Friday, March 25, 2011

Update from Asian Access Missionary

Over the past week, I've been using this blog as a place to gather letters and stories from missionaries serving in Japan following the March 11th earthquake and tsunami. The following letter comes from a missionary serving with Asian Access and provides yet another glimpse into the heroic work being done in the name of Christ in Japan.


Dear praying friends,

Well, Day 5 for me is winding down. Not a terribly exciting day for me, but my heart is tired.

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.

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."

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 daily journal. 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.


If you'd like to read more about the ministry of Asian Access, you can find them here:  www.asianaccess.org

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The latest from our team in Nagoya

A Church Planting Journey in Japan: Miracles all around us: "Everyone can see the miracle stories...like the amazing rescue seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ut_8grfciOoOr the heart breaking pi..."

Monday, March 21, 2011

Here's a link to a very helpful article about the media-hype surrounding the Fukushima Reactor Problems.  I don't know much about this writer (or the magazine), so my posting it here isn't meant to be an "endorsement".  Use your own discretion.  http://bit.ly/i7gCsE

Quick Update from the Newsomes (Team Leaders in Nagoya)

"...here are the bare facts: Wayne, Moto and Goto san got back safely last night from Iwaki, Fukushima; today Peter and two pastors are taking our first trip to Sendai, and our next trip leaves tomorrow...we need prayer for safety and wisdom in the midst of all of this. Thank you friends!"

Saturday, March 19, 2011

‎"Over the years I've often described our mission in Japan as praying and preparing for the day of opportunity in Japan."

Michael Oh
President of Christ Bible Institute
Nagoya, Japan



Video from MTW's Disaster Response

MTW - Disaster Response in Japan from Go Global on Vimeo.

Update from Tom and Teresa Wilson (our team in Nagoya)


*** The following appeared on MTW's web site today (03/18/11).  Just noticed that the Newsomes have also posted a parallel update on their site at http://newsomesinjapan.blogspot.com/2011/03/theyre-back-and-next-shipment-will-be.html?spref=fb


Dear friends,

Thanks so much for your prayers.  Tom just got back home safely a few minutes ago.  The shipment was successfully made and they are all safe.  Praise God.

After driving several hours yesterday, they slept on the ground in sleeping bags at a rest area in Ibaraki Prefecture and then traveled on.  As they traveled they got a call from our MTW country director saying that they could not go beyond the 50 mile radius from the nuclear plant that the American government has set, according to our sending agency, Mission to the World.  One option was to take the load to another place instead, but the Japanese pastor volunteered to drive on alone.  So Tom and Wayne waited in a city just outside the 50-mile radius while the Japanese pastor made the delivery.  Praise God for safe travels and for getting the supplies to the people desperately waiting there.

Our church is continuing to gather goods for more and more trips.  Another truck will go out tomorrow night, this time most likely to one of the places in Sendai that was one of the hardest hit by the tsunami.  It was very hard to find trucks, but the LORD has provided and we are gearing up for the upcoming trips.  More and more people are bringing things to send.  People are thrilled to be able to send things.  God is using His Church as a 'city on a hill' in the community.  A couple of camera men from a news station even were there all day yesterday as the truck was prepared to leave.   We pray God will use all this for His glory here.

May God continue to bless and have mercy on the desperately hurting people here and strengthen His Church to show glory in beautiful and compassionate ways.

