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For as sure as there is God, there is Hope!

After finishing the CD mixing I left to visit and take part in a Celebration Festival at one of the costal cities devastated by the 3/11 Earthquake and Tsunami. The city of Kamaishi in the Iwate Prefecture of Japan. I was invited to come sing along with an HGF choir director, Tomiko Minomo-Sensei and her group. Tomiko-Sensei has been coming here once a month on her own ever since the tragedy happened. My Lawd! This woman drives here, most times by herself no matter rain, shine, snow, it doesn't matter. She keeps coming in support of the ministries that remained and for the people in the temporary shelters. What a true and genuine servant of God. Not about fanfare or photo ops but about encouraging those indeed in need with the good news gospel! There is indeed need! There are still so many temporary housing communities filled with mostly elderly residents. I didn't know this at the time but this is a special time for Buddhist in Japan. It's a time of celebration called "Bon." I had one of the choir members explain it for me: In Buddhism, four days (August 13 to 16) is the period called “Bon”. This is one of the periods when dead people, our ancestors, can come back to our human world and they stay at their houses, where they used to live when humans. So, on August 13th, people go to the Buddhist temples with lanterns. They go to the grave stones and they guide the souls of dead ancestors to home lighting the lanterns, even this ceremony is held in the morning. We prepare some decorations and make place for our ancestors to stay for 4 days. So, on August 14th and 15th, we human visit our houses each other so as to greet our ancestors, parents, children, or friends who passed away. So if people live far away from their home towns, they drive or fly or ride on trains in order to go back to their hometown and pay visits each other, not only to see souls of dead people but also our dear relatives or friends. And August 16th is the day when people say good-bye to dead people. Souls go back to their world. We make fires along the streets; souls go up with smokes. After this ceremony, we also go to the Buddhist temple to put an end of this special term. During these four days we hold dancing festivals or fire works festivals so as to console our feelings and souls of dead people. That’s why August 13 to 16 is one of the longest holidays Japanese people take their days off from work and move here and there. Air tickets are the most expensive and Shinkansen trains become 200 % full during these 4 days. So, the Bon period is similar to Thanksgiving in America, can I say? I mean, family gathering time.

If you're going to minister to people, it's good to try and get to know something about them. As I said I didn't realize this was going on but I did witness just about everything she talked about. But I mentioned all of this to say on Sunday after church service we went to one of the temporary housing camps to visit. It was all senior citizens in the room when I entered but what hit me was the heaviness of a room filled with a spirit of no hope! That's what I felt plain as day. I don't know their personal stories but I could discern no hope or will to continue.

But as sure as there is God, there is hope! We started singing praise and thee room lit up! These people were singing, dancing, smiling and to me seems like they came back alive! I don't know why I was led to say what I said (well I guess I do know why) but I told them how God loves them and I love them just like they were my own parents. I even sang "You are so Beautiful to me" since the majority (all but one) were women. A fresh anointing came over the room and uplifted all their spirits. I could feel the love of God and His hope seeping in from shaking their hands and getting a few hugs! Glory to God on High!

Now let me bring it home. Based on this time of Bon in the Buddhism culture, all of these people were there with us in the room because they had no where to go and no one to visit them! I was told it was so special for a couple of them because they don't even come out of their rooms! This was the first time in a while! Praise His Holy Name!

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