Witnessing TLIG in Fukushima, Japan
May 19th-20th, 2012
Fukushima prefecture (population, 1.98 million in 2011) is located in the southern part of the Tohoku (East-North) district in Japan. The prefecture has a long history of Christian faith that began from the sixteenth century, the First Era of Christianity in Japan.
Many people in Fukushima converted to Christianity, i.e., Gamou Ujisato, a Christian feudal lord of Aizu. The martyrs of Aizu are well known in the history of Church in Japan.
Fukushima embraces a vast area of land almost as big as Holland, in Europe. It is an entrance way to the Tohoku district from the Kanto district. Located about 170 miles away from Tokyo, it is accessible by bullet train in less than 2 hours. Fukushima has its tourist spots like spa and ski resorts, and is famous for its peach and farmed salmon. A mere prefecture, Fukushima’s economic scale used to go beyond the gross domestic product (GDP) of more than half the countries in the world.
Fukushima is home to Japan’s Daiichi (No.1) Nuclear Power Plant, one of the 15 largest nuclear power stations in the world.
The Fukushima Daiichi was crippled by a nuclear accident wrought by a M9 earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. Since then, “Fukushima” has resonated throughout the world as one dangerous area, where the risk of exposure to radioactive contamination is ever present. But in this blessed land, many people are still living their daily life, and in the churches, the Sacrifice of the Mass is offered regularly. God granted us this time of difficult circumstances to spread the message of True Life in God to the land.
Two Filipina evangelists, Belle and Tessie visited Koriyama City for this purpose. That they went to Koriyama is not coincidental. A Filipina friend who lives there and who converted to a life of love and prayers after the triple disaster, had experienced confusing thoughts (as to be deemed mentally disturbed by detractors), until she read the TLIG book sent to her by a friend last Christmas. Reading the book brought her much enlightenment and consolation, she said.
Koriyama lies at the heart of Fukushima and is the second biggest and most economically developed city therein. It is also 37.5 miles away from the Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. A radius of 12.5 miles around the Plant had been declared a no-entry zone, except when accompanied by authorized persons.
In the afternoon of May 19, Belle arrived in Koriyama and was joined by friends Joy, the local organizer, and Ces, a laywoman from a nearby diocese. Together they visited the local church where they met the parish priest. He had approved the use of a room next door to the church for the prayer meeting. After the 5 p.m. Mass, an unexpected thing happened: one of the Japanese parishioners approached them and gave them three small icons of the Blessed Virgin. Belle just thought that Mama Mary must have inspired that Japanese lady to give them those three icons, underlying in effect what seemed to be Our Lady’s request to set up three Rosary prayer groups in Koriyama, Shirakawa and Sukagawa—that the parishioners there may start their own prayer meeting.
The Parish priest had earlier emphasized to Belle, when they talked after the evening Mass, the use of the Holy Bible. Meanwhile, back in Tokyo and unaware of the priest’s suggestion, Tessie had already packed three Bibles, in English and Tagalog, (Philippine. vernacular) in readiness for the prayer meeting. She was carrying the Bibles with her when she arrived in Koriyama the morning of May 20.
The Mass in Japanese started promptly at 9:00 that clear Sunday morning. It was Shu no Shoten, the Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord into Heaven. The day would somehow evoke a feeling of sadness. Yet, God reminds us that “I am among you always,” Vassula says. In a March 2010 video “Informative Commentary with Vassula Ryden, True Life in God—Prophecies and Warnings,” (Rhodes, Greece), Vassula elaborated: “It doesn’t mean that… He’s packed up His luggage and left us, like on a trip, like on a holiday. God is not on a holiday. God is always in work… God never ceases working. (John 5:17)
The Koriyama parishioners barely filled the Church pews. Some of them, Filipinos, used to pack the Churches at neighboring dioceses but after the Earthquake and the series of disasters that overtook Fukushima, many Japanese and Filipinos parishioners alike had to evacuate to “safer” places. Still, many had remained to brave unexpected turns of events. And as the strains of the recessional hymn, “Maranatha,” Kansha no Uta, (Thanksgiving Song) filled the vast emptiness in the church and in our hearts, we found solace in Our Lord.
After the Mass, Joy just managed to squeeze in an announcement, in Japanese, that two friends from Tokyo will have a TLIG meeting with other Filipinos at a nearby room. The Filipinos in the Church then adjourned to the room that Joy had reserved. More than 25 Filipino women from Sukagawa, Shirakawa and Koriyama, plus two Filipino men and one Japanese man registered for the meeting, which started at 10:30 a.m.
Belle presented her talk with an introduction about Vassula and True Life in God and shared her own experiences with TLIG. She also talked on Bible passages taken from Timothy (1 Tim 4:1-16, 6:20-21, 2 Tim 2:14-26, 3:1-17, in TLIG Message, June 2, 1988) and the Book of Revelation (Rev 12, in TLIG, Jan 26, 1988).
Lunch, prepared by volunteer parishioners, was served at 12:30 p.m. It was a relaxing and enjoyable hour.
After the hearty meal, Tessie talked briefly about the TLIG activites—i.e., Rosary prayer meetings, the Beth Myriam (House of Mary), ecumenical pilgrimages, retreat and recollections, and hospital and prison visits. She expounded on Vassula’s guidelines in forming prayer groups, which is basically grounded on humility and love; the TLIG’s motto, “Repay evil with love;” how to pray from the heart; and also touched on the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In Tokyo, a Mass and Confession is an integral part of our First Saturday prayer meeting. She then talked about our own Beth Myriam feeding in Tokyo, where, once a week, we serve 100 or so homeless people with “hayashi” rice (a dish of hashed meat, onions, mushrooms and tomatoes stewed in demi-glazed sauce served on hot rice.)
The Rosary prayer started within an hour. As the booklet guideline was in English, they prayed every decade alternately in Japanese and English, out of courtesy to the three Japanese participants. Belle and Tessie left the church premises at a little past 5 p.m. and boarded the bullet train to Tokyo an hour later.
Belle commented about this trip: “The gathering for me was a success, everyone can feel the overflowing love of Jesus and Mama Mary, as one of the Japanese lady said to me.”
And Tessie commented: “We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone at the Church Parish for according us a warm welcome and a hot meal—the Parish priest, the three Japanese volunteer ladies, the Filipina coordinator, Joy, and the participants, as well. Our special thanks to Ces for fetching us to and from the station, and sharing her home with Belle for a night.
We also take this opportunity to say that, through the love of Jesus and Mary, three new TLIG prayer groups are ready to be formed in three cities of Fukushima—Koriyama, Shirakawa and Sukagawa. But it is not that easy to continue activities like this. Belle and Tessie have a plan to visit Fukushima again to support our friends. May these prayer groups bear full fruit in a land that now exists under severe environmental conditions. We TLIG-Japan would like to ask your support of prayer for them.
15th June 2012
Maria Teresa Kaneko
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