Tokyo needs church support

By Jessica Cohea

Dr. Stephen Franklin of Olivet’s theology department was in the chapel (above) of Tokyo Christian University during the earthquake of March 11. Photo submitted by Stephen Franklin.

It was to be a memorable day for the senior class at Tokyo Christian University. With family, friends, professors and administration watching, each student received a diploma. Shortly after the new graduates walked across the stage, however, the chapel started to rumble.

“You could hear the groaning of the timbers. You could hear the groaning of the earth,” said Dr. Stephen Franklin, ONU theology professor and director of graduate studies for the theology department. Franklin, also professor and former president at TCU, was in Japan on March 11 for the commencement ceremony.

Franklin will remember that day not by the rattling chapel or the moving ground beneath him, but by the calmness of the Japanese people during an earthquake that made history.

“There was no running, no shouting, no crying, no yelling, no punching, no fighting. People evacuated in an orderly way. I was really impressed with the construction and engineering [of the chapel], but I was impressed even more with the discipline of the Japanese people,” he said.

Franklin said that once it was apparent that the chapel was not going to collapse under the pressure, the graduation ceremony was completed in the courtyard outside, even through the aftershocks.

The buildings at TCU were not damaged significantly. Franklin said the worst cleanup was that of the library because all of the books had been knocked off the shelves. The campus was not close enough to the center of the tsunami to get water damage either, he said.

There may not have been much to fix at their own campus, but TCU students did not hesitate to lend a hand anyway.

“They immediately put together a team of Christian kids from the University and they went and did rescue work,” Franklin said.

The recovery work has all been completed though.

“[They] are way past the point of rescuing people. What [they] need now are huge bulldozers and massive equipment to just move this junk back out, collect it and dispose of it,” Franklin said.

Japan’s military has been brought in, according to Franklin, for that job.

So what are concerned people who are willing to help supposed to do?

“Japan doesn’t need a lot of money or even technical expertise, but what it does need is a sense that the American church, and for that matter, the British, the Brazilian and the African church has not forgotten about Japan,” Franklin said.

He mentioned that Americans should not see missions as a means to be the superior. Americans, according to Franklin, need to realize that in missions, it is OK to be a partner and to work with and alongside a country to help the people.

“For example, Olivet is now a sister school, or partner school, with TCU and that’s very meaningful,” Franklin said. “There is a tendency for Japan, because it’s seen as rich and comfortable, to be ignored. Western Christians can go to poverty-stricken places and be that great, civilized figure bearing gifts. In Japan, you’ve got a people that are probably better educated than we are. The best thing that can be done is for Olivet to keep its connection with TCU.”

Franklin said Drs. Gregg Chenoweth and Leon Blanchette will be keeping that partnership alive. The two will travel to TCU in mid-April to talk about youth evangelism in East Asia.

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