I’m titling this blog “final thoughts”, but I hope it doesn’t actually work out to be the last time I post about this subject. Pauline and I will begin a six-month home assignment in January, so I won’t be able to get back to Iwate prefecture for some time. From what I’ve heard, however, the relief and recovery efforts will take a long time. People who live in government-sponsored temporary housing facilites have been promised two years of residency, after which they will (supposedly) have to move out. That means that there is a possibility for me to make further trips even through March of 2013.
I’m adding this postscript, if you can call it that, because of what happened on the day Matt and I left Miyako to head back to Fujisawa. We were able to meet with Pastor Iwatsuka of Miyako Community Church for breakfast at a McDonalds in town, and had a great conversation with him. I had met him on my first trip, and had seen from a distance his pastoral compassion for people, but had not had a chance to talk with him. During this trip, and especially while eating breakfast with him, I got to see more of what is in his heart.
We got on to the topic of the training that he and other full-time Christian workers in the area have had for ministering to people who have experienced such trauma in their lives. Pastor Iwatsuka said that in the days soon after the tsunami that some pastors had been given some basic training, but they desperately need more. They need to provide a more thoroughgoing care for people who are still dealing with the shock of suffering and loss, while trying to rebuild their lives.
They also need care themselves. Pastor Iwatsuka mentioned that on the previous day in making visits to people in the temporary housing units he had spoken with about 150 individuals. That makes for a long, intense day! And this has been going on since March 11. He said that sometimes he goes out from his home standing straight and tall, full of joy, but comes home with his shoulders drooping and his head bowed down from the weight of peoples problems.
Please understand that this pastor is not complaining. If anything he is thankful to have the chance to provide “care for people’s hearts”. He is also excited that a certain number have opened their hearts to listen to the good news about Jesus and to consider believing in Him.
I came away each time from my trips to Miyako with a sense of joy that I had been able to help in this incredible ministry to some wonderful people. At the same time, I am not fooling myself by thinking that what I have done in just a few days has made a huge difference. My contributions, and those by others who make short trips, is relatively small. But put together the total efforts of volunteers since March 11, and place that within the day-to-day ministries of those who actually live and work full time in Miyako (and other places along the coast of northeast Honshu island), and the end result is something incredibly significant.
I pray for Pastor Iwatsuka, for Michio Nagata, and others in Iwate and Miyagi prefectures who by their faithful and constant presence bring help and hope to many needy people. I pray that God will heal their tiredness and provide them with new strength to continue. I know that He is working in and through them, and it has been my great privilege to get to know and work with them, even if for a short time.