When the tsunami warning sirens went off, residents in a south Sendai neighborhood fled to the local school. Together with panicked children still in class they climbed to the rooftop. Some 600 altogether watched as the great tsunami of 311 surged ashore and crushed everything in its path, including a church several hundred feet away between themselves and the shoreline. The raging wave came to the very brink of the school roof, but rose no further. Aerial footage that day showed the group of traumatized survivors huddled together and completely surrounded by water. The tsunami had wiped out everything else. (See Google map of location)
The school roof had saved them. Or had it? Some residents had a different story: “When the tsunami came near that church, it fell to the ground. That was how Nakano Elementary school was saved. If the tsunami had flooded in as it was, all 600 people would have been swept away.” The Seaside Bible Chapel took the worst of the blow, shielding the school just enough from the full force of the water. The school roof refugees were spared. A resident commented: “God sacrificed His own temple to save the children.”
God sacrificing his own to save many. The story has a familiar gospel ring to it. Hasn’t God done the same for us, his children? He’s held back the full punishment headed our way and let it crush down instead upon His beloved Son. That's real salvation!
What’s more, He now humbles personal tsunamis in our lives daily. Most of the schooltop survivors probably overlooked a destroyed church as God’s way of holding back the full force of the waters so it would not overcome them. How easy it is for us, though, to miss God’s work. The storm obeys him. Waters are permitted only so far in our lives and no further: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you. When you pass through the rivers, they will not flow over you.” Isa 43:2
The end? No, God still has good things for the seaside church. The cross was found among wreckage and placed atop a beam (photo above). There it speaks powerfully to the many people that pass by. In the last 8 months the church has seen more visitors coming to pray in that location than in all its years of existence. The church itself, the members, are meeting in a coffee house. The video clip here tells a little about the effective outreach God has given them already. God has his “Easter Sunday” good purposes in every “Good Friday” disaster!