Thursday, April 21, 2011

Trip 5: "The Blessings Continue!"       祝福は続く!

Wednesday, the group was able to once again return to the home of one of our new friends, Mr. Kawanami. You may remember him as the man whose hobby was raising bonsai trees.

Brian (on the top) currently serves in the US Air force. He used to work in the construction  field and his specialization was building framework. The Lord knew what He had for him before he came to Ishinomaki.

This time, the group helped Mr. Kawanami clear out his yard. Thanks to great team work, Pastor Chizuo was able to leave the group under the leadership of Glen Phipps from Calvary Chapel Okinawa. This allowed Pastor Chizuo to take care of some logistical business - our Emergency Relief Worker toll road passes!

Our passes were set to expire at the end of the day. These permits have been a HUGE blessing since they have saved the groups hundreds of dollars in toll road fees between Tokyo and Ishinomaki. So, we were eager to renew them. We had been given renewal forms and directed to City Hall. Since Pastor Chizuo had visited City Hall the day before, he knew bureaucracy was awaiting him. He remembered how a worker from the evacuation center gave him the local congressman's contact information. He said a prayer and dialed the congressman's phone number. Pastor Chizuo told the congressman how the groups have been traveling back and forth between Tokyo and Ishinomaki every week in order to help with relief work. He told him how much money the passes saved the group each week. Pastor Chizuo then asked the congressman if he would like the group to continue taking the money saved and investing into the people of his city or if he would like the money to be spent on toll road fees. The congressman told Pastor Chizuo he would meet him at City Hall and make sure the passes were renewed. Praise God!

Here's Pastor Chizuo with the city official in charge of issuing permits. Once at City Hall, we were able to maneuver through the red tape thanks to the help of the congressman. Praise God we were given renewed passes for each vehicle and even a few spares!!! The LORD provides!!!

But remember it happened all because the Lord sent the rain on our team.
Thank you, Father! Praise the Lord, Jesus!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Trip 5: "Ask and You Shall Receive!" 求めなさいそうすれば与えられます!

For the past month, Calvary Tohoku Relief has sent groups weekly to the Tohoku area to reach out to those affected by the March 11 disasters. Praise the LORD, a church located in Sendai opened its doors to us and has allowed us to stay in and use an onsite home as our base camp. We have been SO blessed by this church and its hospitality. Since the church is located in Sendai, the groups must travel roughly 90 minutes north to the city of Ishinomaki where much of our work has taken place. So, many of us have been praying that the LORD would open up a place in Ishinomaki where we could set up another base camp in the future. This week, the LORD answered our prayers!!! We will continue to use the local church in Sendai while we prepare the future location. Here's what happened...

The day started out much like other days - devotions, loading up the truck, and getting ready for whatever the LORD brought our way! We broke up into three groups that could easily be dispersed to different locations if multiple opportunities to help arose.

As we drove through the streets of Ishinomaki, it began to rain. We arrived at Mr. Takahashi's house and helped him and his son, Nobuharu, remove heavy furniture from their property. When we finished, Nobuharu bowed 90 degrees in deep appreciation for the work.

Due to the weather, most people stayed back at the evacuation centers. As the LORD would have it, on our way to the centers, the group found the Tsuda brothers who accepted our offer to help clean.

Pastor Chizuo left the group working on clearing out the Tsuda's garage area and continued on to the evacuation centers where he hoped to find more families to assist.
Once at the evacuation site (formerly an elementary school), Pastor Chizuo was able to meet some key people who the LORD would later use to open doors of blessing. Here is Pastor Chizuo with the unofficial "director," Makoto, of one of the area evacuation centers as well as a social welfare "leader," Mamoru, who eagerly desired to help him and Calvary Tohoku Relief in any way he could.
Meanwhile, the group finished helping the Tsuda brothers and moved on to the Tanno home. The Tanno family has a 17 year-old son named Hiroshi who showed up at the site wanting to help clean. He couldn't believe strangers wanted to help clean his house! Him and his family are currently living in one of the evacuation centers.

With the groups on a roll in helping area residents, Pastor Chizuo and Mr. Tatsushi Sasaki, a real estate agent by profession and member of Calvary Chapel Kokubunji, set out for the other side of town where they planned to meet the a realtor. In our own human thinking, we assumed that if we are looking for a rental property in an unfamiliar area, we should see an agent. However, the LORD had His own plan! The realtor offered no hope saying Ishinomaki was devastated and nothing was available. He suggested inquiring at City Hall for any municipal buildings that could possibly be of use. However, the only thing City Hall seemed to offer was red tape! Pastor Chizuo didn't feel right in his spirit and so they left.

