For two days last spring, Hiroshi Minegishi lived inside his car in a parking lot, surrounded by mountains of debris from the historic March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
On the third day, he climbed across rooftops and crushed cars, arriving at the spot where his small church once stood. It took him a long time to find pieces of tile and tin that resembled the place where he ministered as a pastor for so many years. For a moment, Pastor Minegishi stopped his efforts and prayed, "God, somehow be glorified in the midst of this horror."
At the time of the quake, Minegishi was about 200 yards from the coastline in the northeast fishing town of Kesennuma. As he fled to higher ground after hearing tsunami-warning sirens, he received a chilling text message from his daughter miles away in Tokyo: "Escape. Escape. Escape."
"I decided then that all I really have—or ever had—was the love of Christ," Minegishi said, "so I need to let him rule."
In the year since the largest quake in Japan's recorded history, Christians have witnessed more than the walls of buildings come down. During Christianity Today's recent travels through the quake zone, pastors and other Christian leaders said that the cultural and spiritual barriers that have for generations divided Christians from each other and from greater Japanese society have weakened in the aftermath.
"We've been called to remember in these months that the church really is the body of Christ," said Joseph Handley, president of Asian Access, an interdenominational evangelical organization that works throughout Asia to develop Christian leaders.
"It doesn't matter if it is a traditional-looking building, Samaritan's Purse aid workers circling up in their tents, or a businessman rebuilding ...