By Megumi Nakahashi, ministry team staff member in Japan
At the southernmost point on the Sanriku Coast of Japan there is an area called the Oshika Peninsula. There are small fishing villages scattered around, where many houses were washed away by the tsunami in 2011.
The area is surrounded by mountains and faces the sea, and most of the people living there have to travel at least an hour to get to the closest grocery store. In this isolated district Ichio Kishinami, a Samaritan’s Purse ministry partner, is bringing the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Kishinami is the pastor of Kurihara Bible Baptist Church in Kurihara, Ishinomaki. Right after the disaster, he entered fishing villages such as Tomarihama, Kobuchihama, and Yagawahama where no help was being offered.
He began delivering supplies and implementing other relief efforts with the help of Samaritan’s Purse. Pastor Kishinami brought items such as motorbikes, generators, winter supplies, and fishing nets. He also helped construct a bus stop, organized concerts, and hosted takidashi (BBQ) events.
These supplies and events opened doors for Kishinami’s ministry to reach the people with the Gospel. Even though a motorbike may not be seen as significant for someone in the city, it means the world to the elderly who have difficulty getting around the hilly land.
In addition, concerts and takidashi events have given Kishinami the chance to connect with the locals he otherwise wouldn’t have come in contact with. They provided a way to get to know people and build relationships. Pastor Kishinami has had the opportunity to share the Gospel openly and has begun making personal visits to encourage the people to pray.
When Samaritan’s Purse came to repair houses, it was really an answer to prayer. Kishinami started Bible studies in the reconstructed homes, and many came to faith in Christ as a result. At least 20 people have confessed they believe in Jesus.
Hiratuka-san is one of the new believers. Kishinami met him through Samaritan’s Purse and visits him regularly.
“Buddhism is [more of a cultural tradition]” Hiratuka said, “But [after meeting Kishinami and hearing the Gospel] this is the God to believe. I am so thankful. But I am not just thankful, I believe in Jesus too.”
His wife also attends the house Bible study they have once a month.
Chiyoko Matukawa also shared her testimony. She began to read the Bible after hearing the Gospel at a concert. Afterward, every time she fought with her husband she would hold the Bible close and pray. She said that when she prayed she had peace. As her husband began to see the change in her life, he started attending Bible study with her.
Just recently, she was distraught when she went in for a cancer screening, so she called Kishinami and prayed for healing. In her next check up, the doctors didn’t find anything!
“Up until now, I had distanced myself from and avoided Christianity,” she said. “But after meeting Pastor Kishinami, I have come to know how amazing Jesus is! It feels like I have been brought back to life. After Samaritan’s Purse repaired my house, it not only made our dark house brighter, but our lives are more abundant now than before the disaster.”
Pastor Kishinami continues to visit people in the tsunami-affected areas, sharing the Gospel and letting them know that God hasn’t forgotten them.