Capital Commentary is the weekly current-affairs publication of CPJ, written to encourage the pursuit of public justice.


Forty Years of Loving, and Then the Tsunami


Jim Stout

03-18-2011


March 18, 2011
by Jim Stout

“How do I reach the Japanese people for Christ?”
      “Go and love them.”
“Got it—then what?”

      “Love them.”
“OK then what?”
         
      “Keep on loving them.”

“How long to I have to do that for before they will be interested in hearing about Christ?”
      “Spend 30 years or so loving these people and maybe then they will be willing to listen.”

Such was a conversation that took place 40 years ago between my then 20-something father-in-law and a missionary mentor he was preparing to replace in Japan.  My father-in-law Cal Cummings was fresh out of college, passionate to make a difference in the lives of the people he had just fallen in love with.  He and his wife Edie moved to Japan and got to work.   In Japan where less than 0.5% of the nation is Christian, and where joining a church can be seen as rejecting one’s family and culture, the going was slow.  The Cummings are patient people who have dedicated their lives to loving the Japanese.  They teach English, bake bread, preach at a score of churches, throw parties, train pastors and open their home.  The Cummings’ children grew up speaking Japanese and inviting their friends into the life of their family. They have spent decades slowly building trust and learning about who the Japanese people are and how their nation and their neighborhoods work.  

Cal and Edie raised six amazing kids, all of whom have grown up to be much like their parents. Luke, the youngest, is 24 years old. He and some of his friends have spent the last few years organizing small house churches in Japan to talk about what brings meaning to their lives. They spend a lot of time praying, sharing and serving the people around them. 

On March 11, 2011 an 8.9 magnitude earthquake struck off the northeast coast of Japan.  The resulting ten meter high tsunami wrought devastation up to ten kilometers inland and laid waste to seaside communities around Sendai, including Natori, where the Cummings live. Unable to make contact with his parents or others in the affected areas, Luke and his friends did what they were raised to do and what they do every day.  They gathered their community, prayed, and figured out how to mobilize their resources to serve the people around them.  They worked as a team—some found a van with a full tank of gas and filled it with food and emergency supplies. Others worked their way through the chain of authority and received a special pass to be able to access the expressway blocked to all but military transport.  They drove the van to Cal and Edie’s house.  Friendships and networks developed over years allowed them to distribute supplies and take a careful assessment of the needs so that they could repeat the process more effectively on the next trip.  As a result, in the first days of the crisis, this little network of house churches has been one of the few aid groups on the ground praying, serving, loving, and in the name of Jesus, providing the most tangible of things food, water, medicine and meaning.  

As we watch the devastation this week on the news, our hearts almost burst to act, to organize, to do something for the Japanese people. Many of us felt the same way about Haiti last year. Unfortunately, our commitment to action often lasts no longer than the temporary passion that fuels it.  I am humbled by this family’s commitment to love their neighbors over generations. There are myriad places into which our callings take us.  Almost without exception, long, patient, loving presence prepares the way for us to respond in both daily and once-in-a-generation moments of opportunity.

—Jim Stout lives in Pittsburgh, PA with his wife Mari and three children (Owen, Soren and Davita).  Mari’s parents have been missionaries in Japan for 40 years.  If you would like to support the relief efforts in Japan, Jim and Mari recommend support through http://www.opc.org/donationsjapan.html and http://sunriseministries.tripod.com/id1.html. Jim can be reached by email at jimstouts@gmail.com.



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