Hope lived into the promise of its name by hosting a group of junior high school students from Fukushima, Japan, during the latter part of July.

The “Michigan Hope Project” is coordinated by Professor Andy Nakajima in conjunction with the Reformed Church in America.  It brought the 10 students and four accompanying adults to Michigan as a respite from the difficulties their home has experienced since the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, including providing temporary relief from the threat of radiation exposure resulting from the nuclear accident prompted by the ecological event.

“Many of the younger children in the Fukushima area have already developed signs of thyroid cancer because of their weaker immune systems,” said Nakajima, who is an associate professor of Japanese at Hope.  “Medical authorities have stated that, for these people, their resistance to radiation can be heightened by being away from the affected area, even for a couple of weeks, by a healthful diet, and by a less stressful physical environment.”

“A kind of temporary relief can, of course, be obtained by camping in other areas of Japan,” he said.  “However, we also recognize the need for the experience of ‘hope’ in life, the ‘hope’ that only Christ can offer, and which can remain with these people when they must return to their home area and live under difficult circumstances.”

The group spent Monday-Monday, July 22-29, at Hope.  They stayed in Scott Hall and participated in a variety of activities in the area, including Frisbee golf, basketball with the Third Reformed Church youth group, learning about the history of Hope, English classes, a barbeque, visiting Lake Michigan, a Japanese worship service, the Grand Rapids Public Museum and spending time with Hope friends daily.  From Hope they went on to the Novi/Farmington Hills area for a week through Faith Covenant Church.

Nakajima noted that the program succeeded admirably, with the children clearly enjoying their experience—some even noted that they hope years hence to return to the college as students.  In any case, regardless of whether or not that one day happens, the students have a new source of support, a new anchor, to help them weather any challenges to come.

“”By being connected with the people at Hope College and in Michigan, they can know that they have friends here who are praying for them and thinking of them,” he said.

The Michigan Hope Project, funded with the generous support of the Reformed Church in America, is partnered with Fukushima Hope, a coalition of Christian churches in the Fukushima area.  The project is seeking to invite about 20 students each year for at least the next four years.