Remembering a conversation he had with another volunteer group leader, Pastor Chizuo and Mr. Sasaki went back to the evacuation center. The volunteer leader had mentioned that his group had received some help from a local congressman. Pastor Chizuo hoped to find this contact information. In the process of seeking out the local congressman's phone number, Pastor Chizuo was introduced to another man, Mr. Utsumi.

Mr. Utsumi is a local business in Ishinomaki. He had a brand new house which was washed away by the tsunami. Now, he is living in an office space he owns that is located behind one of the evacuation centers. Turns out Mr. Utsumi owns four different properties in Ishinomaki; all of which, need to be gutted and cleaned. Pastor Chizuo said the groups would help him clean his buildings... one of which is located directly behind a house/shop that the group had helped clean just one week ago! The unofficial "director," Makoto, Pastor Chizuo had met earlier in the day told Mr. Utsumi that the group was looking for a place they could operate out of in Ishinomaki. Mr Utsumi turned to Pastor Chizuo and said, "You can live here," and pointed to the second floor of the office building.
Mr. Utsumi said the building was under renovation before the tsunami hit so it's just a skeleton and needs to be finished. However, surprisingly, the 2nd floor sustained little damage in the tsunami and the group is welcome to use it and renovate it however they like. Pastor Chizuo was shocked. Mr. Utsumi didn't stop there... he said he had another property that he would take Pastor Chizuo to look at and see if it could be of use. AMAZING! Only the LORD could open doors so easily!

Once the team finished their cleaning project at the Tanno family home, they invited Hiroshi to join them for the BBQ planned at another evacuation center. He happily agreed to join the group and asked if he could help serve as well.

The evacuees were grateful and happy for the BBQ since they hadn't had anything but bread and rice balls in over a month.

During the morning devotion, Pastor Chizuo encouraged each team member to take a flashlight with Romans 8:12 printed on an attached tag and give it to one person they each got to know during the day. At the BBQ event, Yusuke from CC Kokubunji gave Hiroshi Tanno the flashlight. Glenn from CC Okinawa shared with Hiroshi the meaning of the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Kino translated for Glenn and Pastor Chizuo followed up and explained the meaning of sin and forgiveness in Jesus. Hiroshi received a Bible and said, "I'll read it every day!" At the end, he thanked the team by saying, "Thank you for everything you have done today. I've heard about Jesus Christ, and I want to believe in Him. The next time you come back, I'd like to know more about Jesus Christ." Praise the LORD!

"The last four weeks the team did not once have any rain. But this time it rained very hard. That's the only reason I ran into Mamoru, the social welfare worker, then Makoto, the "unofficial director", then Emi Tannno, the mother of Hiroshi, and then Utusmi-san, the owner of the office building. It was all because the Lord sent this rain! Man cannot know what happens next. It's very exciting to be led by the Lord Jesus!! " ~Pastor Chizuo
過去4週間、チームは一度も雨に会いませんでした。しかし、今回は激しく雨が降りました。それこそが原因で、社会福祉ワーカーの護さん、非公式リーダーのマコトさん、ヒロシくんの母親丹野恵美さん、そしてオフィスビルの所有者である内海さんに私が出会うことができたのです。それはすべて、主が雨を送ってくださったから起きたことです!人は次の瞬間に何が起こるかを知ることはできません。主イエスが導いてくださることはとてもエキサイティングなことです!! ———知主夫牧師

Friday, April 15, 2011

Trip #4- Taking stock, unexpected blessing, heading home / 倉庫品の取り出し、予期せぬ祝福、家へ帰宅

With this week being a first attempt at a more regular schedule able to sustain a large group of about 20 people, it is important to share with you all the aspects of what makes such a week of ministry work. This includes the perhaps less than glamorous jobs of cleaning up, doing inventory of supplies, and other logistical things that are absolutely necessary to ensure the next trip can be just as successful.
今週は20 人という大きなグループでの参加となり、いつものスケジュールとはまったく違った試みでした。どのように1週間のミニストリーを作り上げるかをあらゆる角度から見て分かち合うことは重要な事です。片付けや物資の在庫管理などあまり目立たない仕事を含め、また次の旅でも同じようにスムーズ に続けるために必要な、完全に理にかなった事です。

