By Takeshi Takazawa, Asian Access
Evacuation Sites Closed
For better or for worse, government-registered evacuation sites have now all been closed in northeast Japan. Out of the 330,00o former residents, over 75% moved to temporary housing; the rest had to move in with friends or relatives or completely outside of the area. Temporary housing is a pre-fab apartment, equipped for basic living. However, these units are small—one bedroom for a family of four and share a wall with another unit. Also, residents need to do everything on their own (e.g., feed themselves, do laundry and cleaning, shopping, etc.), in many cases, without transportation. Nearly everyone lost their cars in the disaster, and the location of the temporary housing units are not convenient for shopping.
In order to maintain equality, residents are assigned to certain units by drawing. As a result, many people separated from their families and communities, are isolated and feel lonely. Furthermore it costs money to live in these small units, but these folks do not have jobs or income. Winter has begun to set in and it’s becoming very cold. Currently, warm blankets, space heaters and jackets are being distributed by several relief organizations that have purchased these goods locally to help the economy.
Entering the Rebuilding Phase
Meanwhile, the majority of debris has been removed from most of the cities. Personal homes have been cleaned and refurbished by organizations and volunteers such as Samaritans Purse, Food for the Hungry and CRASH/Japan, and others.
We are now moving out of rescue and transitioning into the rebuilding stage. In order to rebuild, they need to replace walls and floors. Many of the first floors need to be completely redone because of the mud and salt water. This task requires many volunteer workers since people do not have money to rebuild. When the cleaning out and rebuilding is complete on a house, Christian volunteers pray for blessing for the family and the house. People are often moved to tears when this happens.
Faith & Fatigue
Churches have been very active in this rebuilding stage, just as they have in the previous relief stages. They visit door-to-door both the temporary housing units, as well as disaster victims staying in damaged houses. As soon as they learn of what is needed, they provide for those specific needs. They see the openness toward the gospel in people to whom they minister. Those who have developed genuine relationships begin to see people come to faith. At the same time, most church leaders have been involved non-stop in this work for the past 9 months, and some of them are experiencing fatigue.
A Story of Collaboration & Partnership
One of the Conservative Baptist house churches had been damaged by the tsunami, but with the help of insurance and aid, this family was able to move to a near-by community and re-start their house church. Through God’s orchestration, they loaned their damaged house to a church planter who was seeking to start a church in the afflicted area. This church planter cleaned and restored the destroyed first floor and they just had their grand opening with volunteers and the new believers in their neighborhood. They will celebrate this Christmas with a Baptism Service for those who accepted Christ after the disaster. Out of this disaster, there are now two churches where there was only one before. Not only that, but this Mennonite Brethren Church was started in partnership with the Conservative Baptist Church. This is just another example of the denominational wall being knocked down by this disaster. It is not an exaggeration to say that all churches are coming together to lift up our Lord’s name in the disaster-affected areas.
Missionaries & Funds Needed!
As for Asian Access, we hope to continue to deploy missionaries in this region to serve in partnership with the national churches, where the needs are great. Working alongside Japanese believers, missionaries could make a lasting impact. There is plenty of room for many to come and serve. And with our strategic partnership with SIM USA, we also have increased capacity to mobilize more missionaries.
GO: If you or anyone you know is interested in serving in Japan, please go to: http://www.go2japan.org
GIVE: For those of you who wish to give to the Japan Tsunami Relief Fund, you can still do so at: http://www.asianaccess.org/A2-Japan-Tsunami-Relief-Fund.html
Thank you very much for your interest in the people of Japan and for your ongoing partnership in His kingdom. Please continue pray for Japan in this critical time. May God’s grace and peace be yours.
About the Photo: Standing with Pastor Koji Kumada. During the tsunami, the water came up to the top of the window, and the wife of his house church leader was almost washed away. However, the house church leader grabbed her at the last second and pulled her to safety upstairs! The family was rescued by helicopter a day later. This church originally was planted by the Conservative Baptists, but now is a Mennonite Brethren church.