Japanese layman buses 31 from danger zone
Susie Rain, Baptist Press
March 21, 2011

Japanese layman buses 31 from danger zone

Japanese layman buses 31 from danger zone
Susie Rain, Baptist Press
March 21, 2011

SOMA, Japan

– 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

“Japanese way.”

“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

rescue them.

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

praying that:

  • victims are able to share their pain and not hold it in.
  • supplies, food, blankets and water make it to the shelters throughout the

    disaster zone.

  • 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

Earthquake/Tsunami Fund.)

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