God bless you and keep you,

Tom, Teresa & Ian Wilson
MTW Missionaries to Japan

Friday, March 18, 2011

For Such a Time as This

A month ago, one of the most common things we heard from both individuals and churches went something like this:  “We appreciate that God is calling you to Japan, but missions in Japan isn’t really on our radar right now.”  Things have changed
      Now, Japan is on the front of all our minds.  We’ve been humbled by the power of God’s creation and driven to our knees to pray for people whose lives have been changed forever.  Our missionaries on the field are doing heroic work as they labor  to the point of exhaustion and drive directly into harm’s way (even under radioactive fallout) to deliver basic necessities to those who are suffering. 
      In the midst of the tragedy, our teammates have been constantly reminding us of the realities that CNN doesn’t cover and we so easily forget:  that Japan’s spiritual condition is just as tragic as her present physical circumstances.  It’s terrible that so many have died as a result of this single catastrophic event.  But it’s even more tragic to reflect on the fact that 99.5% of those who have lost their lives will stand before God alone, without Christ (since less than 0.5% of Japanese people are Christians).  It’s horrific to hear that men and women are suffering from thirst because of polluted water systems, but it should also stir us to action that so many human beings – made in the image of God are also dying of Spiritual thirst when we have rivers of living water to share with them.  In the words of our country director, Dan Iverson:  “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).”  Amen! 
      Some of you have asked whether this disaster causes us to rethink our decision to move to Nagoya.  If anything, it has only strengthened our resolve.  The LORD over the earthquake and tsunami has also shaken our family and called us to help plant a network of new churches in Nagoya.  And miracle of miracles, he’s actually made us want to go take the Gospel to the Japanese!  I can’t stress enough how amazing it is that God has made our self-centered hearts break for Japan!  Is it safe?  Probably not.  But neither is it safe here in Asheboro, NC.  Natural and man-made disasters only underscore the fact that there is only one place of real refuge – and that place is found only in Christ.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

From Amy Newsome of our Precious Nagoya Team

Dear Friends,

About four hours ago, after a intense effort over the last few days, our team/church/presbytery sent our first truck to the disaster area filled with supplies:  food, water, fuel, blankets, medicines and other supplies.  Wayne, Pastor Mamoru Otake and team member Tom Wilson are driving.  Their destination is Iwaki, Fukushima.  This city is on the southern edge of the disaster area.  Based on the information from our Chiba team, who had just returned as we were loading, we were able to prioritize certain types of items, and so feel confident that we sent exactly what will help them the most at this point.  It’s been a blessing to share information and resources with one another, and have a more effective operation because of it.

Our team has managed to find rental trucks through the end of March.  So as soon as that truck pulled out, we began turning our minds toward the next trip, which hopefully can take place next Monday.  Our bodies are not as cooperative—we are very tired.   I really wish I could put my thoughts together more effectively.  There is much more to tell you; but for now I need to rest.  

We are aware of the voluntary evacuation flights the US government is offering.  We are around 400 km from the nuclear reactors in Fukushima.  At this point, we are not expecting to have to evacuate.  But we know how quickly the situation can change, and so we are taking precautions, such as gathering our documents. 

I can’t express how much we covet your prayers right now.  Please forgive me for the lack of information in this letter—we just need you to pray, so I wanted to get this out, regardless of how inadequate it may be.

Your sister in Christ,

Amy Newsome

3/16/11 Update from Country Director, Dan Iverson:


10am  Japan time (13 hrs ahead of east coast time)

Dear Family and friends, 

Thank you so much for praying!  We have been going north to help where we can, and just a few minutes ago, we located a Japanese pastor, a good friend of ours, who is just 8km outside the evacuation zone, in a city with over 5,000 evacuees who are receiving very little govt assistance.  We are mobilizing today for a trip tonight to take as much as we are able.  The critical need is gasoline to get there, water, and diesel fuel for those there who could help but don't have any way to transport help.  We particularly need gas cans to transport the gas...all supplies of everything here in Chiba are gone because of panic (grocery shelves empty, gas lines for hours, all containers for water, gas, etc. GONE).  Just yesterday our MTW team in Nagoya began mobilizing to bring abundant supplies from there, but we just learned that in the last 12 hours, the same panic response has left them in the same situation.  We trust the LORD will supply as we go out today to gather what is needed.  Please pray for this effort...this pastor and his church are committed to stay until the end for their city and the glory of God; may God be exalted! 

In the strength of our Sovereign,
Carol (helping Dan with email tsunami)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

3/15/11 Update from Country Director, Dan Iverson:


I copied the following from MTW's web site.

