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One night during the March 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear meltdown, Jesus appeared to pastor Sumiyoshi in a dream. "I saw Jesus approaching the nuclear power plant, walking toward the plant. Jesus asked me, Are you evacuating?"

In Fukushima Prefecture, the plant was severely damaged in a "cascading failure" that for weeks was out of control after the earthquake and tsunami. It became the most severe nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986. Nearly 20,000 people were killed, and hundreds of thousands more became homeless by nightfall.

For Sumiyoshi, Jesus' convicting question reminded him of the questions Jesus asked of his disciples before the crucifixion, about whether they would abandon him. Sumiyoshi said, "Those reminders led me to make my own decision to remain in my community.

"People were saying, 'The nuclear power plant is very dangerous,' or, 'We will have another tsunami.' I asked myself, 'To whose voice shall I listen?' " He said he decided to listen to God, not man. "I learned this one thing. That is the challenge to us about our own faith."

The events of March 2011, together called Japan's "triple disaster," marked the most expensive catastrophe in recorded history. Losses reached more than $235 billion. Close to 1 million people were forced from their homes, including nearly 100,000 people who on a moment's notice evacuated about 13 miles away from the nuclear plant. Japan, one of the strongest economic powers of the world, was brought to its knees. Leaders declared a state-level crisis for the first time since World War II.

A Country of Conundrums

Within 24 hours of the earthquake, local churches, agencies, ...

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July/August 2013

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