This section contains blog posts made by a variety of guest writers—A2/SIM USA staff serving either in Japan or on home assignment in North America, as well as pre-field candidates preparing for service in the near future.
Contributors include: Erik Boehme, Kathryn Borba, Tim Clark, Faith De La Cour, Kent Muhling, Elliott Snuggs, Eric Takamoto, Sue Takamoto, Takeshi Takazawa, Dorrie Takazawa, Peter Thomson, Mary Jo Wilson, Michael Wilson, Dee Wirz and others.
On Monday April 4, the Chick-Fil-A in Valencia, California promoted disaster relief in Japan through Asian Access. From 6:00 - 9:00 PM, 15% of all sales were set aside for Asian Access's relief efforts. In addition, people could make direct donations.
David, the brother of Asian Access missionary Peter Thomson, made all the arrangements including a live band. Chick-Fil-A threw in some give aways for those who donated.
Mary Jo and Mike Wilson along with myself attended to meet and greet those coming for the event. Several local churches promoted the event, and it was in the newspaper as well.
We are thankful for Chick-Fil-A hosting this opportunity. Stay tuned for possible future opportunities!
SENDAI, JAPAN (A2) - Peter Thomson, A2 missionary and CRASH/Japan volunteer, shares about being on one of the first assessment teams in Sendai and helping to establish a base camp in the relief zone. Part of his job is to find out the needs of people and relay that info to the local Japanese churches who are delivering aid and hope.
In this informative clip, Peter shares firsthand about the current situation on the ground, the involvement of local Japanese churches, and how you can be involved in this effort.
Thank you again for your many encouraging notes and promises of prayer. Reading them gives me a real lift. I’m glad to know that they are encouraging you to continue in prayer for the people of Japan.
Boat washed up against a building in Japan by the recent tsunami.
Today we went back to Kesennuma and brought supplies to the places we visited yesterday. It was a good day.
We went back to the evacuation center and brought some items they had asked for – boots and shoes, toothbrushes and toothpaste, clothesline and clothespins. Doesn’t sound like much, but they were needed, and much appreciated. The Japanese self defense force probably wouldn't bother to look for clothespins for one evacuation center, but that’s precisely the small need that a small outfit like us can fill. And, for those families living in a school gymnasium with no way to hang their clothes up to dry, it really matters.
The staff were quite surprised to hear that we had driven two and a half hours to make the delivery, and they were very appreciative.
Before the evac center we returned to the Baptist church with the kindergarten, who had asked for supplies for the children for their graduation tomorrow (Saturday). We brought 96 hygiene kits, one for each child.
But the best part of the trip was getting to sit down with the pastor of that church, along with his wife. We drank tea and talked for about 45 minutes. He is 76, and has been a pastor for 50 years – and still going strong. It was a great, encouraging time for all of us. The pastor and his wife appreciated so much that we would stop and take the time to see how they were doing, encourage them, and offer our help in any way we could.
Before we left we prayed with them, and they both had tears in their eyes when we were finished. We all felt so good to have been able to minister to them in that way.
– I’ve been thinking about what we’ve been doing up here, and it’s changing my perspective about "ministry" a little. I've been taught to focus on sharing the gospel and making disciples, and rightly so, I think. But it is easy to turn that focus into an agenda that pushes out other important aspects of who I am supposed to be as a follower of Christ.
What I mean is: In the past I would not have thought much about simply sitting down to listen to a pastor for his encouragement. "Real" ministry would have been to teach or equip, not just listen and small talk.
I would not have thought much about bringing relief supplies if there we no opportunity to share the gospel. "Real" ministry would be sharing the supplies and the gospel message.
Japanese church damaged by recent tsunami.
Please don’t misunderstand me – I do want to take every possible opportunity to be a witness for Christ, to share the gospel, to tell others that the reason we’re helping is that the love of Christ compels us.
The question is: what if there is no opportunity to give a verbal witness? Is it still worthwhile to do mercy ministry? My answer earlier might have been, "I've been called to make disciples and so I won't get involved if there’s no opportunity to share the gospel."
But now I’ve begun to think not only in terms of what I’ve been called to do, but who I’ve been called to be.
I am called to love my neighbor as myself. Period.
I am called to feel compassion and respond as the Good Samaritan did when he helped the man on the road. Period.
I am called to "do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith" (Gal 6:10). Period.
Again, I DO want to share the gospel every chance I can, and be a witness whenever I can. But even if I can't witness with words, I am still supposed to love my neighbor, show compassion, and do good to everyone as I have opportunity, and especially to other believers.
That's what we did today, and it felt good to do so. I hope that through our efforts, Japanese people will come to understand that Christians are compassionate, loving people.
May we truly be the people God wants us to be, so that our verbal witness will be supported by our life witness.
Please pray that through our presence and example, Japanese Christians will be encouraged to reach out and BE the people He wants them to be.
"By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:16-18).
That’s what's on my mind and heart tonight. But now it's time to put my head on a pillow, so -
Well, Day 5 for me is winding down. Not a terribly exciting day for me, but my heart is tired.
A ship was washed up on shore.
This morning we drove about 3 hours north of Sendai to the city of Kesennuma. We had heard that the evacuation centers were short on supplies such as toothbrushes and other hygiene items.
