Thursday, March 31, 2011

The 2nd Trip - Day 4: Impressions     2度目の旅 4日目:印象

Thursday was our final day in the Tohoku area. Before we left, we had a chance to pray with the church that so graciously hosted us. Yoshiki Bell, the youngest member of our group, had to say good bye to new friends, but LORD willing, they will keep in touch and see one another again.

Pastor Jack Bell from Calvary Chapel Kamakura spent the drive home reflecting on the week's events. Here are some of his impressions on the trip to Ishinomaki.

"Like most people I watched the video clips of the tsunami taken as it was happening and saw the cars bobbing on water and houses being swept up in the current. It was like watching a movie with very realistic special affects. To see the place firsthand though, made a whole new impression on me.

The area is devastated. Many places look like landfills full of debris and tree trunks mixed with cars and boats scattered around. There is a damp, pervasive odor and gritty mud that seems to cover everything.

In the time that I have lived in Japan I have grown accustomed to the orderliness of the society. The people are very self sufficient, taking meticulous care of their belongings. Everything is kept in order and is always very, very clean. They never seem to be in need of anything. To see these people standing in line to get basic necessities was such a contrast from the norm.

Even before we arrived to set up shop in the Seven Eleven parking lot the people were gathering. We let people into our "store" to pick out 5 items each. Hannah played worship and there was a real sense if the peace of the Lord. It felt good to be able to minister to people and help meet their immediate needs. To give a coat to someone who is shivering and see someone delighted just to get a pair of gloves.

We are aware that their greatest need is spiritual. They need Jesus. We are praying that God would open their hearts to Him that they would be able to see their need for a Savior. That they would read the tracts and New Testaments that we gave them.

As God is using us to reach out in love to meet their physical needs there is a great opportunity to lead them to Jesus. Just as Jesus had His disciples feed the 5000 and then He taught them that He is the Bread of Life. Please pray for the people in Ishinomaki.
~Pastor Jack Bell
Calvary Chapel Kamakura


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Second Trip - Day 3: Meeting the Immediate Needs

The people in Ishinomaki are without water, gas or electricity.


Telephones are still out as well as cellular service.


Neighborhoods look like war zones in this post-tsunami world.


Today, the team parked the van and hit the pavement.

We walked through the streets inviting everyone we could find to an outreach event planned for Wednesday afternoon.


Along the way, we met so many people trying to pick of the pieces of what they once called home.


This man said he used to live right here on the corner, but no signs of a home even standing in this location can be found; even the foundation is gone.


In addition to an insurmountable amount of debris and rubble, the smell of dead fish invades the air.


Continuing on down the road, we saw a house still standing that surprisingly looked like it was OK.


If you look closely, you can see just how high the water rose by the lines left on the house. The top line just above the brown border around the house is the height the water reached initially. The lower mark at the bottom of the first story windows is where the water level remained until the flood waters receded. The home belongs to the Kawanami family. They purchased the house brand new 9 years ago. Although damage looked minimal from the outside, the inside was destroyed.


Mr. Kawanami graciously invited us in to show us the damage. The tsunami left behind deposits of sand and mud on both levels of the house.


Mr. Kawanami's favorite pastime is raising Bonzai trees. The tree he's holding is 20 years old.


Even though they weren't washed away, he said they will soon die due to the effects of salt water.


As they continued to talk, Mr. Kawanami shared how he has no words. When he opens his mouth to speak, all that comes out is a sigh. He has worked hard his whole life to establish his home, and now it's gone. To add insult to injury, his bicycle that he had salvaged from the rubble and was using for transportation, was recently stolen from his backyard. Pastor Chizuo then asked if he could pray with him. Without any resistance and a soft heart, he said yes. We were also able to pray with his wife and she hugged us with tears in her eyes and said thank you.


When we arrived at the outreach location in order to set up, we were stunned to find around two hundred people patiently waiting for us... ALREADY IN A LINE!!!


We worked fast to set out the boxes of jackets, pants, socks, noodles, diapers, etc.


Each person was able to take 5 items of their choosing.


Since we had 5,000 loaves of bread to give away, there was no limit on the amount each person could take home.


Hannah Sakurai sang worship music for the entire duration of the outreach. The music definitely set the tone of the event and gave us room to approach and talk to people with ease.


Kids read Christian manga while waiting in line and Joseph brought out his "Dochi Ooki" card trick to put smiles on faces and help pass the time. We had 300 Bibles with us to give away. Unfortunately, we ran out less than half way through the outreach!

子供たちは列に並んでいる間、聖書マンガを読んだり、ジョセフさんが子供たちに “どっちが大きい?マジックカード”を披露し、笑わせたりして時間を過ごしました。 私たちが用意していた300冊もの聖書は、残念な事に半分の時間も過ぎないうちに配り終えてしまいました。

While passing out cups of tea, Pastor Chizuo took the opportunity to talk with the people and get updated on their current needs.


Pastor Chizuo met this boy last week when he first set up a make shift store in this 7-Eleven parking lot. The boy arrived late and everything had been given away. Pastor Chizuo had a personal lantern that he brought with him from home. It was a gift from his family... and he had no plans on giving it up. However, when he saw that the boy had received nothing, the LORD began to tug at his heart and reminded him of the lantern he had in the back of the truck. The boy asked when Pastor Chizuo would be back. "Next week, " Pastor Chizuo replied. "What day next week?" said the boy. "Do you have a cell phone, I'll call you." "No, they don't work,” said the boy. Realizing once again how devastated this area is, Pastor Chizuo went to the back of the truck and handed the boy the lantern. "I'll be back next week some time. Pray that we will be able to meet again." The kid's face lit up!


