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Addiction in Japan: rehabilitation with love

“My father would get drunk and beat up my mother. I was only four years old when I began to go to Sunday School in the US. I asked my Sunday School teacher what to do with my father’s drinking. He said to ask Jesus to help him. I didn’t know who Jesus was, but I thought that, if I couldn’t see him, I probably had to talk loudly so that he could hear me. Before I went to bed that night, I prayed with a loud voice, not knowing that in the next room my father heard every word I said. The next time he tried to drink he vomited. After some initial setbacks, my father became a very successful businessman, and my parents began to enjoy their life together.” 

God used this experience to motivate Bob Cunningham, and his wife Berti, to start an addiction recovery program and center in Sapporo, Japan called Samariya (Samariya kan for the residence). “God planted the seed in my heart to use this experience to help other alcoholics. During graduate studies in Chicago, I lived and worked with alcoholics and other homeless people on Chicago’s famous Skid Row. In 1972 I went to Sapporo as an OMF missionary. While studying at language school I met Berti, a Swiss maiden.”

With donations from the Swiss Blue Cross, OMF International, and many friends—the Samariya Residence was built by volunteers from Switzerland, US, and Canada. It officially opened in November 1978. 

Samariya organisation seeks to love and rehabilitate Japanese with various addictions (alcohol, drugs, gambling, pornography, the Internet). In 1991 it was affiliated with the International Federation of the Blue Cross and in 2009 established as a Japan Social Welfare Organization.

The Blue Cross Samariya Residence is a rehabilitation home for up to 12 people who live together for 12 to 24 months. The objective of this facility is to train people to address their addiction and to enable them to live without alcohol, drugs, and gambling, so that they can re-enter Japanese society. When drinking, most alcoholics lose their jobs, do not eat properly, lead lives when days and nights are reversed, become self-centered and are dependent on others. Living together in an ordered environment with group therapy sessions, addicts are enabled to see that they can practice good habits and lead fulfilling lives without the substances they’ve relied on.

Qualified social workers and therapists hold group meetings. The Fujino Christian Church is a ten-minute walk away and addicts are encouraged to look to God for love and help. A group workshop and coffee house support the ongoing training and employment of recovering addicts.

After 40 years, the residence has become dilapidated. An ambitious re-building program has been drawn up. We are asking God to add another 50 million yen to the existing fund so that construction of the new residence can begin.

By Dale, OMF Missionary

“Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’ “And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’ “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life” (Matthew 25:44-46 NLT).

Website (Japanese):

5:34 video in English/subtitled:   

Will you pray for Japan?

  • Pray that by the power of the gospel those struggling with addictions might be set free and be reintegrated into society.
  • Pray for wisdom and strength for all the staff who work with Samariyakai.
  • Pray for God to provide everything necessary for the good work of Samariyakai to continue, especially the funds for the new residence.

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