This time the reports we true, and no one had yet brought anything. Our van load, even with the extra load on the roof rack, wasn’t enough, but it was a good start, and the folks working there were very encouraged to know that someone cared and that more were coming.
We told them we were a group of Christian volunteers who had come from various parts of the country to help, because we cared about the people in the affected areas. We also told them that many Christians, in Japan, in America, and all over the world, were praying for them.
I had a chance to talk a bit longer with one of the ladies working there, and was able to encourage her a little more. She seemed so genuinely grateful that someone cared enough to come, to help, to listen.
I assured her that the God we Christians worship – the God who created heaven and earth – really hears and answers our prayers, and that we would definitely be praying.
Houses were crushed like a handful of crackers and then scattered across the entire valley
From there we drove further north toward Ofunato. Along the way we passed some of the very hardest hit areas. That was kind of hard. An entire little valley, a whole community, was crushed like a handful of crackers and the pieces were strewn across the valley. Wood, concrete, steel, furniture, cars, everything – destroyed beyond recognition, mixed together, and scattered everywhere.
Then there was the family, a mom and 3 children, looking through the wreckage where their house once stood, looking for anything belonging to them that they could salvage.
I was able to talk with the woman, much as I had spoken at the evacuation center. She, too, seemed really thankful for my stopping to talk with her.
In Ofunato we visited a church and made contact with the pastor there. They were fine but their sister church’s building was destroyed, and about half of the members are unaccounted for.
The third church we visited also runs a kindergarten, and they asked if we could get them supplies to give each of the for 90 children for their graduation on Saturday. A hygiene kit is a strange present to give as a graduation present, but then this is a strange time. Imagine:
"Congratulations on finishing kindergarten! Here are are 5 toothbrushes, 3 razors, and some soap."
Picking through supplies at a relief center.
Our last stop was the evacuation center where some of the journalists with us had stayed to get stories. There I ran into an elderly man who invited me to sit by him and we talked. His house and the entire surrounding neighborhood had been washed away by the tsunami, but his family were all safe. He hopes to rebuild on the site where his house was, and live there again.
The best part of the day was having those conversations, short though they all were. I wished I’d had more time each time, to listen longer and share more.
The hardest part was seeing all the destruction firsthand. It made nearing people’s stories come alive that much more. It one’s heart heavy, hearing about what they’ve been through and feeling genuine concern for them. It makes your heart heavy to drive along the picturesque coastline and then see community after community utterly destroyed. Clothes hanging 30 feet up in the trees where the wave left them. Immense piles of scrap wood that were once houses. Cars crushed under the hulls of boats, both lying in the street next to a blown out storefront. Piles of debris higher than the roof of the car lining both sides of the road all the way through the center of town.
The only time I cried was when I was sitting in the car, trying to understand the request for supplies the evacuation center had given us. I wondered, "Why are they asking for rubber boots and backpacks?" Then I realized… they wanted to walk back down the hill through the wreckage to search for their belongings, anything they could find that had not been destroyed. When I thought about what that must be like…
Still makes my heart heavy.
Time for bed.
Thank you, if you’ve read this far, for listing to what I guess is turning into something like a journal for me. Thank you for praying. Please ask that the Lord would use us here to make a significant difference in the lives of the Japanese living here.
Has it really only been 3 days since we arrived in Sendai? Feels like much longer. Whew.
Two Houses Standing in the Rubble
Yesterday and today were more visits to churches and evacuation centers, trying to assess needs and figure out where we can be of help. The situation changes daily. We hear of a place in need of water, for example, and by the time we get there we find that the Japanese self-defense forces have showed up and are delivering water daily.
Or we visit a church to find out what they might need, and when we get there a Samaritan's Purse truck is just pulling away.
This can be frustrating, until I remind myself that the important thing is that people’s needs are being met, and for that I rejoice!
Not just we, but others with significant disaster relief in lesser-developed countries expected the situation to be in emergency mode for a longer time. But the Japanese government and self-defense forces have years of experience in disaster preparation, and they are very, very good. What they have been able to do in just 2 weeks compared to a country like Haiti is truly remarkable. In many cases, by the time an outside organization hears of a need and mobilizes to meet it, the Japanese have already gotten it done.
At least that has been our limited experience.
Our team is realizing that the best contribution we can make is in more long term support of churches, equipping them and coming alongside as they begin clean-up and rebuilding, and offering church leaders and members the encouragement and spiritual care that they sorely need.
We have seen that our visits to local churches in the affected areas have been a real encouragement to the pastors – just listening, asking questions, offering assistance (but not coming in with an agenda of "here's what we want to do for you"), and praying with them.
Think about it – in such a time as this, who will care for a pastor, when everyone expects him to care for others? And how will we partner with churches if their leaders are stressed, depressed, and unable to imagine offering help to others?
I think these visits have been as helpful as the food, water, and other items we have delivered to those in need. They are paving the way for future ministry as they get to know us and trust develops. Again this might not be necessary in another culture, but in first-world Japan, this is how things work. Typically little can happen without a trust relationship being built.
That's it for me tonight. But I do want to share with you some very poignant pictures of the coast where the destruction was severe. Our team leader took some pictures and posted them on his blog, along with his own reactions to what he saw. Very similar to my own.
Thank you again. Please continue praying for the people of Japan, and that God would grant us opportunities to share His love and His salvation during this time of unprecedented need and, I believe, opportunity.