September 03, 2011

Japan: Young Leaders Step Up

Three young leaders in CRASH Japan sat around the large open room at the Nasu Base camp and shared their stories since starting work with CRASH. Yuko Shiotsu, Yuji Hayashi, and Matt Nishioka represent the future of the church in Japan.

  • Stepping Foward

    Many young Japanese people volunteered to help in the aftermath of the disasters, often choosing to leave a job or college for a time.

  • Japanese Leaders

    Volunteer Matt Nishioka took time away from his family and ministry with Navigators to help locate and establish base camps in the Tohoku region.

  • CRASH Headquarters

    Many volunteers from all over the world helped in the CRASH headquarters. They were unified in their purpose to love on Japan during its time of need.

In the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami disaster on March 11, 2011, a permanent road to recovery was formed with the help of caring organizations and passionate young leaders. Part Six of our story details the emergence of Japanese youth taking the lead in helping their country recover.

Three young leaders in CRASH Japan sat around the large open room at the Nasu Base camp and shared their stories since starting work with CRASH. Yuko Shiotsu, Yuji Hayashi, and Matt Nishioka represent the future of the church in Japan. Each of these young people were drawn to CRASH Japan through different circumstances, but the common thread that connects them is their heart for ministering to the hurting people and spreading hope. Together with their base camp leader, Scot Eaton, these young leaders represent a number of others who desire to break out of their comfort zones, taking a step of faith into their futures.

Yuko made plans to attend semi­nary in the fall of 2011, and planned to quit her job in finance at the end of March. She was praying that God would lead her, but she did not know how he would fill her free time with purpose and meaning. After the disaster, and contacting several Christian organizations involved in relief efforts, Yuko decided to serve with CRASH as a finance adminis­trator and assistant to Scot at the Nasu Base.

Yuji was about to start Bible school, but when the earthquake hit, his life took a different path. He serves at the Nasu Base in both cooking and logis­tics, putting his school plans on hold for a season and letting God direct this time in his life.

Scot teaches English in Japan and has lived there for a number of years. On the day the earthquake struck, he heard that many people were evacuating out of the nuclear power plant region, an area where he had many contacts from teaching English and at­tending church. So he spent the rest of the day on his bicycle riding around Tokyo trying to find some place or someone he could help. He checked the Facebook page for CRASH Japan and posted that he was willing to quit his job to help these people who were affected, which included many friends. Scot is now serving as the leader of the Nasu Base camp and recently oversaw the construction of a new warehouse for supplies.

Matt, a missionary with Navigators, works with Japanese “returnees” (Japanese students who be­come Christians while studying abroad and then re­turn to their homes in Japan). He helps connect the returnees to a church and other Christians in their area. Matt first volunteered at CRASH headquarters and was put on the Fukushima assessment team with Scot. He now serves with Scot in leadership at the Nasu Base serving the Fukushima area. Beyond Nasu, there are many other young lead­ers who are volunteering their time and gifts to serve the people affected by the disaster, both in Tokyo and in other base camps around Japan.

Mayumi Matsushita worked as an interpreter, but with her previous job finished and her apart­ment contract expiring, she decided to volunteer with CRASH Japan. After one month of volunteer­ing, she realized how much she connected with the vision of CRASH, and now she serves in a position mobilizing volunteers into the field.

Ken Nishiono shared his testimony of how he was living the Japanese ideal of a successful path into adulthood, but he felt he was heading nowhere. Through a series of events, and a major life-threat­ening accident, Ken came to know the Lord. After finishing Bible school in March, he was praying about how God would use him. Ken now serves as a vital part of the emotional and spiritual care team of CRASH Japan.

Jonie Seo’s teaching contract in a city in South­ern Japan ended on March 10th, the day before the quake. Soon after, the Lord opened the door for Jonie to serve with CRASH in the media department, sharing stories with the public of those affected and what God has done.

Urs Siegrist is the son of Swiss Missionaries in Japan and has lived there for more than 30 years. He left his corporate job in Tokyo to join with CRASH Ja­pan to show the Japanese people that there is hope. Working with the communications department and with the German website for CRASH Japan, Urs sees his place within CRASH as one of showing the Japa­nese that they were created and loved by God.

Each of these stories shows the heart and pas­sion that this younger generation has for serving their people. Just a few years ago, the picture of the next generation of leaders was not so encouraging. Many described them as a group of people who were lost, afraid of making commitments, and un­certain about their future. Yet it seems that Esther 4:14 rings true when looking at how the Lord has prepared these young people for service in his King­dom. They each show that they are willing to rise up and serve in the Kingdom “for such a time as this," putting aside their personal goals and desires for a period of time and reaching out in love to their fellow countrymen.

Paul Nethercott, CRASH’s donor relations coor­dinator and TEAM missionary, says, “These young adults here in Japan, both Japanese and internation­als, are going to grow and learn a lot and become significant leaders in the next five to ten years.” He believes that the response to this disaster by these young leaders will make a big difference in their lives and also have a great impact on the church as a whole in Japan.

CRASH and the Christian volunteers are able to offer something that is not offered by the Red Cross, the Government of Japan, or other large relief agen­cies: They offer an everlasting hope! After other re­lief agencies leave Japan, these missionaries and Japanese volunteers will still be there, loving the people and sharing the message of Jesus.

-Written by Robert Johnson
-Photography by Robert Johnson

[Originally published in TEAMHorizons, Septermber 2011]

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