Taking Theological Innovation to Disaster-stricken Fukushima, Japan

March 15, 2012

AQUEDUCT, MARCH 2012 – One of the ways the Marketplace Institute engages the public square is by consulting and advising various organizations in innovative processes stemming from our research projects. Most recently, the MI has been privileged to work with a group of Christian NGOs on disaster relief efforts in Fukushima, Japan to bring gospel-led, holistic community recovery and transformation.

As you may well remember, on March 11, 2011, an earthquake of magnitude 9.0 struck Japan. Minutes later, a tsunami with waves up to 15 meters high reached the shore, causing a nuclear meltdown in the Fukushima Daiichi plant. This “triple disaster” has been the most expensive natural disaster in history, amounting to over $210 billion in economic losses. Since March 11, over 80,000 people have been forcibly evacuated from the area. Needless to say, an unprecedented opportunity and responsibility has opened up for the church in Japan – which represents less than 1% of the nation’s population – but also the world round.

The Marketplace Institute has since been invited by Food for the Hungry Canada and their partners to facilitate learning and innovation along these lines. One vital aspect of the learning process has been capturing stories of the restoration of Fukushima as told by local churches, a step often hidden or overlooked in traditional disaster relief efforts. A great example of the power of stories is that of Reverend Sumiyoshi from Nakoso Christ Church in Iwaki, who encountered Jesus in a dream. Following the disaster, Sumiyoshi was waiting for God to reveal whether he should evacuate or stay in the area. Jesus appeared in Sumiyoshi’s dream and challenged him from Mark 15: Why have you forsaken me? In response, Sumiyoshi remained in the city, and Nakoso Christ Church began serving in the community, handing out relief goods to over 1500 people in the first few weeks. Locals from the community began knocking on the church’s door asking about Jesus, who seemed to them to have power greater than that of the tsunami. Since then, Nasoko Christ Church has become a visible and trusted source of hope in its community.

Through local stories like these, the MI is working to connect the global body of Christ to Fukushima by generating synthesized knowledge about holistic disaster relief and sharing this wisdom with other organizations and churches. Many of the stories are shared on the blog of the project’s lead consultant, Soohwan Park (En Route to Fukushima). Soohwan’s post on radiation fear in Fukushima, Radiation: Fear, Fact, and Faith, has been read in over sixty countries.

In each step of this integral process of innovation and faith, the primary emphasis is on prayer, as reflected by the key 3-fold strategy of our local partner organization in Japan: “Pray-Listen-Act.” This framework seeks to cultivate embodied solidarity with those affected by the disasters and to generate a comprehensive, participatory, ground-up strategy for community restoration. On March 17, 2012, the Marketplace Institute and Food for the Hungry will co-host the Fukushima International Forum in Fukushima, Japan by gathering together leaders of organizations, church networks, and businesses from around the world to share wisdom through listening to God and one another.

“My first thought on [the relationship between the Marketplace Institute and FH Canada is that it] began through a tragedy in a foreign country but developed because there was a sense from both parties that we needed to respond through deeper relationships rather than the traditional response of just sending money. It seems this relationship has grown deeper by entering into the pain of those we are trying to assist. We are also learning that God does have a plan for the Church in Japan that will most likely end up having significant benefits for churches worldwide. I’m grateful that this learning through relationship has been facilitated by Regent College.”
–Ben Hoogendoorn, CEO of FH Canada

Theological learning and innovation ought not to be locked behind the doors of an ivory tower. The Marketplace Institute endeavours to take it wherever gospel-led transformation is beckoning, even if to high-risk destinations and far-away disaster stricken communities.