Evangelist Will Graham took the message of the Gospel to Japan for his first time last month during a two-day Celebration of Hope event in the prefecture of Fukushima, an area of the country devastated by natural disasters and massive leaks of radiation.
"Japan has a Christian remnant that is less than 1% of the entire population. Because of Buddhism and Shintoism, many do not even understand the concept of the One True God. By and large they aren't what we would call 'anti-Christian.' They just don't understand the faith," Graham, the grandson of famous evangelist Billy Graham, told the Christian Post. (Note: a source close to CP says the reported percentage of Christians in Japan can vary based on those who are evangelical and those who simply identify as Christians [4 percent]. Missionaries will report a lower percentage [at least under 3 percent] in order to maintain funding, the source said.)
Graham said he was especially sensitive to the region's devastation. In 2011, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake rocked the area, followed by a deadly tsunami that claimed the lives of more than 15,000. Since then, the prefecture of Fukushima, home to a nuclear facility, has been considered a ground zero in terms of devastation as the plant still leaks toxic and radioactive water.
"I know that you've experienced a lot of turmoil. I can tell you this, there's a God that understands," Graham told the crowd of 3,000 in attendance. "He sees you and knows you right now. Tonight, I want you to know that Jesus Christ loves you. He wants to give you a new beginning, a fresh life."
Graham said the event was organized by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in partnership with 120 Japanese Christian churches who participated together for the first time in the history of Fukushima.
Being that the Christian community is small in number, Graham noted that preaching to those in attendance was not an easy feat. Prior to the event that garnered 188 to commit their lives to Christ, there were only 4,100 Christians in the entire prefecture.
"It was a unique challenge sharing the truth, hope and love of Jesus to people who had very little background knowledge of Him, but what an incredible blessing it was to see people streaming forward to surrender their lives to Him," Graham said.
Following the outreach, Graham traveled to Tokyo to share the Gospel with a crowd of 2,000 for a one-day event named the Celebration of Love.
Graham's message in the capital city focused on how people could begin a relationship with Christ.
"Jesus wants to give you joy and life, and purpose and meaning," Graham said. "He wants to take the guilt and shame and bitterness out of your life. Ask God to forgive you of your sin, and ask Him to come into your life; to be the ruler of your life."
He told the Christian Post his time in Japan was a blessing while adding that "the Japanese are incredibly gentle and kind and mild-mannered." He also noted that the nation is currently on the verge of experiencing a spiritual shift.
"There has been and continues to be a special focus on Japan as we sense the Holy Spirit moving there," Graham said.
Graham expects to return to Japan next March to preach in the city of Fukuoka.