International Ministries

Smiles from Unity: Tohoku Disaster Trip #2

May 31, 2011 Journal
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Dear Friends,

 

Sometimes God allows me to plan things quickly, but not often. I made my second trip to Tohoku about 4 weeks ago. On Thursday, I asked my family if it would be OK to make a trip for 5 days. They were ready to help and do what was needed. I called my friend, Tomoki, who lives in Miyako, Iwate, and his parents were willing to have a couple of visitors. In those three days, God provided places to stay, a group to volunteer with, and a partner to travel with from Yokohama. I packed with my family’s help, loaded up the minivan, and began the journey on Saturday morning.

 

Our first stop was in Morioka city, Iwate prefecture, which is about an 8 hour drive from Yokohama. We stayed overnight and enjoyed Easter service at Morioka Christ Church, where our friend’s daughter and son-in-law are ministering.

 

In Morioka, I met Pastor Kondo and his family. He and his church, Morioka Bible Baptist Church, coordinate volunteers weekly to visit Miyako city, about two hours over the mountains on the coast of Japan. He arranged for us to work with a volunteer group from Hokkaido and let us stay at their base camp in Miyako.

 

With this volunteer group, I helped to pass out some food to tsunami survivors and do some clean-up of debris. The town we visited was Taro, about 40 minutes north of Miyako. Taro was nearly totally destroyed by the tsunami. Near Taro, it was reported that the wave reached a height of 124 feet, about 700 feet from the ocean, and was the largest ever in Japan’s history. At one point, half the residents of Taro, (population 1800) were missing. I met one elderly resident who lived up in the hills above Taro while delivering some food. She is the one smiling and eating the banana!

 

My heart breaks for them as they try to rebuild their lives. Electricity, water, and gas services were restored, and the roads are cleared, but their town is no more. Many are living in the evacuation centers and have no where to go since their homes were washed away. Their places of business are gone as well, so it is difficult to know how they can earn a living. Yet, people still have some hope and are not giving up.

 

At another location in Taro, our team helped clean up the debris from outside an elderly woman’s home. The work is difficult since the mud from the tsunami is heavy. The storm drainage channels were clogged and needed to be cleared. It took 10 people, 3-4 hours to clear the debris. She was so thankful afterward for our help and her smile was heartwarming.. It was a blessing to be of some service. One volunteer remarking on shoveling mud said, “This is the gospel!” because God reached down and saved us through Jesus Christ, so that we can be a help to others. Other members of the team talked with the woman and perhaps God will allow more opportunities to witness in the future.

 

What impressed me most in serving with this team, was their unity. These volunteers were Christians from many different churches who had not met before this trip. The churches in Hokkaido started a network in order to support the relief efforts in Tohoku. It is probably the first time these churches joined together to serve. Doesn’t the Bible say that in unity, the world will know that Jesus was sent by the Father (John 17:21)? I feel God is using this disaster to bring Christians together in Japan and around the world to serve and pray for the survivors. While this has been a devastating time for many in Japan, maybe it will be a time for revival. Many are still at risk from the trauma and loss.

 

Thank you for those who have given donations for the relief in Japan. Many have received help because of your generous gifts. Won’t you continue to support and pray for the people of Japan?

 

With Christ's Love,

Gordon