The morning was spent with one team cleaning the house and BBQ grills, one team transferring supply items to our storage unit and doing a detailed inventory, and one team making connections with other groups working in the area. Though all three of these events were awesome in their own right, it was the outside connection that was the unexpected blessing.
今 朝1つ目のチームは家とバーベキューで使う鉄板をきれいにし、2つ目のチームは物資を倉庫に移して倉庫品の整理をして、3つ目のチームはこの地域で奉仕し ている他のグループと連絡を取り合っていました。それぞれの3つのチームとも成すべきことをしていて素晴らしかったのですが、外で連絡を取り合っていた チームには、予期せぬ祝福がありました。

Chizuo and Pancho in front of the new CalvaryTouhoku Relief utility truck.This unexpected blessing was given to us bySamaritan's Purse, who we met with in the morning at their Sendai warehouse headquarters. Not only that, they filled the truck bed with cleaning supplies including a 2000 watt generator. We are incredibly blessed by the generosity of this terrific ministry, and we will most certainly put this truck and the supplies to good use beginning the next trip.

After everything was put back in order, it was time to get back to Tokyo where the team could separate and return to their homes. What a terrific week! We are so encourged by the prayers and support by everyone who has connected with us on this blog. Thank you so much, and stay tuned for trip number five, beginning Monday, April 18, where we will share with you how the Lord will continue to grow and refine this ministry.
全ての物事が整理された後、チームがそれぞれの場所に戻る時が来ました。なんとすばらしい1週間だったのでしょう!このブログを読んで下さっているみなさん の祈りと支援に、とても励まされています。ありがとうございます。また4/18(月)から始まる5回目の旅もどうぞよろしくお願いします。引き続き、神が どのようにこのミニストリーを成長させ、磨きをかけ続けてくださるかを分かち合いたいと思います。

Trip #4- Planting roots deep and sowing seed wide / 根を深く植え、種を広く蒔く

Wednesday was another prayer answered as the three teams joined into one group to witness the Lord move in two specific locations.
The group at our Sendai base, ready for the day!

As Pastors Chizuo and Pancho and Kevin from Okinawa went ahead to scout out the location in our main area of Ishinomaki for our afternoon outreach event, the rest of us went back to the Shuto residence in the port area of Ishinomaki (where Larry, Kiko, Takako, Richard, and Maxx had been the previous day) to make good on a promise. There was a parking area covered in dirt and mud that we had been asked to clean. We arrived and got to work, meeting the community leader Yamagata-san immediately and starting to grow our relationship in this neighborhood deeper and deeper.
Lots of mud to scoop out in that parking lot. Many of the team said this was one of the highlights of this trip, being able to something physical and real to help the neighborhood in a tangible and immediate way.  

Takako speaks to Shutou-san the grandma. In her hand is a flashlight Takako gave her with Scripture written on an attached tag. Takako explained the Gospel to her clearly and she listened appreciatively. One to one is where it starts, because this lovely lady will take the experience she just had with Takako and share it with her neighbors. Not every neighborhood is as close this one, which is why we feel the Lord has chosen this location to continue to build relationships.

Bob and Takako speak with Yamagata-san's wife. The Yamagatas own the soy sauce factory which is next to the apartment building in the photo, and the Yamagatas are also the landlords of the apartment building. Making contact and deepening relationships with these informal community leaders is absolutely essential to a fruitful ministry. And yes, Bob is really that big, though Yamagata-san is rather short.

An unexpected blessing for the men- we got to throw cars around! Yamagata-san gave us permission to move these two cars over the side of the lot so that we could clean up the dirt underneath. Oh, yeah!

After we moved those other two cars, another neighbor asked us to move a third car in a different area. You betcha!

The finished product. Through our almost three hours there, many of the neighbors came to watch the action. Many good conversations led to promises to return again for more projects identified. Praise the Lord for a real work begun in this area, which has received no government clean-up support yet.
The team then packed the gear and went around the hill to the other Ishinomaki area we have invested a lot of time in. Chizuo, Pancho and Kevin had found a location for the main outreach event, a BBQ with worship music and passing out of supply items.
Pancho on the grill and in the groove. We had hot dogs, shish-kabob cubes and steaks, as well as tea to offer the attendees.

