by Takiyama Katsuko, pastor
Fukushima Shinmachi Church, Tohoku District
Fukushima Shinmachi Church was badly damaged during the Great East Japan Disaster. Our church was planned and built in 1928 by the architect William Merrell Vories, who had come to Japan. At the time of the 2011 disaster, the structure was 84 years old. Roof tiles fell off the sanctuary; the cross on the third-floor steeple tilted; and cracks were visible in the two chimneys. Within the sanctuary, the four corners of the whitewashed walls collapsed; and here and there, cracks in the walls appeared like bolts of lightning. As might be expected, we were anxious about the safety of the sanctuary.
Following the earthquake, a nearby church soon had to be torn down. One month after the quake, an inspection carried out by the Fukushima City Disaster Relief Headquarters showed that the building was in immediate danger of collapse. Even so, we felt that an accurate assessment needed to be made. When the Shinkansen (high-speed train) was finally operating again, we had persons come from the Vories Architectural Office, and their assessment was completed by the end of April.
We spent many sleepless nights for about a month following the disaster, wondering whether or not the sanctuary could be repaired. Finally, having received the analysis that repair was possible, the congregation and the Building Committee met over 15 times, and the building was made earthquake-resistant by reinforcing the walls, the foundation, and the roof. The work was completed in 13 months, and a Service of Gratitude for Restoration of the Sanctuary and a Thanksgiving Celebration were held on Nov. 25, 2012.
In December 2013, we were all finally able to have a relaxed Christmas Worship Service and held a potluck dinner to celebrate. The sanctuary built 86 years ago has been restored almost completely to its original state. However, the two chimneys were taken down, and the large red roofing tiles were removed and replaced with strong, earthquake-resistant, copper plates. Although at one time we had determined that demolition could not be avoided, our Lord has enabled us to restore the sanctuary built 86 years ago and to make it stronger than before!
All the believers in the church give heartfelt thanks for the Lord’s help, for the assistance of the Kyodan and the district, and for the prayers and aid offered by persons throughout the country that have brought about this restoration. “Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord, O my soul. I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live." (Psalm 146:1-2)
We give praise to God for the restoration of the sanctuary, which continues to fulfill its purpose as a place for hymns and prayer. We hope it will be used for the spreading of the gospel and for the salvation of many people. In addition, please remember to pray for the evangelization of those who remain in Fukushima, despite their worries about the radiation levels. Please pray for them now and in the future. (Tr. RT)