When a devastating earthquake and tsunami hit northern Japan in March 2011, 46-year-old Nobuhiro Watanabe and many of his neighbors lost so much. “Some of my friends from childhood were killed by the tsunami,” he recalls. “My house was located in Natori, a city by the coast, and we were evacuated with every aftershock. Sometimes we had to spend time in our car. It was very hard, but thankfully, my family was all safe.”
One year after the earthquake, many Japanese people are still trying to put their lives back together.
The emotional toll on Nobuhiro and the people of northern Japan was almost overwhelming. Six months after the earthquake, Nobuhiro, who is working for a temporary employment agency, visited the nearby town where he had grown up. “Everything was destroyed and gone. Most of the people who survived moved out. They lost jobs and don’t know what to do now. Someone told me it will take 20 to 30 years for that town to be completely restored.”
It was about this time that Nobuhiro discovered the radio program Words of Hope, produced by Back to God Ministries International (BTGMI) in response to an appeal from the Reformed Church of Japan. The program is designed to bring words of hope to people devastated by their losses.
In a letter to Japanese ministry leader Rev. Masao Yamashita last September, Nobuhiro wrote, “I listen to the radio program every week. It gives peace and refreshes my heart. . . . Please pray for quick restoration for the victims of the earthquake. And please don’t forget that there are people like me who gain peace and comfort from the radio program.”
Nobuhiro continued to listen, and not long ago BTGMI received another letter from him. “We could see that the Holy Spirit was working in his heart,” notes Yamashita.
This time Nobuhiro wrote, “The other day I visited a church. It was my third time. I want to be close to God.”
“It is encouraging to see God working through our ministry to bring people into closer relationship with him,” says Yamashita. “Pray that Nobuhiro will remain in God’s grace and may accept our Lord as his Savior.”
Yamashita adds, “Thank you for helping us share God’s good news with the people in Japan. We could not carry on this ministry without your prayers and support.”