In all, the outreach was a major success, mainly because we were able to coordinate all the elements of the event for the very first time. Unfortunately, the weather was not cooperating completely with us, being a little cold and very windy, and in the future prayerfully adjusting the timeframe and perhaps the location will allow us to provide this event in a sustained manner, and to let it grow as the Lord wills. As Pancho shared with us at the event's conclusion, God only desires our faithfulness to complete the work He accomplishes through us, and He does not wish us to focus on what we think the results should be. Praise the Lord that His burden truly is light, we were all so blessed by the day.


There are two other stories to share which illustrate perfectly what the Lord's vision is for Calvary Touhoku Relief at this time.

Meet the Shirade family. Before the tragedies of March 11, Mrs. Shirade had her own catering business. Like so many others, the family's home and shop were ravaged by the tsunami. The team met the Shirade's neighbor, Mr. Takahashi. We were driving down a street and saw him outside with his wife trying to clean their home. When we asked him if we could help him, he selflessly pointed across the street at his neighbor's home. He told us how the day before, he saw Mrs. Shirade in tears as she saw the state of her shop for the first time since the disaster. She was more than overwhelmed and didn't think it would ever be possible to clean or salvage anything inside the home. Mr. Takahashi asked us to please help her. We got to work with shovels and wheelbarrows. The amount of muck, trash and debris seemed endless. Four hours later, we were short on sunlight and called it a day. Praise God the whole team came together and was able to clear away the refuse! (see before and after pictures on yesterday's blog post)
白出さん一家です。311日の悲劇の前、白出さんの奥さんはご自分で仕出し屋を 経営していました。他の多くの家と同様に、この家族の家とお店は津波で破壊さ れました。チームは白出さんのご近所さんの高橋さんに出会いました。私たちは 移動中で、車の中から高橋さんが奥さんと一緒に家の掃除をしているのを見まし た。私たちが彼らの清掃を手伝えないか申し出たところ、自分のことはおいて、 近所の家を指さしました。彼は、白出さんが震災の後初めて自分の店に戻って来 て、その状態を見て涙を流していたことを話してくれました。彼女は打ちのめされ て、どのようにお店を片づけて、家の中にあるものを回収できるのか見当もつき ませんでした。そこで高橋さんは、彼女を助けるようにお願いしてきました。私 たちは、スコップと一輪車を使って仕事に取り掛かりました。泥やごみ、がれきを 除く作業は永遠に続くように思えました。4時間後、日が沈みかけたところで終了 しました。最終的に全チームが合流し、がれきを取り除けることができました!主をほめたたえます。(清掃前後の写真を昨日の記事で確認してください。)

Today, Pastor Chizuo and Pastor Pancho had the joy of returning to the Shirade home and shop. They arrived just in time to meet the older couple and one of their relatives. The family had come back to the house in an effort to try and clean what they could. When Mr. Takahashi told them that Pastor Chizuo and Pastor Pancho were part of the group that cleaned the house, Mrs. Shirade began to cry. Mr. Shirade explained how they were shocked and almost fainted when they arrived at the house earlier. They had no idea the group had been there the previous day. The Shirade's shared how they felt like two tsunamis came through the shop; the first one destroyed it and the second one restored it. Mr. Shirade said he had no words to express his gratitude, he can only say, Thank You.
今日、知主夫さんとパンチョさんは白出さんの家とお店を再訪問して、喜ばしい ことがありました。彼らがちょうど到着したときに、老夫婦とその親戚に出会うこ とができました。その家族は自分たちのできる範囲で家を片づけようと戻ってき たところでした。高橋さんが彼らに、知主夫さんとパンチョさんが家を片づけた チームの人だということを伝えたとき、白出さんの奥さんは泣き始めました。ご 主人は、少し前に家に来たときショックで気絶しそうだったと話しました。彼ら は、チームが前日に来たことを全く知りませんでした。白出さんご夫妻は、津波が お店を二度襲ったようだ、と印象を分かち合いました。「初めは店を壊し、次は きれいに直していった。」白出さんのご主人は、感謝の気持ちをどう表わしたらいいのか分からないが、ただ「ありがとう」としか言えない、と話してくれました。

