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10/23/97 Homeless leading the homeless: 250 destitute Japanese baptized

TOKYO (BP)–Resort guests probably never expected to see five busloads of homeless people unloading at their favorite spa. But when God unleashes his wonder-working power, amazing things happen.
Recently 248 homeless men and two homeless women rode from Tokyo to a nearby resort to be baptized. They had accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior at the Thank You Jesus Church, which meets weekly on the banks of the Sumida River in Tokyo.
About 90 other new believers also would have been baptized at the resort had there been more buses available, said Jacob Shin, a Southern Baptist International Mission Board missionary to Japan.
Kitachi San and Kitachi Eiko, a Japanese couple who funds the church, rented the buses and reserved the spa.
They sought out the spa because they feared a dip in the chilly Sumida River water would leave the new believers prone to illness. At the resort, they asked for warm water — not too hot or cold.
About 10 homeless men who have accepted God’s saving grace lead the church, Shin said. They cook and serve a meal for about 600 fellow vagrants each week in conjunction with the church’s riverside worship.
Word spreads quickly about free food. But while the meal draws many who attend the worship service, Tokyo’s enormous homeless population is not hungry for the most part. The city’s outcasts find plenty of food, wine and whiskey at the back doors of marketplace shops.
It is difficult to create a membership for the Thank You Jesus Church, composed entirely of Tokyo’s homeless citizens, Shin said. Most tend to wander in and out of the area as they roam around the city. Such men can be found in every park and subway station, and in other underground places. But many are coming and meeting Jesus.
“I noticed when the first time they came for a free meal, they were so wild, like beggars and lawless people,” Shin said. “But they are slowly changing now while they are listening to the gospel.”
The changed men, still an outcast population, keep a low profile. While some of the homeless are minor criminals, others are simply men who lost hope in their careers or happiness in their families.
“One of the tragic things in Japan, whoever has a criminal record, they don’t like hiring them, so they don’t have a chance at a normal life,” Shin explained. “So that’s why they are joining together and getting away from society.”
But many individuals continue to find hope, love and acceptance at the Thank You Jesus Church. Tokyo’s homeless population — composed almost entirely of men — continues to grow. The church is growing. And Kitachi Eiko’s dream of a homeless ministry swells, too. Now she is praying for a large building to develop into a full-time homeless center.
“She is really ‘Good-Samaritan’ minded,” Shin said. “She never tires of doing the work. The homeless center is her prayer, and maybe God will bless it.”
In his wonder-working power, anything can happen.

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  • Julie McGowan