This week, the boy heard about the outreach and was able to join us! Pastor Chizuo asked him if he wanted to help and he said yes. We put him to work and a few hours later, his family came looking for him. When they arrived, they told Pastor Chizuo that the lantern has been so helpful since they have no electricity and it's the only light they have after dark. Pastor Chizuo told them he had something else to give them. He had been praying that he would see the boy again and had brought a propane stove along with some meat for the boy and his family. They were overjoyed to say the least.


In addition to reaching out to the people of Ishinomaki, Pastor Chizuo was also able to reach within the local church and encourage two young men, Kenji and Toru. Pastor Chizuo met them during his first trip to the Tohoku area and challenged them to stay involved in the relief efforts taking place around them. We were blessed to have them labor alongside us today.


The outreach event was truly a blessing!


Praise God there were enough items for everyone!


Once we cleaned up, we headed over to another church in order to greet them and deliver some bread we had set aside for their congregation.


We returned home late… smelling of fish, tired and dirty. Tuesday night, we closed our eyes and could see nothing but destruction. But tonight was different. When we close our eyes, we see the faces of those we met today. We see the smiles that crossed their faces as they encountered the love of Jesus. We close our eyes and see hope.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The 2nd Trip - Day 2: Meeting Needs in Ishinomaki / 2度目の旅 物資を必要とする石巻の人々との出会い

We drove up to the devastated area of Ishinomaki where rubble is everywhere. "It doesn't even look like Japan," Yoko said from the back seat. She's right. There are no words to describe the ruin we witnessed. Boats on streets, cars in water... a train car flipped and twisted on the side of the road without any train tracks in sight. Families who have chosen to return to what's left of their homes are now working hard to bring their living spaces back into living condition.


One woman stood with tears telling us how everything happened so fast and life or death was decided within minutes. She ran from her home with nothing but the clothes on her back. As we opened the truck and handed her over a box of bread and other necessities, her eyes filled with tears again and she just smiled and said thank you. We told her that Jesus sees her hurt and the devastation. He knows the problems she's facing and He loves her so much that He's sending people across her path to help her. She wiped her tears and said, "Thank you, that gives me life."


The men of this family were busy cleaning as we drove down their street. The man in red was without a jacket and had doubled his shirts in order to stay warm. They humbly received jackets, socks, and undershirts as well as a Bible.


As we were getting ready to leave the neighborhood where the men were working, another family member with a baby arrived. She was blessed to be greeted with a box of bread and diapers!


Through a network of friends, this couple's daughter heard that Pastor Chizuo was helping out in her family's area. She drove 90 minutes from her home in Yokohama to Pastor Chizuo's house in Tokyo in order to ask for help in delivering medicine, food and other necessities to her family. The team was able to deliver 3 huge boxes of food and supplies to them directly from their daughter! Although the daughter is a Christian, her parents and brother are not. Please pray for their salvation.


This man is the leader of a community of about 500 people. Their small area was protected by a raised railroad track that served as a barrier from the force of the tsunami. Although most of their stuff was washed away, their houses are still standing. Please keep him in prayer as many are looking to him for leadership in this overwhelming situation.


It was incredible to witness how cultural barriers have been torn down in this time. As we went along today, many people were very open, very receptive and very thankful for the help they received. Amy hugged three ladies and couldn't believe the genuine hugs that she received in return. Japan is not an affectionate nation and one would never invade the personal space of someone they had just met. So, to have the opportunity to physically reach out to someone was incredibly special!


Of course, this openness has come with a breaking and so we must continue to pray now more than ever for the Japanese people!


Monday, March 28, 2011

The 2nd Trip - Day 1: New Team, Same Heart.

By Monday afternoon, we had all made it to Pastor Chizuo’s house.


Pastor Jack Bell from Calvary Chapel Kamakura drove in with his son, Yoshiki, and fellow church member, Mr. Yogo Takahashi. Soon after, Joseph and Amy Totsis, missionaries in Osaka out of Calvary Chapel Montebello, arrived by train.


We sat down for a quick lunch and debriefing of the previous week. Pastor Chizuo took the opportunity to share how the LORD put Calvary Tohoku Relief on his heart and specifically the town of Ishinomaki (see “The Calling”).

私たちは軽めの昼食と前週の救援活動の様子を聞くために腰を下ろしました。知主夫さんは主がどのように彼の心にカルバリー東北救援活動の志を立てられ、特に石巻市に心が動かされたのか分かち合ってくれました。(詳細は“The Calling”をお読み下さい。)

Only the second week into this relief effort and already, the LORD is bringing so many together to work in one accord. We are reminded of Philippians 2:2, “Fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, one mind.”


With that set as the focus, it was time to get started. We packed up our bags and headed over to Calvary Chapel Kokubunji where several church members were standing by ready to help.


We cut out tickets for an outreach event planned for Wednesday and loaded up the truck with what seemed like an endless amount of boxes. It is amazing to see what the LORD provides when the body of Christ comes together.

We arrived in Wakabayashi around 12:30 AM. Within the first hour of our arrival, the ground was already shaking – two and half weeks since the devastating earthquake, the aftershocks continue.


“For David says concerning Him: ‘I foresaw the LORD always before my face, For He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken.’” Acts 2:25