Friday morning we woke up early and left Ofunato before 7AM for a beautiful drive over the mountains to Morioka. We were there by 9AM and met up with Pastor Kondo, founder and key leader of the 3.11 Iwate Church Network. We found our way to a coffee shop near the train station and spent over an hour in discussion about ministry in the current context. Pastor Kondo is incredibly insightful and communicates very well so I think it was a stimulating discussion for our guests from Wheaton. As usual they had many good questions that helped give direction and focus to the discussion. Before we knew it it was time to put our guests on the bullet train headed for Tokyo and the airport, where they were catching an evening flight back to the U.S.
Pastor Kondo repeatedly stressed the important of relationship building with the tsunami victims. He talked about old metaphors for church work and evangelism that center on events and explained how that doesn’t really work in these rural areas, especially in the present situation. Instead the work is primarily relational and intentionally slow paced. In some ways the rejection of the “event based evangelism” metaphor should apply to urban settings as well but it isn’t easy to let go of things that seem so close to the core, especially when you can’t think of any alternatives.