While aid groups are currently focusing on meeting the initial physical needs of disaster-stricken Japan, Saddleback Church is preparing for what they consider to be phase two of the relief effort – spreading the hope of Jesus Christ.
PEACE Japan, a project spawned from the church's global PEACE Plan, is preparing to care for the spiritual needs of those suffering from the recent earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis in Japan. Instead of sending a team of workers to offer only relief assistance, PEACE Japan plans to empower local churches to reach out to their communities and offer physical aid and spiritual comfort in the hopes of leading people to Christ.
The PEACE Plan seeks to mobilize Christians around the world in an outreach to combat global problems by Planting churches, Equipping servant leaders, Assisting the poor, Caring for the sick, and Educating the next generation.
Pastor Dave Holden, global pastor of training at Saddleback Church, described the group's action plan as one of prayer, information gathering and then action. He said he is currently praying for the people of Japan and the 500 churches that were working with Saddleback prior to the devastation.
Holden said that while prayer is important, "our fingers are the bowstring." The church is preparing to lead a delegation to Japan with the goal to train pastors to engage with their communities and spread the gospel.
While some groups have accused religious groups of taking advantage of Japan's natural and nuclear disasters to proselytize, Holden contended that what they are truly doing is spreading hope to a nation currently asking themselves why us.
"Tragedy doesn't have clear answers," Holden said.
For those seeking solutions, Holder assured, "There is hope [and] there are answers in Jesus."
Prior to the natural disasters that ravished the island nation and its nuclear power plants, Saddleback Church in southern California was actively training Japanese pastors though its global initiative, the PEACE Plan. The global project focuses on tackling five giant problems: spiritual emptiness, corrupt leadership, extreme poverty, diseases and illiteracy.
With the current disaster, Holden said, "Now we are taking our friendship and relationship to the next level."
So far, the church has been raising money to send to Japanese pastors, who they say understand the country's needs better than they do. The money will allow churches in Japan to distribute emergency relief supplies to survivors. Holden refrained from disclosing the exact amount, saying only it will be "thousands and thousands of dollars," set to be wired to Japanese pastors on Friday.
Next month, a team of pastoral and ministry trainers will head to Japan as early as April 10 to equip churches with trauma and outreach training. However, before setting foot on the ground, they are talking with Japanese pastors and collecting a list of training needs.
In the meantime, Holden and PEACE Japan urge believers to pray for Japan. "This is the first time in a long time that the whole world can [focus their collective prayer] for Japan," he said.