Praise God! May HIS love sweep through this land!!!
The second story involves another man by the name of Mr. Takahashi - a common Japanese suname. Mr. Takhashi is one of eight leaders at this low-income housing unit. Pastor Chizuo asked him if it would be OK to announce the scheduled BBQ to residents who had come back to their apartments. Mr. Takahashi gladly gave permission and even handed Pastor Chizuo a blow-horn to use in order to make the announcing easier. When finished, Pastor Chizuo went back to Mr. Takahashi's apartment to say thank you and return the blow-horn. He handed Mr. Takahashi a small flashlight with a scripture verse attached to it. It read, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12 NIV) Mr. Takahashi told Pastor Chizuo that he listens to the radio every Sunday and sometimes, there are Christian programs on in the morning. Occasionally he listens. He said he has this sense that there is one true God. He continued on saying that for the past 2000 years, religion has failed, but he believes that the one true God is just and righteous. He told Pastor Chizuo that he would like to discuss the One True God the next time they meet. Pastor Chizuo was elated since he had been praying for doors such as this one to open.

Meeting the spiritual needs of the people here in Ishinomaki is the most important work we have set before us. We pray that as we reach out in love, the people of this land would see Jesus and come to know His love, grace and peace. Please continue to pray with us!

We wrapped up this wonderful day pretty late with worship, sharing, and fellowship back at base (reason for the late posting). Only video was taken of the day, actually, and that was to wish happy birthday to Pastor Chizuo! So check out the video channel with the latest videos to view that one.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Trip #4- Three adventures, one heart     3つの冒険、1つのこころ

Today's blessings were so many, this post will be a little long, but how else to begin to convey what has been going on here? It was an answer to so much prayer, ours and yours, that lead to this day where we were blessed to witness the Lord multiplying our efforts in Ishinomaki.

In this post, we wish to convey a sense of the flow of the day's activities, which ran in the Lord's perfect timing and in His vision to us as to how future mission trips might progress. Of course, all things may change as He leads, but today we felt that this is how the Lord wishes to use this ministry for the near term.

We operated in the afternoon as three separate teams in three separate areas, then we came together in the evening. Here is how it all went down:

Even before breakfast, we needed to unload our truck of supplies, inventory them, and sort them into three vans which the teams would use to reach the designated areas for the day's work.

After breakfast and fellowship, the team was briefed on the day's plan. Only five of the 18 members had been here before, so there was much to discuss about the area and what to expect. This was followed by a wonderful time of worship and a devotion study by Pastor Chizuo.
wonderful time of worship and a devotion study by Pastor Chizuo.
The teams then departed Sendai and arrived in Ishinomaki with no delay, praise the Lord. With excellent communication equipment in the vans, the team stayed in contact through the day in their different areas. One team began their afternoon by discovering this lookout area over the port section of devastation, which gives a glimpse into the severity of the damage. Every one of the new members agreed that pictures don't even come to close to reality.
A picture of one of the areas in which we served. The tatami mats are piled high on the side of the road, soaked with water and useless, waiting to be picked up and disposed of, though no one knows when that part of the cleanup will begin.
One team arrives at a house which has been visited in the past. The roads in these neighborhoods have been cleared, mainly done by the residents themselves but also done by municipal work crews and Japanese Self Defense Force personnel.

A team prays together after meeting the family they wish to bless with doing a cleanup project, just before the work begins. Prayer throughout the day is absolutely essential.
The team begins the work the Lord has given them: mucking out a very narrow space between the family's house and the neighborhood small business building. The whole family was there to see us laboring with them.
The trench of tsunami muck was about eight inches deep, wet and sticky, and the project lasted a couple of hours. It was awesome to see the team stretched and come together in unity to work out how to best complete this cleaning.
The team with our grateful friends, the Shutou family. The team members were Nao, Kiko, Richard, Larry, and Maxx (taking picture). Note: that is not the family's BMW behind them, just the back of their house. The car was washed into that spot during the tsunami and is waiting to be claimed and moved.
Ministering in Japan takes an extra amount of patience and persistence in terms of building relationships with those who are reached out to. This project was an excellent example. Though this family had been visited by teams in the past, it still took a little time for them to allow us to do a cleanup project for them. But as the project continued, they came to us with another project for their neighbors for us to consider and do another day. Before the cleanup began, we had asked the family if they needed any supplies, which we had in the back of the van; the only thing they said they needed was propane canisters for their portable stove. Yet, after all the cleanup was done and we were able to show them all the things we had, they accepted more and more items, and even accepted items they said they would share with their neighbors! This is an answered prayer- that they have caught a bit of the Lord's vision for how to begin reaching out to others in the community. They are not Christians (yet!) but they also welcomed us to pray over them and the young boy accepted a Bible from Kiko. What a blessed afternoon!

