Listening and Building Trust

3 comments Written on June 22nd, 2011     
Filed under: earthquake
The main purpose of this week’s trip to Iwate is to observe, listen and learn. My travel companions are Pastor Shimizu, the chairman of the Japan Covenant, Dave Husby, the director of Covenant World Relief, and Adam Anderson, a pastor from Bellevue, WA. Many individuals and churches have put their trust in Covenant World Relief and made donations for the relief work in Japan. Covenant World Relief has in turn put their trust in the Japan Covenant Church by channeling those fund to them. The Japan Covenant Church is also engaged in a relationship of trust with the 3.11 Iwate Church Network, a loosely knit interdenominational network of churches in Iwate Prefecture that is responding to the crisis by placing volunteers and needed supplies in the right place at the right time. The Japan Covenant, along with 3 or 4 other groups,  is contributing funds, food and supplies, short term volunteer teams and even one long term staff to the 3.11 Network. All of this is based on trust and a shared desire to be channels of Christ’s love for the suffering here in North Eastern Japan.

Today we drove up from Tokyo and went out to the hard hit areas along the coast, beginning in the city of Rikuzen Takata. Every time I pass through this city I am completely overwhelmed by the massive scale and totality of the destruction. There is almost nothing left. Miraculously, the one Christian church in this city was spared, but not by much. The church is a little ways up a hill, near the end of the dead end street. The killer waves came within 10 or 20 meters of the church. Only 11 homes were spared on their street and everything below them is simply gone! The pastor and his wife welcomed us in and we spent a bit of time hearing their story. 42 years of continuous ministry in that location has not been easy for them. The church is still very small. And yet this tragedy which resulted in the deaths of close to 10% of the population and the destruction of almost the entire city has placed them in a position unlike anything they have ever experienced before. People have flocked to their church in desperate need of supplies. We concluded our time with them in prayer and continued the journey north.

Rikuzen Takata Church, Pastor and Mrs. Morita

Our next stop was the city of Ofunato. This is yet another city that experienced hundreds of fatalities and the destruction of countless homes, stores, factories and businesses. The Ofunato Bible Baptist Church doesn’t have a full time pastor. Presently a pastor who lives and serves in another church about an hour away in the coastal city of Kesennuma comes to Ofunato on Sundays for worship. This beautiful little church building looks great today, but three months ago it was submerged under close to 2 meters of sea water, mud and slime. They have since cleaned it up, made numerous repairs and are once again worshiping there. No one was there today but we stopped by for a look and rejoiced to see how quickly it has been cleaned up. This is one of only 2 or 3 protestant churches in the entire city so we pray for God’s continued blessing and protection.

Ofunato Bible Baptist Church

We then proceeded north to the city of Kamaishi, and while unable to reach the pastor, were able to get a glimpse of the Japan Church of Christ church in this city that also suffered significant damage when the waters flooded that entire part of the city. We kept heading north along the coast and witnessed more of the devastation in the towns of Ryoishi, Otsuchi, Kirikiri and Yamada. By about 6:30PM, twelve hours after our departure from Tokyo, we arrived in the city of Miyako where the 3.11 Iwate Church Network has a base camp. After a meal and a bath we headed to base camp and were welcomed by our fellow Covenanter and long term support staff for the 3.11 network, Michio Nagata and a team of volunteers from Hokkaido.

We joined them in a time of reflection on the day’s work, followed by time spent in singing, prayer and God’s Word. It is truly a blessing to hear the testimonies of these young volunteers, and affirm that in spite of our widely differening backgrounds, we are one in the Spirit and united in the task of bringing Christ’s love and compassion to this place. The 3.11 network has been sending volunteer teams into the same neighborhoods for close to 3 months now and what we are seeing is that the local residents have come to accept, trust and even appreciate these teams. Our volunteers are instructed to always go with an eagerness to listen and serve. Some of the most meaningful encounters have been when local residents tell us they don’t really need any food or supplies today but just want us to come in and spend time with them. I can’t help but believe that the love of Jesus Christ is being lived out in each and every one of those beautiful encounters.

Team Meeting and Worship

Team Meeting and Worship

Team Meeting and Worship

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3 comments “Listening and Building Trust”

Thanks for sharing this Jim.

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Since I am scheduled to go to Kitakami City, Iwate Ken on 11/22 (Tuesday) for a morning appointment with a company in Kitakami, I would like to visit Rikuzen Takada Kyoukai in the afternoon. Please advise the Pastor Morita’s email address and Phone number.
My address: Windsor Park, a Covenant Retirement Community, 390 Sherwood Drive, Carol Stream, Il 60188
630-784-0588 Church affiliation: Wheaton Bible Church
and Wheaton Evangelical Free Church
Hope to be hearing from you soon.

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