International Ministries

Bringing Joy to Earthquake Survivors in Japan

March 13, 2012 Journal
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Sixty-six year old Hidenori Ashikaga of the Kesennuma Baptist Church in Northeast Japan has always been connected with the Aiko Kindergarten at the church. Before he became a Christian he helped the children understand their environment and ecosystem. Through the influence he received during his visits to the kindergarten he became a Christian in 2006.

For a number of years, Mr. Ashikaga’s private company has been involved in the development of usages of effective Micro-Organism (EM), a natural product which stops the process of decomposition. His primary work was with environmentalists and farmers all over Japan. However, all this changed on March 11, 2011. Mr. Ashikaga’s home and business were totally wiped out, and his wife went missing.

 At 2:46 pm, Mr. Ashikaga was returning to Kesennuma from inland in his pickup truck. He felt the earthquake and turned on the radio to learn more about what was happening. Alarmed at the warning of a tsunami, he raced back the last 15 miles only to find out that it was too late. After making several attempts to approach the area where his house and business was, he turned back toward higher ground. There he spent a cold night in his truck, praying that he would find his wife alive, saying to himself, “I’m so sorry I cannot swim to rescue you.” For the next two days, he went from shelter to shelter checking the lists and searching through the rows of survivors. On the third day, suddenly he heard a knock on the window of his truck. It was his wife Kazuko!

Together they went to Kazuko’s mother’s home on higher ground. With no food and gas available, the Ashikagas’ often visited the church where there was food and warmth. But the depressing outlook began to overwhelm him. One day, Kazuko said “Cheer up, you at least have EM.” Actually, he had EM only in name—he had no equipment or customers. However, help was on its way through your gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing. Funds given for Japan relief were distributed to survivors at the church. When Mr. and Mrs. Ashikaga were given some money to begin to rebuild their lives, they were speechless. They had no idea that gifts from brothers and sisters in Christ in America would reach them and help them to begin to rebuild their life and livelihood. They left the church feeling the huge impact of God’s grace and were filled with joy at the thought that they were no longer alone.

The Ashikagas used some of the gift to meet immediate personal needs. Then Mr. Ashikaga used the remaining funds—and his environmental “know-how”—to go to various affected areas with EM environmentalists and volunteers to sanitize stinking shelter toilets, streets covered with dead fish and mold-covered-intact houses, dirty yet critical work for the health of survivors. All along the way, he shared his gift with others in need. “I felt God’s call to share my joy in service to others.” And by Mr. Ashikaga responding to that call, your gifts brought joy to not just one man and his wife, but also to many other survivors in Japan.