– Just 30 miles from Fukushima Daiichi’s troubled nuclear plant, anyone in the
town of Soma who could evacuate
did. But thousands still remain, squeezed into a high school gymnasium serving
as a makeshift shelter.
Children try to play but there’s not much room. Some people sit and stare off
into the distance in a state of shock. Others talk in low murmurs, reliving the
horrors since March 11: a massive earthquake that buckled highways, a tsunami
that left a carpet of debris –shattered buildings, wrecked cars and washed-up
boats – a food shortage, a snow storm, and no electricity or gas.
Then, of course, there’s the nuclear crisis.
Everyone wonders what is going on when an empty bus pulls up outside the
shelter and a young, energetic Japanese man jumps out and bounds into the
packed gym. The stench of 2,000 people living for days in a confined space
startles Koji Imanishi, but it doesn’t deter him from his task – offering a
free ride and a place to stay outside of the nuclear danger zone.
Several hundred people gather around the 30-year-old but instead of rushing to
get on the bus, they drill him with questions – suspicious of his intentions.
Why would a stranger risk his own health by driving into danger to rescue them?
Why would anyone offer something for free?
“I am just following God’s leading,” Imanishi answers. “He teaches Christians
to show His love.”
The young man assures the group the offer is totally free, no strings attached
– all they have to do is get on the bus. After a lot of discussion, 31 people
finally decide to board and relocate to Imanishi’s vacant company building just
outside of Chiba, about 90 miles
The scene didn’t quite play out like Imanishi imagined when the idea first came
to him. He envisioned an overflowing bus. But, as he explains, this is the
“People do not easily trust here,” he says. “They are suspicious until you
create a relationship, even in times of crisis.”
Imanishi first found this shelter two days earlier, after an employee mentioned
that some of his friends had not been able to evacuate from the danger zone.
Imanishi’s heart ached for their suffering, so he jumped in his small car to
The trip was arduous. Because he didn’t have the special government permits
needed to travel the expressway, Imanishi drove the back roads, where gas and
supplies are scarce.
“It is hard to describe the damage – it’s so massive, but the worst thing I saw
was the state of the people,” Imanishi says. “There were thousands in one
space. No room to move. It was so cold.
“I felt in my heart that this was not a place of hope,” Imanishi continues. “I
left that first day broken because I could only take three people in my small
Imanishi spent the next day petitioning government offices
to send evacuation buses to the shelter. He was told 4,000 people had already
been relocated from the area. The needs throughout northeastern Japan
are so great right now, he was told, the best thing for the people is to stay
The answer did not satisfy Imanishi, so he prayed. He remembered the fear he
felt after the earthquake and knew people in the shelter needed someone to
share their pain and fear.
“I just decided to offer assistance by myself,” Imanishi says. “People don’t
trust or think about the meaning of the Lord here in Japan.
I’m a Christian and the nature of the Lord is to offer assistance and love.
“I have no money, but I had no choice but to help,” he adds. “I just prayed,
‘Show me the way, Lord.’”
Members of Imanishi’s family and house church rallied to help pull the plan
together. One person with government connections lined up permits to travel
into the disaster zone. Another found a bus company. Others prepared the empty
building for the evacuees.
“I know it is not much, in the big picture of this situation,” Imanishi says.
“But if we can help just one person and let him experience the love of the
Lord, then we’ve done our part.”
Imanishi is asking Christians around the world to join his house church in
- victims are able to share their pain and not hold it in.
- supplies, food, blankets and water make it to the shelters throughout the
- the Japanese will learn to trust in the free gift Jesus has to offer.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Rain is an IMB
writer/editor living in Asia. IMB has established a relief fund for the Japan crisis. Donations may be sent to Office of
Finance, International Mission Board, 3806 Monument Ave., Richmond, VA 23230. In the memo line write “Japan Response Fund.” Or you can give online by
going to www.imb.org and clicking on the “Japan response” button. For further information
call IMB toll-free at 1-800-999-3113. North
Carolina Baptist Men is also collecting
funds to help with recovery efforts. Make check payable to N.C. Baptist Men, P.O.
Box 1107, Cary, NC
Designate your check Japan
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