Japan (MNN) ― A 7.3-magnitude earthquake shook Japan early Saturday, the U.S. Geological Survey reported. Asian Access president Joe Handley says, "The earthquake hit: it was a strong shake. Everyone felt it all the way down to Tokyo. But the impact was negligible for the most part."

The quake was off the Fukushima region of Japan and triggered a small tsunami. Although there was relief that nothing worsened the disaster at the Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, Handley notes, "The people have been through a lot, and having faced that horrific tragedy 2½ years ago, the memories of all of that has come come back. That is the biggest challenge that they are facing in that region."

In 2011, a 9.0-magnitude quake struck, setting off a giant tsunami that triggered a meltdown at the plant. Only 2 out of 50 plants across the country made it back online since then. The Dai-ichi nuclear power plant continues to struggle with radiation leaks.

There's evidence of clean-up, and for some areas, the population is getting back to normal. In other areas, the villages remain ghost towns, haunted by the memories of lives that were shattered. Handley says, "Following the disaster, there was a ton of aid that flew into Japan, and a lot of it through local Japanese pastors and churches or through the Global church mobilizing aid. That has created a lot of support, a lot of trust within the local people." He goes on to explain that "we work alongside of pastors in the region, trying to provide emotional care, spiritual care, and relief efforts."

Noting God's timing, A2 recently formalized an agreement with SIM to bring new missionaries to Japan. It was a specific answer to prayer in the wake of the disasters because since 2011, the walls between the Church and society have flattened. "People are actually trusting the church and trusting missionaries that are there, so Asian Access comes alongside local pastors and churches to provide that kind of front line care."

In the energy created by the crisis, the pastors could keep up for so long. Handley says that as time has gone on and people are beginning to realize the new normal, "Pastors are telling us that it's really a unique season in Japan, that people are particularly open to missionaries."

When Handley spoke with church leaders about their needs recently, they responded in chorus. "‘Joe, the need is so great; the church is so small. Please send us hundreds of missionaries.' You can imagine the emotional toll that the people have been through, and they're desperate, looking for hope. Right on the front lines are these local churches."

Training hundreds of new missionaries takes both time and money, both of which are precious resources in the scenario of "forever." It is clearly a kairos moment for the people of Japan, which has led the Maclellan Foundation to consider investing in the country. After two visits to Japan and seeing the fruit of what God is doing, they have extended a $200,000 matching challenge for leadership development and church multiplication. Handley says, "We have until December 31 to match it, and we have about $75,000 yet to go."

At this point in the story, there will be people who groan and say, "Oh great. Another thinly-veiled fundraising request." It's more than that. The funds already have a purpose. "It would allow us to send more missionaries, to plant more churches, to come alongside these people who are looking for hope and having these great needs for emotional care."

You can learn more about their challenge here: A2 has until December 31 to meet that match, so please join them in prayer for what will be kingdom roar of "Carpe Kairos" (seize the moment)!

Listen to the broadcast... (story #2 starts at 1:43)


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