Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Report on Visit to Iwaki City

I was able to travel north yesterday to Iwaki City, which sustained significant damage in its coastal regions from the March 11 tsunami. It also is near the Fukushima nuclear reactors, but just outside the 20 kilometer evacuation zone. Here are a few thoughts on this experience:

Karen Darda, a friend and teammate, asked me to accompany her as a second driver. Our task was to bring three MTW relief work assessors to Iwaki City so they could determine whether there is a need for medical help from American doctors, health professionals, and counselors. We visited two churches, with whom they could potentially partner, as well as three shelters for people who lost their homes to the tsunami. We left at 3:00 a.m., spending the entire day in Iwaki City.

The two churches we visited were both very happy to partner with MTW, to allow their facilities to be used for clinic work and volunteer housing. One church in particular was very encouraging. "Global Mission Outreach" (?) lost their church last year to a fire. About the same time, one of the young men from the church lost his father to a heart attack. The father owned a pachinko parlor (gambling), and the son inherited it. Instead of continuing the family business, he sold the large three-story building to the church for a low price. With this large facility, the church is now a beehive of activity helping victims around the city. The main floor (worship area) is filled with donated food, clothing, diapers, etc. During our time at the church, several trucks and vans arrived from churches in various parts of Japan, all of them loaded with donated supplies. As these were taken into the "warehouse," other supplies were being taken to shelters in all parts of the city. The second floor office area was also a flurry of activity for church and relief workers.

(Pastor) Mori-sensei spent several hours with the MTW assessors answering many questions, bringing us to three shelters, and even meeting with the mayor of the city (population 350,000) to confirm that foreign medical workers would be welcomed -- something Japan has never allowed in the past. It was wonderful to see the church respond to the many needs of the earthquake/tsunami victims. And yet the need is so great in Iwaki City and for hundreds of miles up the coast.

The first evacuation shelter we visited was an elementary school gymnasium. Approximately 350 people had been housed here immediately after the tsunami. Ten days later, 255 people remained. It was a cold, drizzly day as people of all ages sat or layed on futon mattresses in the cold gym. They looked so hopeless; I can only imagine what they were thinking about: the terrifying experience of the tsunami; the homes, photos, and many things they had lost; the people they had lost or had not yet heard from; what they would do next, and when they would be able to start trying to piece their lives back together.

I spoke with one woman about my age, Hiromi. I asked if her home had been destroyed. She said it had not been, but that it was all wet as the tsunami wave had reached her home. She was there at the time and said it was terrifying, tears welling up in her eyes as she spoke. All I could say is "I'm so sorry."

As we left the gymasium, one of the community leaders made an announcement about who we were. (All eyes had been fixed on us, as we were the only diversion at the time, and foreigners nonetheless.) At the conclusion of the announcement, everyone applauded for us and bowed with gratitude that they had not been forgotten. Outside the gym, about twenty people were busy cooking the first hot meal that these people would have in ten days.

We then visited a beautiful municipal performing arts center where about 100 people were sleeping in the lobby and hallways. It was warmer here, and there were several televisions -- all playing news of the earthquake and tsunami, something that can only further depress these weary people.

The final shelter was a community sports complex, also with about 100 people. The gym was very cold, but the children here had room to run around and play. About five young children quickly ran over to us and said "hello!" That was the extent of their English, but I enjoyed watching Karen speak enthusiastically with them. She reported that they did not talk about their recent experiences, but asked her "Did the earthquake come to your house? Did it make everything a mess?" Although they asked serious questions, it was wonderful to see these kids behaving as normal kids. Yet I know that they will have many bad dreams and other trauma from their experiences and the fear that they have seen in their parents.

We arrived home at 10:45 p.m. It was a long day, but certainly helps me appreciate the magnitude of the disaster, the generosity of Japanese Christians, and the incredible opportunity that we all, as Christians, have to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with the people of Japan. For this is truly the only thing that can heal the lives of the people and bring eternal peace to their souls and significance to their lives.

Soli Deo Gloria.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Japan Relief Work - Report from Dan Iverson

Dan Iverson, my missionary team leader, went to Fukushima with several others on Monday in a rented truck to deliver water, gas, blankets, clothing, and various supplies to the victims of the earthquake and tsunami. These supplies were gathered from our team, the Oyumino Church, families from the Christian school, and even non-Christian neighbors. A second trip was made on Tuesday with two trucks. Dan's report on his trip is below:

Dear Family and friends,

Three of us went north into the devastated areas Sunday midnight with a packed 2-ton rental truck with 1,000 liters of water, gasoline, blankets, food, warm clothes, etc, that our church members and lots of non-Christian friends donated. People were most desperate for water. We distributed supplies to a small church we had contacted, to an elementary school housing displaced people, and drove around the town (Ueda town, Iwaki City, Fukushima Prefecture) giving water to people. People were so grateful.

