A Medal of Service

August 13, 2012 • Japan

By Lorena Velazquez, human resources manager in Japan

Masato is one of our volunteers who has an amazing testimony. He started snowboarding when he was in high school and excelled at the sport so quickly that a company approached him with a sponsorship. That’s when he began dreaming about entering the Olympic Games. But sadly, Masato got injured and broke a number of bones. He felt like his dream was gone.

The day before the tsunami hit northern Japan on March 11 last year, Masato’s back was severely injured. While in the hospital, he watched on the news about how the Tohoku Region had been devastated. He was really touched and wanted to help the people who were affected, but he felt helpless because of his injuries.

When he healed, he started looking for another opportunity to help people in the north of Japan. Masato’s family and friends were afraid for him and didn’t understand why he would want to leave Tokyo. But he was serious about serving others in need.

While traveling to the Tohoku Region, Masato hurt his leg and had to be in a wheelchair. He had to go to a hospital, where he met some volunteers from Samaritan’s Purse who were visiting a friend. They started talking, sharing their experiences of serving the tsunami survivors and helping rebuild homes. Masato wanted to help, but because of his condition he had to go back to Tokyo to recover.

At the beginning of August, Masato returned to Kesennuma to serve with
Samaritan’s Purse. He joined our base camp at the Hope Center, where many other SP carpenters, staff, and volunteers had food and lodging provided while they rebuilt homes.

On a Sunday, Masato attended a Christian church with the volunteers, where he heard about Jesus Christ for the first time.Then on Wednesday morning, August 8, Masato was in our daily devotions when he heard the Gospel message. The translator explained to him how much God loves him and that Jesus died for his sins. At 28 years old, Masato asked Jesus to be his Savior. Now we have another Japanese brother that will make many disciples as he serves with us.

He may have lost his dream of winning an Olympic gold medal in snowboarding, but now he has the reward of serving others and being with Jesus Christ for eternity.