission work. I couldn’t bear to think of 99% of a country meeting their Creator unprepared.
At 2:46 this afternoon, the girls and I bowed our heads for a minute of silent, individual memorial, and then drew together in communal prayer and mourning. We wept for those who lost their lives without hope ten years ago, knowing that the perfect Father feels that loss even more deeply than we do. We prayed for those still experiencing the pain of their losses, that they will seek comfort in Him.
We prayed the names of each friend we have made here. These friends so easily could have been one of the 20,000. In reality—though figuratively—they are (and so are your friends, by the way). That is, one day will be their last, expectedly or unexpectedly, and right now they don’t know the Father, don’t know the hope He brings through His own Son, whom He had to watch die in a horrific way, too. The girls and I prayed that we will never forget how dire the situation is for those who don’t know Him.
Finally, we prayed the names of our loved ones that we left behind in the States. We thanked God for the beauty and peace of knowing that we can spend this life trying to magnify His name in Japan because we know that we’ll spend the next, eternal life with our dearest ones named.
I’ll confess, I’ve gone back and forth on the appropriateness of sharing a prayer like this publicly. My intention is not to draw focus to myself and the girls. If you’re reading this, you’re likely someone who cares about the work in Japan, and I shared hoping to provide a deeper look into the spiritual state of Japan.
I also know how radical missionaries can look, and how out-of-reach and “that’s-not-for-me” that kind of radical lifestyle can feel. I share this to encourage you to keep an eternal mindset no matter where you’re serving, because everyone you meet is going to close their eyes for the last time in this life, and you and your action or inaction can make a difference in whether they know the next Person they see or not.