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.

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