Dealing With Mud and Contemplating Ministry

8 comments Written on May 26th, 2011     
Filed under: earthquake
This morning we worked at the home of an elderly woman only a block or so from base camp. She lives in a very nice home, probably with several other family members. But she was home alone while we worked there today. Her home is probably about 300 meters from the waterfront wharf and apparently the entire first floor was flooded by the tsunami although you wouldn’t know it now. A lot of work has already been done to clean it up. And most of the yard looked pretty good too, but the little pond in the yard was still full of muddy sea water so we made a bucket brigade and spent about an hour emptying it and cleaning out the sludge and mud that had been deposited there on March 11th. Then we moved to the large ditch that runs between her home and the road. It’s a covered ditch about 1 meter deep and 1 meter wide with removable gratings every so often. It was clogged with mud, sand and gravel, all deposited by the waves. We crawled down into the sewer and cleaned it out one shovel load at a time. We wrapped up by about noon and headed back to camp to pack up our things and head home.

Our Ditch Cleaning Crew

I'm actually in this photo, but submerged in the ditch

Ah… there I am!

It was the first time for the three guys riding with me so we took the coastal route home, passing through the long list of towns and cities hit by the tsunami. We had lots of time to reflect on things as we drove and one point really caught my attention. The leader of our network, a pastor who lives and works in Morioka, a city about 60 miles from the coast, had recently mentioned the irony of doing this kind of relief work. We are continually amazing by the incredible opportunities to connect with people in really meaningful ways as we bring needed food and supplies to their door, play with traumatized little children in the evac centers, or dig the mud out of peoples homes and yards. These are people we’ve only just met and yet they often pour out their hearts to us. For a pastor these opportunities are almost too good to be true. And yet the irony is that here we are, doing all this in a town that doesn’t even have a church and none of us are likely to be able to plant one there in the near future. And yet back in the location where we do have churches, in some cases churches that have been there for decades, we almost never have these kinds of opportunities to connect with people outside the church on such a personal level.

On the one hand it just goes to show that unusual circumstances often lead to wonderful opportunities. But more importantly I think it’s a rude awaking for us. So much of what we do at church ends up being focussed on trying to get people to come… and yet it’s pretty clear in scripture that being the body of Christ is more about going to people than getting people to come to us. When our church programing revolves around trying to attract more new people to our church things seem to get bogged down pretty quickly. And yet when we find ourselves going out to where the people are, and where the needs are, we often find ourselves surprised by all the open doors. This isn’t anything new, but I still can’t help but wonder why it takes something as drastic as the worst tsunami in 1,000 years to get us to wake up and take note…

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8 comments “Dealing With Mud and Contemplating Ministry”

Do you have Japanese Bibles to hand out to those who are open as you travel in your relief efforts?

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I wonder if we ought to do more ditch digging in our own church neighborhoods?

Even though there is no established church in the towns were you were working, God is and was present and you were his hands doing that shoveling. That is a powerful witness of how God loves and perhaps he will bring about his Church there in a new, unexpected way.

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At this point we are able to reach these people because the local government has placed a great deal of trust in our group and given us maps and lists of names of those still living in their homes. Normally they would never divulge that sort of personal information to outsiders much less religious organizations. Doing anything as direct as distributing religious literature would probably jeopardize that trust. But of course we are free to share our faith as much as we want, if and when people show and interest. And we can invite them to come to church or elsewhere to receive Christian literature. And if someone were to specifically request a Bible we would certainly be happy to give it to them.

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WOW!! what a great opportunity and lesson for us all anywhere in the world. The great commission is go into all the world, not invite all the world. maybe some ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking is needed to establish a Christian presence in these towns without a church. Lets pray for an alternative to the usual ‘church planting’ model.

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Thanks for reminding us of this important lesson!

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Reading this makes me wonder if God is telling you all something quite significant…even direction-wise.

Good food for thought wherever God has us.

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I am sure in years to come it will be much easier to reach the people in Tohoku with the gospel because in 2011 they have been helped. It’s like preparing the soil and the harvest will be done by someone else later.
I think Japanese also open up much easier to people who are not part of their group. So while there may be lessons to be learned I would encourage you to keep doing what you do – it may not be long before those traumatized people stop sharing their feelings. You do a great job and God will use the seeds you sow.

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Thank you for serving. My friend Bob Moffitt and his ministry Harvest International is focused on training churches and ministries to do exactly what you are doing. Some of the young Japanese he has discipled via e-mail are also involved in the type of ministry you are doing. May God bless you abundantly. When we serve in selfless love we truly demonstrate Christ likeness.
Praying for you and all who are ministering there. I love and pray for many friends in Japan. May they see and be aware of God’s love and the possibility of having a relationship with Him!

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