Three of us went north into the devastated areas Sunday at midnight with a packed two-ton rental truck with 1,000 liters of water, gasoline, blankets, food, warm clothes, etc, that many people donated.  We distributed supplies to a small church, an elementary school housing displaced people, and drove around town (Ueda town, Iwaki City, Fukushima Prefecture) giving water to people.  We found that 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 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 serve people in their communities.   
More later, but wanted to get this out to you.

Dan

*** Another good source of information from the field comes from Wayne and Amy Newsome's blog (link in the left-hand column below, scroll down). 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Update from the field

First very successful run to Iwaki returned about 5:30 PM.(Monday afternoon - Japan time)

From MTW Missionary Bob Drews:
  • We were able to deliver 1000 l of water and 60 l of fuel to Iwaki-Shi.  A school/shelter near the church was housing 100 people who have no water, so most of the supplies were left with them.  The young prefectural officer in charge was extremely grateful.  No official help or supplies had arrived, so this was a great blessing.
  • At this point, it appears that shuttling supplies to this community would be beneficial and feasible. 
  • Two teams with two rented trucks are going up again tonight, primarily with water. Dan was able to find several more large portable water tanks to use so two trucks are needed for the additional supplies.
  • One team will return immediately, the second will remain a bit longer.
  • Seima (Japanese pastor) will be leading this group, with Rich Rainsford also participating as "pathfinder" since he went with the first group. 
  • It should be noted that this is a thoroughly Japanese Church/MTW team joint effort.  Most of the supplies and loading help have been provided by Japanese Church Members. 
  • We escaped the "rolling blackouts" today, but they've been announced again for tomorrow.  There are also additional reports of core meltdown at Fukushima reactors.  This is 50 Km from our target work area.

Perspective.


The images on television this past weekend have been sobering, and I’m sure you - like our family - have been moved to tears and stirred to pray for the people of Japan. I've been traveling in the midwest this past weekend, and it's been hard to stay up to date on all of the news from the field. This evening, I'm getting caught up and wanting to share some thoughts.

To put the spiritual darkness of Japan in perspective, Japan averages about 90 suicides per day. As I'm writing this paragraph, the official death toll stands at 2400, and that is still small compared to what the number may be in the end. Of course, this is TRAGIC AND HEARTBREAKING. In a single day, thousands died.  Tens of thousands lost everything.  And every news outlet in the world is reporting round the clock (and it's right for them to do so). But, it's also tragic and heartbreaking that this very rich, first-world country is so spiritually poor and so many are without hope. As we watch the news, we need to also remember that a normal month in the life of Japan brings 2700 suicides...and it doesn't make the news.

Statistics can be a bit sterile, but they can also help us get the lay of the land.  Here are some statistics provided by one of our leaders from the field this week:

"The areas affected by the earthquake and tsunamis...are some of the most spiritually needy places in Japan. With over 4.9 million people yet only about 9,000 active Christians (about 0.15%; about 1/6 of 1%). Fukushima has the lowest average worship attendance in all of Japan with only 19 per church. There is one city and 44 towns with no church at all. There are 86 missionaries (adults, including husband and wife) assigned to these prefectures.  One town in Ibaraki has over 46,000 people with no church (Operation Japan, 24) and several others have over 24,000 people with no churches. Average attendance for all the churches in Japan is the lowest in Fukushima prefecture. Ibaraki prefecture has the least number of people claiming to have any religious beliefs."

So, join us as we pray for God to be merciful to Japan in this hour of need.  But don't stop by praying for physical relief.  Pray that men and women would turn from their idols to worship the true and living God who created them and loves them.  Ask God for true revival in this dark land that's in such desperate need of the peace and hope that only Christ can bring.

By the way - this is why we’re compelled to leave the relative comfort and familiarity of life in the U.S. to serve Christ in Japan.

