Slow Recovery in Japan
It has been six weeks since Japan was rocked to its foundations by a deadly 9.0-magnitude earthquake. Over 1000 aftershocks—some quite strong—have added to the stress and frayed nerves of those living in the region. Although some put the death toll and the numbers of those missing at well over 28,000, the final death toll may never be known as thousands are still missing, most likely swept into the ocean by receding tsunami waves.
Years ago Fellowship International and WorldVenture (US) formed JBF (Japan Baptist Fellowship)—an association of churches in northeastern Japan—the area hit hardest by the earthquake/tsunami. Of the 83 churches in this association, 30 are located within a 95 km radius of the original quake’s epicenter. Our missionaries have been involved in various capacities in relief efforts to assist those churches and believers impacted.
Rob and Kathryn Fleming (Hitachinaka) have been working from the Hitachi church, 20 km away. The Hitachi church building, built 13 years ago by Canadian volunteers, sustained little damage in the quake and is now being used as a relief centre for those taking relief into the hardest hit areas. Rob, along with three other relief workers,took a trip into the area traveling to Iwaki City (location of many of the aftershocks) to deliver water and food.
Paul Sadler (Tsukuba) in late March traveled to Miyagi, hit hard by the quake and subsequent tsunami. He and other relief workers assisted in some of the cleanup in addition to taking supplies to those in greatest need. Another trip is planned this time to Ishinomaki and Kesennuma where association churches are located.
Steve Willson (Tokyo), along with others from Christian Academy in Japan, traveled to Sendai City with two van loads of supplies.
Pastor Minegishi is a shining example of God’s love in darkness. The pastor serves in Kesennuma. The church and his home, along with an estimated 80% of the city, were destroyed by the earthquake and tsunami. The damage is so extensive that city officials have stated that no rebuilding will be allowed for at least two years in light of ruined foundations and sea-drenched soil base. Yet in spite of this, Pastor Minegishi feels a strong calling and burden for the people of the city.
Mr. Sato, an older man, was literally overwhelmed by the amount of clean up needed in his house after tsunami waters receded. A crew, made up of 11 missionary and CRASH workers, came alongside Mr. Sato removing his belongings from the house and clearing out all the mud left by the tsunami. He had ten or more sacks of 30 kg of rice that were a total loss. He was so appreciative of the team’s help that he got the name of the church and promised to visit and give thanks. Although he had heard about the church's community volunteer work and had doubts, he accepted the help and was very, very grateful.
Each of our missionaries have their own personal experiences—cherished memories, stories they’ve heard of lives snuffed out by the deadly quake/tsunami, lives surrendered to the Lord in the days following the quake. One thing is for certain the—church of Christ in this region has not been destroyed. Personal accounts from a number of Christian survivors are a testament to the faithful Hand of God through an event with monumental impact.
Thank you to those who have already assisted with relief efforts in Japan. As of April 28th, $156,457 had been received. These funds are being used by Fellowship International missionaries in their local relief efforts and through JBF churches, and also by CRASH (Christian Relief, Assistance, Support and Hope) with whom our missionaries are also working.
Wendy MacDonell is Media Coordinator for The Fellowship.