Water left in what was a farm field
Rev. Yamada and his family share space with a family from the kindergarten
Shelter in the chapel at Tohoku Gakuin University
Rev. Tamura and Rev. Yamada search names for missing church member
Finally able to charge cell phones
Rev. Yamada, Rev. Tamura and Rev. and Mrs.Oyama at Shichigahama Preaching Point
Tsumami debris a few blocks from Shichigahama Preaching Point
The water reached the front step of Shiogama Church (you can see the mud it left)
Cleaning up in front of Shiogama Church
Sharing tears and prayers with Rev. and Mrs. Kakuno at Matsushima Church
Helping to get water from a nearby well
I just got back from a trip up to a small part of the earthquake-tsunami area. Original plans to fly up and rent a car had to be changed since flights were canceled. Rev. Tamura of the Hiroshima Peace Church and I loaded up his car with water, food and some other supplies and drove up the Sea of Japan coast side then crossed back to the Pacific Ocean side to come into the city of Sendai.
First impression was that there was less structural damage caused by the earthquake than I expected in this area, but where the tsunami hit it was heartbreaking. It was too painful to take some photos, but you have seen them on TV.
Our main task was to make contact with pastors in the area to assure them that we are praying for them, preparing support for them and to assess their needs.
Because of the shortage of gasoline, we had to limit our trip to the Sendai area, while the whole area affected by earthquake-tsunami covers more than 300 miles up the coast from Tokyo.
We received a warm greeting from Rev. Yamada when we stopped at the “Holy Light” kindergarten, which is part of the Shiogama Church ministry. Rev. Yamada and his family moved from the parsonage to the kindergarten so that they could keep in contact with the 300 children and families who are part of the school. The kindergarten had some small damage from the earthquake. Water from the tsunami however reached the front steps of the Shiogama Church, leaving a coating of mud on the parking lot, but doing no damage. Even if it had been destroyed, as so many other buildings were, it is still just a building and can be replaced. It is the people we were concerned about.
Rev. Yamada took us with him to visit church members and other pastors in the area. Our first stop was the shelter set up in the chapel at Tohoku Gakuin University. Rev. Yamada and Rev. Tamura went through the list of several hundred names of people in the shelter, looking for a church member whose home we knew was destroyed. We didn’t find her. However, later in the day we received word that she was safe in another shelter.
We visited Rev. Chiba of the Shiogama Preaching Point, Rev. and Mrs. Oyama of Shichigahama Preaching Point, and Rev. and Mrs. Kakuno of Matsushima Church. At each stop we shared tears and prayers as we listened to stories of relief and tragedy.
The day before we arrived, electricity had been restored in much of the Sendai area. Now cell phones could be recharged, and contact with loved ones inside and outside the area became easier. However, water was still a problem. Two kinds of water are needed: drinking water and water for the toilet. Near the kindergarten there was a well where we helped Rev. Yamada get water, which he would distribute to some of the elderly who had a hard time getting water. When it snowed, every pot and bucket was filled with snow.
Food was still being rationed when we arrived, but each day a few more stores were receiving supplies, and the farther away from the city center you traveled the shorter the lines. However, father north the word is that some areas are cut off from supplies.
Here is what we know so far. All of the Japan Baptist Union pastors are safe. While buildings did suffer damage none were lost completely. We also know there are church members still missing, and some are confirmed dead. We still have limited contact with several churches in the more rural areas farther north. I understand there may be more earthquake damage in that area, as well as many small communities along the coast that have been washed away by the tsunami. Many children were in school at the time, and while they may be safe, they may have lost parents as well as homes.
Finally, you know of the concerns over the nuclear power plants. It has become disaster upon disaster with the ripples spreading across Japan. It is both heartbreaking and frightening. However listen to these words of Jeremiah, “Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lam. :22-23)
The Lord is able and willing to work through the church here in Japan, and through you and your church. Your prayers are important! Thank you. Next comes the work. If you can give a gift of help, send it through the International Ministries website. Go to: www.internationalministries.org
Please know that we Armagosts, while hurting for others, are safe and far from the disaster areas. Your prayers help sustain us. Please keep the Hwang family and Roberta Stephens, our fellow IM missionaries, in your prayers. They are in Yokohama and are feeling some of the ripples from these disasters: shortages of food, rolling black-outs, and lines for gasoline.
Again thank you for your prayers.
Grace and Peace in Christ our Lord, Savior and Hope,
John and Tomoko
ABC-IM missionaries in Japan
MPT Website: www.armagostjapan.org
To read additional journals, prayer requests, news updates and how to give to Japan relief, click here.