Contributions to Japan through MTW

Mission to the World has issued a Minuteman Appeal for Japan. The situation is unclear, and will be for some time, but we are committed to making a strong response. We do know that God has placed us in a position of strength with the depth of our team, their broad presence, and long ministry history in Japan. Please join MTW and our Japan team in urgent prayer that God will open many hearts to the gospel and that His Church will grow.

The account is 93993 Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. You may give online: click here. Or you may send a check to:

Mission to the World
P.O. Box 116284
Atlanta, GA 30368-6284

(Please be sure to write Project # 93993 on the memo line. )
Thank you for loving the people of Japan in word and in deed.

Prayer request from Chiba

Dan, Dedachi and Rich Rainsford are leaving in about an hour to head north to a town named Iwaki, just 30 miles south of Fukushima (sight of the nuclear plant).  After much prayer and searching for a place to help, they were able to contact a pastor in Iwaki who has asked them to bring water and gasoline.  They have rented and loaded a truck with large tanks of water and about 60 liters of gasoline, along with a room-full of supplies like blankets, coats,  boots, food.  Their plan is to use back roads to enter some of the coastal areas, distribute all that they are able, establish contact with a few more area churches, then head back tomorrow.  If they are able to get through, they are planning for three more people to leave tomorrow with another truckload.  Our hope is to focus on these particular communities and continue supporting the recovery and rebuilding efforts long-term. 
Tonight  is a reconnaissance mission of sorts, borne from a meeting of the CRASH emergency response team of JEMA (Japan Evangelical Missionary Association).  Several other members are taking trains farther north, renting motorcycles, and hoping to do some recon of the hardest hit areas, then communicate needs back to the team.
Please pray with us.  Surely if the LORD has led, He will make a way for the truck and supplies to reach those who need them.  We are trusting that the roads will be passable - the pastor has told us that they are, but the Japanese government may not welcome volunteers and have the roads blocked.  There is also the imminent danger of a strong (7+) earthquake occurring in the next few days according to seismologists.  We continue to experience tremors regularly.  There is also the danger of radiation following the release of radioactive steam from the explosion yesterday.  Even though the government has said that there is no danger, the levels close to the plant rose to dangerous levels today.  We will be having "brown-outs" beginning tomorrow when we will be without electricity for several 4-hour periods.
Worship today was rich and helped us all to focus on our Sovereign, who is our only refuge, strength and ever-present help.  He who created the forces of nature dwells with His church and "will help her at the break of day."   We look for Him to be exalted in this nation, in these times, and pray that He who is with us would send us out to that end.(Ps 46)
Thank you for praying!

In His strength,
Carol (for Dan and team)

Dan Iverson is MTW's country director in Japan

Friday, March 11, 2011

Photos from Japan Earthquake...

Japan hit by 8.9-magnitude earthquake

Video from the Japan Earthquake and Tsunami - PRAY!

Our time in Muncie, IN

I'm writing this post from my hotel room in St. Louis.  It's been almost a week now since Gina, Joshua, and I pulled out from Asheboro on our way to spend time with our new friends at Westminster Presbyterian Church (WPC) in Muncie, Indiana.  It was a terrific weekend, and I regret that I didn't have presence of mind to take some pictures to share with you.

Our dear friend Gary Cox is the pastor at WPC.  In addition to officiating our wedding ceremony 15 years ago, Gary became my mentor at Meadowview Presbyterian Church as I went through seminary and afterwards began planting Grace Fellowship.  It was so good to see him again - and to get to know his precious wife, Rita.

WPC welcomed us warmly and fed us well (maybe too well).  Someone even thought to make a big bowl of grits for breakfast on Saturday in hopes of making us feel at home!  During the missions conference, I had several opportunities to share about our calling to help plant churches in the Japanese city of Nagoya, and it was obvious to us that our stories resonated with the congregation.  It was one of those special times where it seems like you've known a group much longer than just a few days.  They sent us away strongly encouraged and laden with gifts in the form of a very generous offering.  Thank you, Westminster!