[Before we drove north] Many were saying we should not go in, for various reasons. As we prayed, discussed, gathered supplies, and loaded them into the late hours of the night Sunday, we felt led to go. People are fleeing south as we go north. Some people really fear what may happen with a nuclear meltdown or another Tsunami (as some pretty big tremors keep coming, the radio keeps on saying that if you are on the coast, where we were, to always be aware of roads inland to flee to higher ground, which we did). And the radio is often saying the government does not want volunteers in there getting in the way of the professionals and possibly becoming victims themselves who need to be evacuated.

We were so glad we went. We saw almost no official relief supplies coming in where we were. We saw no self-defence force troops bringing relief until we were heading home south as 15 self defense force supply trucks passed us coming north. The exhausted city hall official lady in her late twenties in charge at the elementary school with 100 displaced people living there was so thankful we did not listen to those warnings not to come (which I understand the need for), and was so grateful, and [she will be] a good future contact for several spheres. She was surprised that we were from a church, and wanted us to thank everyone who sent things. She wanted us to bring more, and to bring people to help her with so many people, especially the many older people who were there because they did not have the strength or means to flee.

People were so desperate for water that when we ran out, they wanted the not-so-clean spill-over can water. It was very sad to run-out with people still coming with plastic bags and trash cans and anything they could bring to get water.

I could not help but think:
  • May the Japanese people come to thirst like this spiritually, and be this desperate seeking Living Water (Isa. 55:1-2; John 4).
  • May they flee to higher ground . . . to The High Rock (Ps. 61:2).
  • May a tsunami of grace, wave after wave, flood Japan (Ezek. 47; John 1:16)
[We] just had a fairly large tremor and not one person around me even made a comment about it. They have become so common place. May God so shake Japan spiritually, and may the Japanese people be humbled to desperately seek the Living Water God offers in Christ.

Please pray also as we begin working today on a long-term plan. Our thousand liters Monday and 2,000 liters today praying with and talking with a few was like a drop in the Pacific -- so little for such great great need. And, of course, we are praying and dreaming and talking about how God might use this disaster, and us, for a new WAVE of effective evangelism and church planting in the affected area, and throughout all of Japan?

Thanks for praying for places to go serve. We now have two Japanese churches in the affected area to possibly partner with long-term in their area to help them in their witness as we help people in their communities. The city hall lady above, Ms. Yamamoto, has access to lots of information and officials. And she likes us.

Please give and pass the word on how to give to the relief effort. I have already spent $2,000-$3,000* of my money renting trucks, buying gas cans, truck fuel, water tanks, needed supplies, etc, and it is a drop in the bucket to what we will spend, and what will be needed to do what needs to be done in the weeks and months ahead. (*I have not had a minute to see exactly how much I have spent, nor do we even know yet officially where all the money will come from. But we do know we need to act now and worry about all that later.)

More later, but wanted to get this out to you.


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Japan Earthquake Relief

If you would like to help bring comfort and the gospel to the victims of the Japan earthquake and tsunami, Mission to the World is accepting donations and arranging for their "Minuteman" first response team to go to Japan. You can contribute online or by sending a check. Here is how you can help:

Online Giving:
Mission to the World
P.O. Box 116284
Atlanta, GA 30368-6284
* Please be sure to write "Project #93993 on the memo line.

For more information about MTW's Minuteman Response, click here:
Dan Iverson, my team leader, and two Japanese men left at midnight in a rented truck loaded with water, gas, and various supplies for the victims of the earthquake and tsunami. They arrived at 5:30 a.m. in Iwaki, about 30 miles south of the Fukushima nuclear reactor that exploded. They are partnering with a church there to distribute supplies to evacuees who are staying in an elementary school. Our hope is to continue partnering with this church in the next year so that together we may be the gospel through our compassion and through our words.

Reports continue to worsen, with estimates of 10,000 killed in the tsunami. Prime Minister Kan has stated that this is the most serious crisis to hit Japan since World War II.

Please continue to pray that God will work in the hearts of thousands, and even millions of Japanese people, that they might become a new generation of Christians and that Japan might become a missionary-sending nation!

Friday, March 11, 2011

March 2011 Newsletter

In This Edition:
  • Japan Earthquake
  • Open House English Ministry Growth
  • Crossway College Ministry