I'm writing this on the way back from a most unusual meeting with the most amazing lady preacher called "Mother Morimoto."
After preaching in our own REAP-Grace Chapel, I was asked to interpret for a reporter and a photographer from a daily newspaper who were going to do a story on Mother Morimoto and then pray and preach at her evening service.
I brought them to the beautiful, new, all-white, 3 story chapel the Lord led her to build by selling her little house and buying the land. To build, she also had to borrow $60,000. The seven beautiful stained glass windows, each worth $1,000, were donated by the artist who made them.
What makes Mother Morimoto unusual is the unusual place where this and her other church are located -in Sanya, the "secret" slum of Tokyo where 7,000 men live and work, get drunk and sleep in the streets on cardboard boxes. It is the area where the sign over the corner liquor store says, "We sell more liquor than any other place in the world." Number one in the world!
Thirteen years ago, while nursing her dying husband, raising five children and going to seminary, she worked at night in this slum section. After her husband died she devoted her full time to working here, preaching on Sunday and Wednesday and going around every night on patrol. She uses a great big bowl with hot steaming noodles and plastic dishes to give some to each hungry man.
Last winter when it was so cold, 250 drunk men died while sleeping after obeying the blinking vending machine which beckoned, "buy me for 90 cents and I'll give you warmth." It was a "one-cup" whiskey.
This year has been very mild and only about 40 have died.
After showing us the beautiful new church, Mother Morimoto invited us to have a special bowl of noodles she learned to cook in China. She speaks Chinese, Korean, a little English, Japanese, and a little German. The reason she speaks Chinese is that she was evacuated from Fukuoka, Kyushu, to Korea during the war. There she met and married a Chinese doctor. They came to Japan and here he died. (As a girl of 4, Mrs. Morimoto accepted Christ at a Southern Baptist Church.)
God has since given her a husband who is a great help in her work. He was once also a drunken bum, now delivered and born again. Thus he knows first hand about the problems of these men. He is also a needed protection for her as she works in this potentially dangerous area. When the reporters asked what she had to show for 13 years of labor there, she said, "About 800 drunks have been converted and about 300 baptized ."
All this in the worst section of town where few male ministers could last very long. Some Catholic priests from Europe and America have come and tried their best, but it has mainly become like Alcoholics Anonymous groups, which do not necessarily involve Christianity. It would not be classified as Christian evangelism. Missions, missionaries and Japanese pastors have tried,but most have thrown up their hands. Communist and radical students have tried to agitate this into a social class struggle. The yakuza are there, too.
You would have to see Mother Morimoto in action to find out what motivates her to leave a more comfortable life to get up every morning to sell Pola, a Japanese cosmetic like Avon. House to house she goes to make enough money to pay the $1,000 monthly payments on the two churches. After this, on Sundays and Wednesdays, not only having services in both churches, she and her husband and a bodyguard, also a converted drunkard, take their portable kitchen on the back of a bike and ladle hot noodles and vegetables to all those they find along the way... drunk, lying on a cardboard box or huddled around a fire, one man, with no socks.
Then her husband, walking behind the soup kitchen, reaches into a box of used clothes and passes them out as he sees fit to the most needy. Of course, the noodles and clothes are never sufficient.
Mother Morimoto must surely be the "strongest man" among all the 9,000 pastors of Japan!
Why does this godly, dedicated woman have to go around selling cosmetics to provide for this work? Because she has never learned that other Christians should be helping her. We are trying to teach her, but it isn't easy. We are making an example using ourselves, pledging to send $20 a month to her, even though we are under supported ourselves. We will also help raise support for her here in Japan, but if you feel you would like to help her help these needy men, please do.
We also plan to let the whiskey companies know what's going on, as they make it possible for these distinguished (extinguished?) men to sleep on cardboard boxes as long as they can get another drink of whiskey. They are addicts made by the whiskey companies which spend millions of dollars on beautiful art galleries or tennis matches or golf tournaments. They ought to spend their money cleaning up the vomit and helping rescue these men they've sent to within five inches of hell. We'll ask them to make donations for this work.
But the bottom line is, as Mother Morimolo says so many of the 800 men who have made decisions for Christ, as they repented of their sins and invited Christ in, and received eternal life, after they get a hot meal and leave the Mission, they are consigned to their board bed. At 2 in the morning they see a blinking light from an automatic whiskey vending machine saying, "buy me." That "one cup" is the devil coming at them again. Only in Japan can a 10-year old buy whiskey.
Mother Morimoto needs your prayers. Will you pray for her?
She also needs \300,000 a month, to carry on her work, and donations of instant ramen, udon, shoyu canned meats, men's work clothes, shoes and pants. If you can help, please send your donations to:
Mother Morimoto Mission Sei-ai Kyokai, 20-16 Asahi Senju, Adachi-ku, Tokyo 120, Japan