John 15: 13 – Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
In the heated debates on immigration and religious diversity, I often hear that “they should go home.” Home is a place that is difficult to define. Home is a place to dwell, like a house, an apartment, a shelter – with an address. Home can be the city or town where one grew up, where one’s parents live. It can be problematic when we define where someone else should call home.
It is so with Jeffrey Mensendiek, one of the Global Ministries’ missionaries in Japan. Jeffrey and his sister, Martha, also a missionary in Japan, grew up in Japan as children of missionaries. Japan is home to them in more than one sense. Japan is where they reside and where they grew up.
When the earthquake and tsunami hit Japan, the missionaries were given options. Like when any catastrophic event happens and/or continued life-threatening environment exists, missionaries are given the option to stay or to come home without coercion to make one decision over another. In the case of Jeffrey and Martha, the choice was between Japan or Japan.
Martha is in a very different situation in Tokyo than Jeffrey. Jeffrey lives with his family and ministers in the hard-hit town Sendai. Following the tsunami, Jeffrey drove his family to be with Martha in Tokyo then returned to Sendai. Jeffrey has chosen to continue his work in Sendai despite the effects of radiation exposure. He is well aware that his decision will affect his health.
Jeffrey helped birth the Tohoku Disaster Relief Center by providing space for it at the Emmaus Center where he directs youth activities. Jeffrey is working with colleagues to meet the needs of the people surviving the earthquake, tsunami, aftershocks and uncertain situation at the Fukushima nuclear plant. When given the choice to stay in his place of mission assignment or return home, he said ‘yes’. They are one in the same and he is willing to risk his life to help his neighbors. With his family safe, Jeffrey has laid the value of his own life aside to add value to others’ lives.
May you be a neighbor with life-giving love,