On the eve of Dr. Piper’s prostate surgery, he wrote an article titled “Don’t Waste Your Cancer”. As I walk among the ruins in Haiti and in Japan, his words ring in my ears, applied to the context of natural disasters, “You will waste your cancer [disaster] if you believe it is a curse and not a gift.” In the midst of devastation, is that possible? What does that even look like?
Let me introduce you to Satoshi Ito, a pastor who is not wasting his disaster.
Pastor Ito was already shepherding Sendai Christ Church when his denomination appointed him to additionally care for the 12-year-old Ishinomaki Christ Church an hour and a half away. For 18 months, he and his wife divided their Sundays to minister to both congregations.
The new appointment added work to his already busy schedule. By all accounts, it was a dying congregation. The church’s congregation consisted of its original 10 members, many of them over 80 years old. In 18 months, they had not one visitor.
Then, both of his churches were hit by the tsunami on March 11.
The waters levels at Ishinomaki Christ Church rose to Pastor Ito’s neck. After five days, the waters receded. Three families – a third of the congregation – lost their homes, but everyone was safe.
But for Pastor Ito’s tiny congregation, surviving the tsunami, like surviving cancer, was not about staying alive. It was not about recovering the things lost in the floodwaters.
The congregation chose to see how God could have designed the tsunami to shape their church. How it could drive them to deepen their relationship with others.
Since the tsunami, the Ishinomaki Christ Church congregation, along with a group of volunteers, have been actively serving their neighbors. They’ve been cooking for the community, delivering goods and repairing the church. In less than five months, this small church of just 10 people has completed distributions for more than 3,000 people so far.
A dying congregation? It’s become a thriving congregation. Perhaps most notable is a drastic increase in attendance. Today, Sunday services are bustling with 50 people – five times the pre-tsunami congregation, with 10 people in a new believers class.
Some pastors might have seen the additional responsibility for this congregation as a curse.
Pastor Ito chose to see it as a blessing. Today, he has two busy congregations living to glorify God.
Churches Helping Churches in honored to be helping with operating expenses for the Ishinomaki Christ Church as the church, and its growing congregation, recover from widespread impacts of the tsunami.
In the meantime, this church is serving in the community, God is working, and people are responding in a way they have never seen in their lifetimes.
Pastor Ito and the congregation of Ishinomaki Christ Church are not wasting their disaster.
Are you wasting yours?
“My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).Tags: CC1, Church Reconstruction, disaster, JA02, JA03, Japan, Resource Recovery