Tears of Joy, Tears of Sorrow…

9 comments Written on May 4th, 2011     
Filed under: earthquake, missions
May 3rd was a day of celebration for the Japan Covenant Church. We gathered at the Covenant Seminary and celebrated the 60th anniversary of this denomination. Our guest speakers were Gary Walter, President of the ECC, and Curt Peterson, Executive Minister of the Dept. of World Mission. They both brought profoundly encouraging messages that seemed just perfect for the occasion. And yet as encouraging as they were, I was even more profoundly moved as we worshiped together in song, both in the morning and the afternoon. The morning worship team was made up mostly of members of the Covenant Church in Nagaoka. If you are up on your recent Japan Covenant history you will remember that in 2005 this church was severely damaged by the Niigata earthquake and required extensive repairs and renovations to make it usable again. As this nation and our church face the challenges of yet another natural disaster, what an inspiration to see these young people from that church get up in front of a crowd of folks, most of whom were more than twice their age, and boldly lead us in worship. Two of the teenage girls in the group had parents and grandparents in attendance. As we remembered our history and celebrated how God has worked in our midst over the past 60 years there were multiple reminders of the work in Nagaoka, our most remote location. To think that Pastor Hiyoshi has faithfully served that congregation for decades, is currently sharing that pastorate with his son, and now has grand daughters leading the entire denomination in worship! It would be hard to find a testimony of God’s faithfulness more powerful than that!

Nagaoka Worship Team

In the afternoon we were led in worship by a team from one of our most active Covenant churches, International Bible Fellowship. They filled that space with a holy reverberation that had us all giving thanks and praise to God! And they helped us all remember why it is that we so desperately seek to welcome more youth into our churches. Few eyes were still dry by the time we finished worshiping and celebrating in song.

The IBF Worship Team

Hydi and I were given the privilege of bringing Gary and Curt home with us, only to wake them up early again the next morning to head north to Tohoku.

We left the house at 7AM, picked up Rev. Yasushi Shimizu, the Chair of the Japan Covenant, in downtown Tokyo and then embarked on a very long day of driving. By 3:30PM we were in Kesennuma, a city in Northern Miyagi Prefecture that experienced incredible loss during the tsunamis. This was the first time for Gary and Curt to see some of the damage first hand and predictably they were left with few words.

President Walter and Chairman Shimizu look out over the heavily damaged harbor

We drove south of town to the location of the First Baptist Church, the only Christian church in all of Japan to be completely washed away by the tsunami. Being as there is nothing but the concrete foundation left, we couldn’t even be entirely sure of where it was.

All that's left where a church once stood

President Walter trying to imagine what this quaint little train station looked like before it was washed away

Our next stop was the Christian nursing home in Kesennuma, King’s Garden. We met with the director, Rev. Masayoshi Mori and heard a first hand account of the terror of March 11th. The city of 70,000 experienced over 800 deaths and over 1,000 are still missing. Initially over 20,000 residents were displaced and forced to seek refuge where ever they could. Eight weeks later 5,000 of them are still living in temporary evacuation centers.

Rev. Mori has been attending funerals almost daily. And yet the greatest challenge is ministering to those who remain; residents of the nursing home, his own employees, many of who lost cars, homes, and loved ones, and the deeply traumatized residents of this weeping city. He spoke of the uncertainty and fear that grips many of the survivors when they see other fellow survivors suddenly succumb to the incredible pressures and stress of living through such a disaster and fall prey to heart attacks or other unexpected maladies.

Tears of sorrow are the common response to such heartbreaking realities.

Chairman Shimizu and Curt Peterson ask Rev. Mori how we can help

President Walter, Chairman Shimizu, Rev. Mori, Rev. Peterson

After leaving Kesennuma at 6:30PM we continued the drive north and finally arrived in Morioka around 9:30PM. Tonight we are staying at the Morioka Minami Church thanks to the kind and warm welcome of Pastor Otsuka and his wife. In the morning we will get another early start and make the two hour drive out to the coast and visit the base camp in Miyako. We will also connect with a Covenant team that has been there for the past couple of days and get a first hand look at the work they are doing. Then we will begin the long, sad journey south along the coast, passing through some of the hardest hit areas in all of Japan. By evening we hope to be in Sendai.

We ask for your prayers for the people of the Tohoku region, that they might receive comfort and strength to endure day after day of sadness and uncertainty. And also please pray that we and our volunteer teams would be able to share the love and encouragement of Jesus Christ with these people in ways that truly address their needs.

Look for part 2 in a day or two!

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9 comments “Tears of Joy, Tears of Sorrow…”

Thanks Jim for sharing your thoughts and photos. Continuing to pray for you all.

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The Lord counts the tears of the people! He will answer in due time!

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Good to read your clear words refracting the joys and sorrows to those who can’t experience it first hand.

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Jim and Heidi, during this crisis, the Lord is equipping you to be HIS hands and feet, to touch the people of Japan with HIS compassion.I am in awe of people like you and others that dedicated their lives to serve others and especially now, seize the moment and shine for HIS glory.

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Blessed be the Name of the Lord…even in the hollow and deserted places. May we feel His heart for the Japanese people who are still experiencing the trauma of this catastrophe and may His people continue to respond to the crisis that you so clearly shared in your blog. Praising God for His people who are the face of our Lord… Keep writing, dear friends. We need to keep hearing from you.

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Incredible pictures and experiences! Thank you for reflecting your thoughts to us who cannot imagine the devastation, but who grieve with you for the people of Japan. Thank you for serving them. Sherry

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