What would you do if a natural disaster decimated a huge part of your country?
After Japan’s catastrophic Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, Roger Lowther’s family and community found themselves reeling from a series of devastating blows:
• 9.0 magnitude earthquake
• Monstrous 120+ foot tsunami
• Exploding nuclear power plants
• Tens of thousands dead
• Hundreds of thousands homeless
How can you demonstrate God’s presence and goodness to people living in devastation around you? How do you find hope in the middle of so much despair?
In the aftermath of one of the worst natural disasters in history, music had a power they never dreamed possible. An electrifying sense of hope, almost tangible, wafted through the air. In those moments, beauty won over fear and despair.
These stories of the aroma of God’s beauty and presence in the devastation will encourage you, inspire you, and change you.
"An electrifying sense of hope, almost tangible, wafted through the air. It was the aroma of beauty."
—Aroma of Beauty
"In that moment, light won over fear of storm and night."
—Aroma of Beauty
"Music had a power in the devastation in ways I never dreamed possible."
—Aroma of Beauty
"Grief is the sad result of this fallen world, but in it we never have to be separated from the presence and beauty of God."
—Aroma of Beauty
"God purposefully renewed, restored, rebuilt, and regrew the broken into the beautiful."
—Aroma of Beauty
WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING
"Aroma of Beauty is one of those books that sings, lilts, and woos you toward the Creator of all beauty. The poignant stories of love and service amidst such devastation give clear voice to the gospel—the light that shines best in dark places. I left the book inspired to love Jesus more and sacrifice my life for his sake and the sake of a broken, complicated world."
—MARY DEMUTH, author of 42 books including Thin Places: A Memoir
"Books that draw out the marrow of human experience—in all its glory and terror—are always closest to my heart. This is precisely what you will find in Aroma of Beauty. Real. Raw. Worshipful. Lowther offers precious, Scripture-steeped memories as he recounts his incredible experiences from the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake in Japan. In one of the most turbulent events of modern history, amidst all of the destruction and decimation, Lowther shows us how God was still present, still active, still revealing his healing in our brokenness, his hope in our suffering, his beauty in our ashes. Take up, read, and be encouraged."
—PIERCE TAYLOR HIBBS, author of Struck Down but Not Destroyed and Finding God in Hard Things
"What a beautiful, timely piece of art, bringing light and joy in times of disorientation and despair. Aroma of Beauty sings to us the beautiful melody of grace, the gospel, and the presence of God. It is a much-needed salve to our often sorrowful souls."
—LLOYD KIM, coordinator, Mission to the World
“Aroma of Beauty is a deeply moving, sometimes hair-raising, and ultimately inspiring collection of stories from Roger Lowther’s experiences providing disaster relief to the people of Japan. His writing is pure, heartfelt, and Christ-honoring. I can’t imagine a more personal and touching read, vividly illustrating how even amidst unspeakable suffering, the Gospel message always rings true.”
—DAVID KIM, concertmaster, The Philadelphia Orchestra
“I couldn’t put it down. With riveting stories of encountering God in the chaos of Japan’s 2011 earthquake, Aroma of Beauty provides a window on the truth that we need artistic expression, even when our most basic human needs are threatened. The ‘aroma of beauty’ we experience through the arts reminds us that God is present and active, even in our darkest hours. Lowther’s book recounts the hard lessons he learned and the courageous people he encountered during a time of crisis for Japan. Evocative photos and scripture verses connect to the theme of each chapter, giving these brief narratives both visual and biblical focus as this story of tragedy and glory unfolds in the context of mission.”
—ROBIN P. HARRIS, director, Center for Excellence in World Arts at Dallas International University; president, Global Ethnodoxology Network
“True stories of courage, faith, and self-sacrifice, which the author both lived and encountered during the devastating events of 2011, evoked amazement as I read through Roger Lowther’s book. But the powerful theme I could not deny was the healing that comes from artistic expression and the renewal of beauty, even within the devastation. The author, a consummate musician, found himself amazed that ‘music had power, a power I’m just beginning to understand.’ He echoes the readers’ astonishment as he writes, ‘It never occurred to me that beauty was necessary,’ or that ‘beauty could rebuild our humanity.’ These are lessons that all of us need to learn and share. Our Creator God provides hope and healing through expressions of creative beauty because it reflects his very nature. Thank you, Roger and the amazing people of Japan, for reminding us so powerfully of this reality.”
—DIANE B. COLLARD, author of I Choose to Forgive: An Intimate Journey with God; director, ArtsCharlotte
“Roger Lowther knows a Japanese lament that goes, ‘Only storms still sing in the forest.’ But he also knows, as Dostoyevsky did, that the beauty that saves the world has within it the call of the Savior, who still sings over his creation, even when decimated by cataclysm. Lowther tells a gripping story of hope enduring beautifully.”
—COLE HUFFMAN, senior pastor, First Evangelical Church, Memphis, Tennessee
"This beautiful little book is evidence that art moves beyond 'non-essential decoration.' Lowther's touching story shows artistic expression as essential to being human and as help for people everywhere in experiencing the real and transcendent healing power of God."
—BYRON SPRADLIN, president, Artists in Christian Testimony International
Q: What is the message of Aroma of Beauty?
A: Music is a powerful agent of healing in our world. Aroma of Beauty tells stories of how God brought hope and life into the devastation and destruction of the 2011 earthquake in Japan.
Q: What prompted you to write Aroma of Beauty?
A: As the tenth anniversary of the earthquake approaches, I decided to write down some of the stories of how God worked during that time. As the years go by and events begin to fade from memory, I don't want to forget the people or conversations from the northeast coast of Japan. I want to celebrate what God did during that time and celebrate with others.
Q: What do you hope readers glean from reading The Broken Leaf?
A: Readers will not only see what God did in our midst, but they will be encouraged as they realize anew how God works even in the darkest times of our lives.
Q: What did you enjoy most about writing the book?
A: The events of 2011 changed me in ways that I am still am trying to understand, and writing down some of the stories from that time enabled me to think through them in deep ways. Rather than a series of events, those stories became a new source of meditations on the goodness of God and his presence with us. I realized how this could be helpful to other people.
Q: What other writing projects are you working on?
A: The Broken Leaf (Wipf and Stock, 2019) came out and pushed me in new directions. COVID-19 came just a few months later, cancelling everything we had planned surrounding the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games. So I used the time of social distancing to continue writing. One of the stories in Aroma of Beauty was transformed into a children's book Pippy the Piano and the Very Big Wave, which comes out October 12, 2020. I began writing another book called A Taste of Grace, gospel meditations on Japanese food, and a memoir of my journey into becoming a missionary artist while I meditate on the nature of missions itself.
is founder and director of Community Arts Tokyo, assisting church planting through the arts. Roger is also director of faith and art at Grace City Church Tokyo and coordinator for the MAKE Collective, a global network of missionary artists. He has been serving with Mission to the World in Japan since 2005. Roger received degrees from The Juilliard School and Columbia University and is currently studying at Reformed Theological Seminary. He lives in downtown Tokyo with his wife Abi and four boys.
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