International Ministries

One year and counting . . .

March 10, 2012 Journal
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We are grateful for the renewed interest in and support of Japan. Thank you for the gifts for relief and the prayers for people here. We thank you, the Japan Baptist Union thanks you, and the people of Japan thank you!

In Yokohama, we are feeling the after-effects of the tsunami and earthquake in things like continued vigilance in the conservation of energy resources and food recalls due to radiation contamination. But when we visited the temporary housing locations in Minamisanriku, 2 hours north of Sendai, it’s a totally different story. The broken buildings and debris left by the tsunamis have been consolidated into neat mountains of garbage, piles of tires, and neatly stacked ruined cars. The city has been replaced with….nothing. While earthquake survivors were able to rebuild their homes and businesses, tsunami evacuees (and radiation evacuees in other areas) struggle with the big question mark of their future.

Local communities and the government are struggling with decisions about the WHERE of rebuilding in the tsunami affected areas. Until a consensus can be reached, residents are in limbo.

            We heard that 1 year after the earthquake in Kobe, the rate of suicides went up. Perhaps that is what will happen now in Tohoku. A pastor we know, who experienced the Kobe quake, is now ministering in Tohoku. He is committed to walking alongside the people so they won’t feel alone and abandoned. He has been purchasing and delivering food since the tsunami. He’s followed the people from the temporary shelters to the temporary housing locations.

            We are attempting to walk alongside him as he struggles to discover God’s answer and plan for each new phase. What does “help” look like? While people in temporary housing may be offered more material goods, the lack of space in each unit limits the amount of things they can actually store and use. What is the best way to deal with donated goods? Survivors are seeking answers to the problems they face but some pastors have been blocked from further visits to temporary housing locations when someone in authority feels threatened by “religious” activity. How can the good news of Christ be effectively and non-threateningly shared?

Japan is learning about volunteerism. Japanese young people are joining volunteer efforts to clean up and rebuild in Tohoku. Students from Soshin Girls School talked about how their experience in Tohoku changed their minds about doing volunteer work. Originally, they were reluctant to participate in a work trip, but they came back on fire to go again.

            Of course, not everyone is excited about helping strangers. There is apathy and selfishness, too. However, we believe the witness of the many Christians who continue to give, to travel and serve and to listen to the stories of survivors has paved the way for a miraculous work of God in Tohoku. Our friends share with us stories of opportunities they have had to listen to and pray with survivors as they have volunteered. International visitors also have been coming to share their time, musical talents, building skills, and sweat.

            Please keep praying. Pray for people like our pastor friend who struggles to find God’s preferred action. Ask the God of the harvest to send workers and that the harvest will be plentiful! Only God can turn a disaster around for His glory. We are praying for the salvation of Japanese people and revival in Japan.

"The condition for a miracle is difficulty. For a great miracle is impossibility" Angus Buchan from “Faith Like Potatoes.”