The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Harping hope and comfort

An ELCA missionary helps Japan's Lutherans serve dying people

The sound of the harp
quiets the heart and fills it
with colors of spring.

Kenji Izawa

The above haiku expresses something real for those who live with death at their doorstep at Kibou no Ie (House of Hope), a hospice in the bustling city of Tokyo. Japan is seen as a wealthy country, teeming with life and activity. Yet Kibou no Ie is located in the city's Sanya district — a slum area where homeless day laborers gather. Japan's homeless may be invisible castaways from society, but those approaching the end of their lives are even more forgotten.

Hospice resident Kenji Izawa holds
Hospice resident Kenji Izawa holds a haiku he wrote as ELCA missionary Carol Sack plays in the background.
"These are people who see themselves as already dead to this world," said Masaki Yamamoto, founder of the hospice. He described the challenge of trying to see God's grace through all the miseries hospice residents have faced. So Kibou no Ie offers a different kind of life. This is life in the midst of death, where people are "found" again, where reconciliation emerges from rejection, love from despair.

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Embracing diversity