Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Mark 16:15
When many think of Japan they imagine it’s breathtaking beauty, it’s unique and intriguing culture, it’s rich history, it’s advancements in technology, or it’s first world wealth and prosperity. Perhaps when you think of the Japanese, you are reminded of their amazing and equally lethal martial arts, immersive manga community, or their historically popular Ninja and Samurai conflicts.
When thinking of Japan, you may be reminded of our struggle during WWII and our following economical and societal reconciliation. You may also remember their total devastation following the March 11th 2011 Tsunami disaster and the worlds compassionate response with humanitarian aide and recovery efforts.
Suicide and Depression
What you may not have heard about are the 30,000 suicides committed each year on average, that’s nearly 100 people a day living in such hopelessness they feel the only option is to take their own life. Further troubling are the 500,000 to an estimated two million “Hikikomori” suffering from an extreme social withdrawal, locking themselves within their homes for years at a time without human contact.
In addition, Japans long history of depression was compounded following the widespread loss of loved ones during the 2011 Tsunami, leaving many feeling utterly hopeless and further disheartened by their inability to rebuild their homes, businesses, and lives for lack of economic stability.
Displacement and Poverty
Although the Japanese government and charitable relief efforts worked quickly to provide what is known as “temporary housing”, nearly 270,000 people remain displaced and in need of a permanent residence. This difficulty is compounded by the current recession and climbing poverty rate of 16.1%, with a child poverty rate of 16.3%, the highest ever recorded. This rate is believed to be due to the drop in income for families with children and the increase in single-mother households, in which mothers often have low-paying, irregular employment.
Broken Marriages & Divorce
Why the increase in single-mother households? According to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, 253,353 couples divorced in 2010, which works out to one divorce every two minutes and four seconds. Nearly half of these divorces are among families with children. Even more distressing is the climbing number of not only Fatherless children but of orphans without any family to care for them following the Tsunami disaster as well as increasing divorce rate.
Fatherless & Orphans
In March of 2011, there were 36,450 children in the Japanese orphanage system, and this number continues to climb each year. Of the 36,450 children, only around 4,000 were accepted into foster care or adopted during the preceding twelve months, that’s a yearly adoption rate of only 10%.
One of the primary reasons for such low adoption rates among children is because of the long standing societal stigma attached to adoption. Westerners often view adoption as virtuous while the Japanese highly value blood relations and find it shameful to embrace non-biological children as their own.
Less than 1% Christian
Many of these problems could be attributed to the 2011 disaster, the subsequent financial recession, and the long history of depression within Japanese culture however a seemingly unrelated statistic may hold the answer to the source of Japan’s hardships. Japan is less than 1% Christian. With 127.6 million people living in Japan, only 1,000,000 profess to be Christians! For comparison, around 73% of polled Americans identified themselves as Christians in 2012.
Abandonment of Religion
I believe the societal hardships facing the Japanese are a direct result of spiritual starvation; a natural spiritual hunger for deep meaningful relationships with one’s neighbor and one’s Creator.
With a declining 34% Buddhist population, and only 3% Shinto, the religions of old have not fulfilled the spiritual needs of the Japanese and are therefore being abandoned. Meanwhile the material luxury’s of today do not forever satisfy as Earthly riches remain lifeless and uncertain.
The answer to Japan’s social and spiritual crises is the same answer for all of mankind; to enter, by faith, into a loving relationship with our Father in Heaven facilitated by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of all mankind’s sin. When a person comes to know Jesus and follow Him, He leads them on a radically life altering journey resulting in a total love and devotion for both God and one’s neighbor.
When the Japanese begin to discover God’s longing to be in relationship with them, to forgive them of their sins, and to give their life true purpose, they will in turn desire to demonstrate their gratitude for His goodness through obedient acts of love and mercy; the depressed will be set free, the poor will be lifted from poverty, the fatherless will be adopted, broken marriages will be restored, families will keep their children, hearts, minds, and bodies will be healed, new loving relationships will be created, and their overall societal morale will exponentially increase!
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11
Jesus said in Matthew 24:14 that the Gospel would need to be preached in all nations before the end would come. Since Jesus has not yet returned, I believe it is our duty to answer the call to effectively preach the Gospel to all nations, to authentically represent Jesus love and mercy to others, to demonstrate God’s nature through charitable good works, and to share with every nation God’s longing for relationship with them, particularly in the island nation of Japan! Ultimately there has been an ongoing spiritual emptiness within that nation both before and after the 2011 Tsunami which only the love of Christ can satisfy!
In closing, Brandi and I have been called to be the hands and feet of Jesus among the precious people of Japan and we will need others to partner with Jesus in sending us to bring the love of God through meaningful relationships, charitable actions, and the preaching of the Gospel. Perhaps you too recognize the dire need to fulfill The Great Commission in Japan, if so will you prayerfully consider making a contribution in order to help send us to God’s children? Every dollar will be used to help relieve the spiritual, material, and emotional suffering of the Japanese as well as facilitate our travel expenses in order to bring the Good News.
As the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 10:14-15 “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent?”
Will you help send our Missions Team?
Statistical Data Articles and References:
- The Fight to Save Japan’s Young Shut-Ins
- Japan’s Worsening Poverty Rate
- Orphan & Adoption Statistics
- Christianity in Japan
- Japan Suicide Statistics
- Japan Housing Displacement
- Japans Orphans Neglected
- Christainity in the Margins
- List of Countries by Suicide Rate
- How Japan is Struggling to Recover
- Divorce & Single Motherhood in Japan
- Buddhism May Be Dying Out
- Recession Suicide Rate