Beauty out of the Ashes
Generous Giving Extending the Gospel Amidst Japan’s Triple Disaster
A pastor recently shared with me his conversation with a Buddhist priest. This priest was moved by the church’s volunteer work in the community and said to him, “When I’m re-born, I think I’d like to become a Christian.” To this the pastor of course replied, “If you become a Christian, you can be born again now!” These are indeed unusual times.
Anyone familiar with the history of mission efforts in hard-to-reach Japan can testify that the “triple-disaster” (earthquake, tsunami, radiation) has presented the church with a unique opportunity to show the love of Jesus Christ and the hope of his Gospel. And the generous giving of Canadian churches and individuals to FAIR (Fellowship Agency for International Relief) is multiplying these efforts in exciting ways.
In the early days of the crisis, as people asked about our needs, our first priority was to assure that all of our missionaries were safe and provided for. It’s hard to think about ministry when you have a notice from city hall saying that your wall is a liability to passers-by and needs to be repaired as Rob and Kathryn Fleming experienced. FAIR funds ensured first of all that the personal losses of Fellowship missionaries incurred in the earthquake were covered.
Next it was critical that we “love our neighbours” and be sensitive to the needs of people directly related to our ministries. FAIR funds were used to contribute to the repair of a widowed neighbour’s roof, which had been critically damaged in the quake. FAIR funds also purchased a replacement pump for a Christian farmer who had burned out his water pump selflessly serving thousands of litres of water from his well each day during the ten day water stoppage in Hitachinaka.
FAIR funds have also made possible on-going relief trips into heavily affected coastal areas. Fellowship missionaries have mobilized and led national and international teams since early on in the relief effort doing everything from delivering food, water, school supplies, Bibles, tracts and other evangelistic materials, to shoveling mud from tsunami-ravaged homes, to cleaning drainage sewers, putting on barbeques for relief shelter residents and hosting evangelistic events.
In Ishinomaki, I first visited a tsunami relief shelter in April and delivered rice cookers, hair dryers and Bibles to its residents. There I met a local leader who was active in relief efforts and he shared a need to replace baseball equipment for teams hit by the tsunami. In Tsukuba, our church worked to mobilize local teams in donating equipment and purchased new whatever we weren’t able to collect. When I returned in May I shared a vision to put on baseball camps for teams whose equipment we had replaced.
In August that dream became a reality with two baseball camps in Ishinomaki and Onagawa that involved baseball-themed activities but also a clinic put on by a former member of the Japanese national team, and a demonstration and talk by professional power hitter Jose Fernandez of the Seibu Lions, both earnest Christians who shared their faith powerfully with the students.
In addition to work in which we are personally involved, FAIR funds have also been used to support the efforts of CRASH Japan, a Christian volunteer relief agency providing needed supplies to churches sharing food and water in the name of Christ. And FAIR money has gone to our Japanese church association's disaster relief fund which is helping to rebuild churches destroyed in the disaster as well as provide pastoral and financial support for church leaders who have suffered the most in the wake of March 11.
Finally one fifth of all FAIR funds have been set aside to support new church planting efforts in areas affected most by the triple disaster. While material needs are pressing, and follow-up evangelism is essential, unless new churches are formed the impact made by relief efforts will be short-lived. A number of leaders in our association have already contacted us with plans to build a church-planting strategy on their current relief activities. May God build his church in Japan and bring beauty out of the ashes in response to your generous giving and faith-filled prayers!