The other two teams had very similar experiences this afternoon, each going into separate neighborhoods, identifying cleanup projects, and connecting with residents one to one, and two by two. There are too many stories to relate in this small space of how these tsunami victims opened their hearts and shared their honest feelings with the teams, who were blessed to just listen and offer prayers of encouragement. This type of ministry is particularly effective here in sowing seeds in deep rich soil, yet at the same time a harvest is reaped with every encounter; not the least of which is the edification and encouragement to the team members, many of whom experienced their first outreach ministry today.

Here is a particularly awesome story. This catering shop was found by the team consisting of Chizuo, Pancho, Kevin, Amy, Yasutomo, Sou, Hana, and Bob. The neighbor man across the street directed them here, and said that the elderly lady who owned the shop was yesterday despairing over the damage with much crying. She was gone for the day, so it became very clear this was the work the Lord had for the team. Here is the before picture of the main store area worked on.
The team labored for four hours straight to haul out the garbage. With about a hour of daylight left, the other two teams arrived on the scene after their projects had ended, and with the whole group tackling it, the task was completed beyond anyone's expectations.
The after photo; the garbage is outside with the rest of the heaps of refuse, the floors are swept, what pottery items that could be salvaged are back on the shelves, and the store is waiting for the owner to return the next day to see what the Lord has done for her- love in action, uninvited grace, awesome power to heal and restore, and a clear beacon of hope for the future. The team hopes to meet her the next day to further encourage and pray for her in the name of Jesus Christ, who has clearly visited this house today.
The shop that was cleaned is the pink building behind the truck. As the sun set, after talking to the neighbors some more, the group opened the truck of supplies and met physical needs. It amazed everyone when more neighbors began appearing around the corners, who we did not know were living in their homes, to come and receive the supplies we have been blessed to distribute in the name of the Lord Jesus.

Yet with all this wonderful work done while the sun was up, the day's experiences were not yet over, and it is important to relate how the day concluded. It takes about two hours to return to our Sendai base from this Ishinomaki location, and after dark it is not socially proper or very practical to do this kind of ministry work. So at 8:30 p.m., the group traveled to a restaurant for a late dinner and fellowship. After that, we returned to our base, where we worshiped and then went carefully around the entire group of 18, each person sharing their thoughts of what had occurred that day. With 18 people sharing, this meant the day did not end until around 11:30 p.m. Nevertheless, everyone went to bed refreshed, ready to get some sleep but more ready to see what the next day held for us, so very blessed by how the Lord used us today.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Trip #4- Our biggest team yet! これまでで一番大きなチーム!

Wow has the Lord blessed us as we begin our fourth trip to the Touhoku Region! We are ecstatic to introduce our largest team so far, 18 brothers and sisters in Christ uniting to serve the least and the lost.

Once again, the Lord has brought together many churches to serve in unity and love. Represented by this team are Calvary Chapel Okinawa, Calvary Chapel Ginowan, Calvary Chapel Kokubunji, Horizon Tokyo Chapel, and Calvary Chapel Montebello. The team poses here outside of CC Kokubunji before we depart.

With a team this size, constant prayer is a must! The team enters the throne room of our Lord in prayer before they enter the cars.

The plan for this week has been given a little more structure, and it is our prayer to adopt this plan as a beginning template for future trips, as the Lord leads. It is also time to begin preparing for groups from churches outside Japan to join in these trips. A special invitation and information will be posted soon to describe that in more detail, but we are excited in anticipation of how God will be expanding this ministry!

On the road to Sendai, a little wet and windy, and then all of a sudden a 7.0 earthquake rattles the countryside! No injuries or damage to report, but we are soon ushered off the expressway and must find another route north. And we are still over three hours away from destination! Never a dull moment over here.

We attempt to enter the expressway by another entrance further north, only to be denied. Cool short video now available concerning this incident. We then made our way by a parallel local road, and found a restaurant to eat dinner and fellowship. As we finish, we discover online that the expressway is reopened, and we are quickly able to get back on and make it to Sendai by 11 p.m., a little later than planned but we just praise the Lord for a safe arrival.

As we continue to share our adventures this week, please join us in prayer for strong unity within this awesome large team, and for full redemption of time and we attempt to reach even more of the communities with the love and hope of Jesus Christ. Thanks so much, see you tomorrow!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Trip #3- Return to Higashi-Matsushima and Ishinomaki  東松島町と石巻に戻る

Our last full day on this trip was spent deepening relationships already made and beginning new ones with divine appointments. The team split into two groups for most of the day.

