Australian Lutherans pray for Japan

On 11 March Rev Neville Otto and Mrs Heidi Smith joined with Lutherans from Japan and elsewhere in Asia to pray for the people of Japan.

Mrs Smith and Pastor Otto were representing the LCA at the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Asian Church Leaders Conference in Kuala Lumpur as news of the devastating earthquake and tsunami filtered in. The 78 delegates from 20 countries, who were providing input for the LWF strategic plan, stopped work immediately to join in prayer for the people of Japan.

Japanese delegates from the Japan Evangelical Lutheran Church and the Japan Lutheran Church were very upset as images of the earthquake and the tsunami were shown on a large screen. Rev Franklin Ishida, the delegate from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, was concerned, too, as his parents and siblings live in Tokyo.

After the group had prayed for the people of Japan, Pastor Otto led the devotion. ‘It was humbling to pray with the saints from many countries and to be thanked by the leaders from Japan for simply doing what Christians do, pray for each other’, he said. ‘The care shown by delegates for their Japanese sisters and brothers in Christ was a reminder to Australians and New Zealanders of the many partner churches who showed their concern and offered support and prayer for the victims of the Australian floods and Christchurch earthquake.’

One of the biggest challenges faced by Japanese delegates was trying to make contact with those back home. Mobile phone networks had shut down and there was much confusion. The Japan Evangelical Church has two congregations in the immediate earthquake zone.

‘We heard that the pastor and most members were accounted for’, Pastor Otto said. ‘But as delegates prepared to leave Kuala Lumpur there were still many unknowns.’

Japanese Lutheran leaders were thankful for the prayers of their sisters and brothers in Christ across Asia, including in Australia and New Zealand.

There are three LWF- member Lutheran churches in Japan, with a total of approximately 27,000 members. In addition, Japan Lutheran Church, a member of the International Lutheran Council, has around 3000 members.

The LWF Asian Church Leaders meeting discussed many issues, including a strategic plan for the LWF from 2012 to 2017. This includes the 2017 celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Other issues included providing Asian views on marriage, divorce and human sexuality, and the relationship between proclamation, diakonia and advocacy.

The conference also provided delegates with the opportunity to welcome newly appointed LWF Asia Secretary Rev Dr William Chang, who is well known to many Australians.

Churches from Myanmar and Nepal were welcomed as new LWF members and new LWF General Secretary Rev Martin Junge encouraged them to be involved in the life of the LWF. Rev Junge, who comes from a small Lutheran church in Chile, said, ‘There is no church in the LWF without the need to receive, and there is no church in the LWF which is not able to give’. His words reflect the fact that Christianity (and therefore also Lutheran churches) is the minority religion in many of the Asian countries represented at the conference.

Many of our partner churches are working in new territory for the kingdom of God; therefore, spiritual attack is their everyday reality. As a member of a congregation, school, or family, or a couple or individual, you are invited to commit to praying for our partners in mission. For regular prayer point updates, go to

Read more stories about our partner church in Japan at