Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Fukushima Integrated Social Welfare Project

Every time I come to Nakoso, I learn something new from Rev. Sumiyoshi about what he's been studying in the Bible or the things he heard from God. It always amazes me to see how wide his vision gets each time we discuss God's work of reconciliation in the world, and how consistently Rev. Sumiyoshi's actions of obedience lead him to places where he had not imagined going but where he encounters the Holy Spirit at work among people. He and I have shared many deep concerns from God each time I come to Nakoso and have deepened our friendship through these life-giving conversations. We have talked about how his commitment for community service came from the Korean martyrs during the Japanese colonization in Korea, and about God's big vision for restoring the land and so on. This is a friendship we both know God is building beyond language barriers and beyond geographic distance because of our common vision and common passion for holistic restoration of the land and people in Fukushima. And that vision comes from Jeremiah 29:7:
"Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper." 
A year ago when Jonathan, my husband, and I came to visit Nakoso, Rev. Sumiyoshi showed us the books he was studying and the new vision he was developing.  Rev. Sumoyoshi was about to start an innovative pastoral & mission training network for the post-disaster East Japan among the grassroots pastors working closely in communities of disaster recovery. Jonathan's visit, as a theologian, was a timely addition to our ever deepening friendship.   

Translation: Public Welfare and Christianity
Sumiyoshi's holistic vision for Fukushima (version: 2014)
As Rev. Sumiyoshi started sharing about his latest reflections on mission and evangelical theology he drew the above diagrams on the white board to talk about the gap between soul-saving focused, narrowly defined mission and the needs of Fukushima's restoration, from the land, to economy, society, family and workplace, etc. After Jonathan and I returned to Vancouver, little did we realize how much we have been shaped by that conversation in our own life, in our work and teaching.

So twelve months later I came to Nakoso with Ken and Shihoko, but without Jonathan. Midori told us that when she called him back in January to plan for our visit, Rev. Sumiyoshi was very excited to hear about my plan to visit him in Nakoso during this trip with my new friends from Vancouver, though he had no idea about the kind of ministry Ken and Shihoko were involved in Vancouver. This time Rev. Sumiyoshi, again, drew diagrams on the white board to share with us the new plans God has given him:  

Fukushima, Happy Island: Fukushima Integrated Social Welfare project. 

Sumiyoshi's ever deepening vision for restoration of Fukushima (version: 2015)
 He started with the same diagrams he shared with me and Jonathan a year ago but this time the diagrams became a bit more complex and had advanced meaning with them. From the books he had read and the ministries he has been leading, he is now developing a comprehensive project plan called, "Fukushima, Happy Island." In this project, he has built stronger theological foundations for local church-centered  mission in all spheres of society for Fukushima: agriculture (most important one in Fukushima), health, education, family, welfare, workplace, and so on. He now has potential ministry partners joining from Korea and also a landowner who is considering donating a plot of land for this experiment.

After Rev. Sumiyoshi finished sharing his new plan for land restoration and community building, he asked Ken for feedback because he heard Ken was a horticulturalist.

Ken is a fluent Japanese speaker with much experience in agriculture both in Japan and Canada. He shared his insights on what ordinary people can do to restore the land by changing everyday lifestyle to live a more ecologically conscious lifestyle and what people in Fukushima might be able to do. He spoke from his experience of working in community gardens and working with grassroots organizations, not as an ivory tower expert.

Ken explaining how to restore topsoil with green manure.
Shihoko, Ken and Sumiyoshi
After sharing these important reflections, Shihoko and Ken also shared about their ministry in Vancouver: New Eden Ministry, which was birthed in Vancouver among a Japanese multicultural congregation after seeing the devastation of the triple disaster in Fukushima in 2011. This is a ministry in Vancouver where Jonathan and I volunteered last summer (see the story of their harvest celebration last October, click here).

They were all awestruck to discover how similar their visions for holistic discipleship and missions in their local communities were, whether it is Fukushima or Vancouver.

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