One group had all the youth in it, including 17-year old Kei and 14-year old Touru from a local Sendai church, as well as the youth that came with the team from Tokyo, 14-year old Toki and 17-year old Hajime from CC Kokubunji and 12-year old Jacob from CC Iwakuni.  This team was led to return to Ishinomaki to offer their strength and service in helping people clean up their homes.  Their prayers were answered and new personal connections were made and a previous one strengthened.

 Chihiro-san talks to a lady whose house's entrance is blocked by this truck that was swept up against it.  The team is prayerfully considering the time to return to her house to help her remove items from the inside to start the recovery process.

 Kei moves one of the soaked tatami mats from a home where a grandma and her granddaughters were cleaning up inside.
Also in the grandma's home was a refrigerator that needed moving- just the job for this team!  The family is staying in one of the evacuation centers but returns to their home to continue the slow recovery process.
There were four of these plastic containers inside the house, which once held sweaters and towels only but which now also held very heavy tsunami water.  A team effort helped drain the tubs so the grandma could get them outside to begin drying the clothes.
One neighbor helped in the name of Jesus Christ, and the youthful team received a strong lesson about love in action.
Chihiro-san talks with a gentleman who was featured in a blog entry from last week's trip, who lives by himself and was a businessman who had a strong hobby of raising bonsai trees.  It was he who led the team to the grandma's house, and after that the team moved some tatami mats for him, also.  Throughout this time, a very important part of this relationship ministry was talking to the people and even more important, listening to them.  We are praying this will not be the last time we visit with him and help him and his neighbors.

 The team departed that area so thankful for the opportunity given by the Lord to serve those in need.  The next plan was to join the other team at the evacuation center we had visited the previous day, where a special event was about to kick off.  But before they could do that, the Lord used a horrible traffic jam along the road to the center to help steer the team into a neighborhood not yet visited, where God showed us a place where we could reach out to new people with the relief items we had packed along with us.
The neighborhood residents were so very grateful for the surprise blessing the team brought right to their doors.
The neighborhood residents were so very grateful for the surprise blessing the team brought right to their doors.
The boys on the team learned a valuable lesson in how to encourage their Japanese brethren to let their guard down and receive the items we had to offer.  Persistence in love is a key to reaching the Japanese people, to show them we truly care about them.  To the right and back in the photo are two gentlemen from the municipal office who were conducting a neighborhood inspection.  They were also genuinely surprised by the items we had to offer, and they agreed to take some of our items to other areas they knew needed them.  Praise the Lord that He uses us and men like these alike to spread His love to a hurting and dying world.

 After that divine appointment, the teams reunited at the Higashi-matsushima evacuation center we had visited the previous day.  The other team had been there earlier, working with another Calvary team who had planned a BBQ for that evening.  It took no time at all to integrate the teams seamlessly and serve the evacuees with grilled food, clothes, shoes, worship by Pastor Travis (see video channel), and the Gospel message.
This is the inside of the evacuation center, where about 100 people live, including many children. 
Jacob gets into the act by grilling and serving grateful residents. The Japanese Self-Defense Force is also at the center to feed the people hot meals that can get a little repetitious, so the unique outreach caused great joy for everyone.

 In closing, there were three blessed elements that stood out from all the other many blessings on this trip for the ministry. One was the deliberate inclusion of a youth group for the first time- Toki and Hajime from CC Kokubunji, Jacob from CC Iwakuni, and Kei and Touru from a local Sendai church. They were interviewed about their experiences and the videos are posted under the third trip youtube channel. The second blessing was the unity of Calvary Chapels this week. Two separate teams with representatives from seven CCs met and served with a single heart. Those CCs were from Kokubunji, Fuchu, Okinawa City, Naha, Iwakuni, Tokorozawa, and Honolulu. The third blessing was the new level of partnership with local churches. Our Lord is so wonderful to knit together in love the body of Christ, and we are seeing real movement in various churches toward getting involved with direct relief efforts. Please join us in prayer for these elements of the ministry to continue and expand as the Lord wills.

 Again, there are plenty of videos to view from this third trip, so check them out when you can. Trip #4 is in the works and plans to depart Tokyo for Sendai Monday, April 11, so please lift that team up in prayer and we will be sure to post our adventures as soon as possible. God bless you!