Thursday, March 17, 2011
Martin Ghent and I set out from Misawa at 7;15 a.m. in a borrowed diesel van.
All the way down there were lines of cars at gas stations; one had a sign saying they would take the first 500 cars- that is a line over a kilometer long. By noon they were closed. People were lining up for kerosene as well.
We had lunch at Morioka Bible Baptist Church. We had some supplies from Misawa and got some more in consultation with a young woman who attends the Bible Baptist church and was in contact with her father (phone mail?) who lives in Miyako, where we were going. We took pastor Kondoh of the BB church with us, as he had connections there and wanted to go to introduce us and see the situation. The 90 km road in was wide open, and passage was allowed for anyone. It is a winding mountain road. Light snow made the road treacherous.
We left Morioka at 12;20 and arrived 2;10 at Miyako, a city of 60,000 people. It has 2 churches: a Kyodan church that has a church and kindergarten. The church was damaged but the kindergarten is in the hills and was untouched. There is also Miyako Community Church, and independent church of 12 members planted by Norwegian missionaries.
The pastor was at the emergency center talking with people who had taken refuge there; he had been doing so for several days. We talked with his wife, but she was unsure what to do and couldn`t contact her husband, so we set out to see the situation.
The church was completely untouched; they had water and electricity by the second day. But withiin a stone throw down the road, the head of the flooding started; no water or electricity there. Rubble had been piled high on both sides of the road; locals were adding the ruined contents of their houses to the piles, and scrubbing mud from the first floors. As we proceeded, the buildings got worse: several had collapsed and then we got to the place where they had been swept away.
We were stopped from proceeding to the end of the seaside road because the SDF was still working beyond that point. Up on a bridge above the town, we could see a valley where the higher houses were cut off by the huge drift of rubble below them.
The pastor`s wife said other parts of town were hard hit, but we didn`t see that. The village of Taro, where we were stopped the night before, is just to the north of this point.
We were told there were three types of victims. Some people stay at their wrecked houses burning rubble for heat, and waiting to see if family members will show up or call out. Some go to emergency centers because their houses are gone. Some go because they are afraid to stay in their house even if it is all right. Aftershocks continue daily. There were about 200 people in the center we visited, and we were told they had no immediate need of the supplies we had. We went to the town`s emergency supply distribution center (the water dept.) and for the first time we found someone who actually wanted what we had brought. They were very glad to get it (water, canned coffee, oddments of food and medicines, paper hygienic products, apples and juice, blankets and futon).
They would have been happy to have had batteries, gasoline and kerosene. I do not think there are people who cannot get basic shelter, water and at least some food, if they choose to go and get it. Very few of the buildings in the affected area will be easy to fix and people were saying it will take 10 years to rebuild.
None of the church members died or suffered loss.
Gasoline and kerosene are unavailable and will not be until sometime next week.
1. It is hard to believe that there is now only one church ministering to 60,000 people and even they are near closing. (the United Chruch technically exists and has an active preschool- but will they rebuild and how much longer will they carry on with around 10 on a Sunday) Seems we need to encourage MCC.
2. The church has becoming more inward and with this challenge has sensed God's calling to go forth. But they don't know how or what or ...... We need to be an encouraging, praying presence.
3. There are 5 or 6 harbors in the city containing a total of thousands of suffering people. The church is unable to think about what to do, but we could use the church as a sleeping/resting base and work out from there, not as a church program but individually offering help, a listening ear and as needed materials. We can direct people if so led to the church for followup.
4. My guess is that as we A) encourage the church, and B)go out into the city, there will be many opportunities that open for ministry.
5. Next year or after, we could partner with that church to do outreach meetings and tracting.
Give thanks for safety- almost smashed up the Driscolls van on the way back coming down an icy road- the person in front wiped out and we stopped beside them sideways with 4 feet to spare!!
We hope to start as early as next week or the week after. Pray for contact with the pastor- that we can push but not too much(we only want what Jesus wants anyway).
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
After a few conference calls and extended talks, John Elliot (brother-in-law) and I will be doing a 2 day research trip. Since CRASH and most mission agencies and relief workers start from Tokyo and head north, they get about as far as Sendai. However some of us are also concerned about the areas north as far as Hachinohe. Since OMF is the main mission agency in the north and since we are here and able to go in, we have decided that we will go.
So if you want to pull out your maps- or look at Google maps, we are planning to head south from Hachinohe. There are churches in Kuji and Miyako. Phones are down and cell phones numbers are unknown. So we don't know the condition of things although most pastors are reported alive. We want to find a place/ places that a small team can help from as early as next week. Hopefully after getting started this will gradually increase until we meet up with the folk coming north.
According to data the highest tidal waves were in this area but becasue of smaller towns, and distance from major centres, there isn't coverage.
Pray we would be safe- that we wouldn't get in the way- that we would get accurate date- that Jesus would guide us to a place where we could faciltate ministry to those in need. We have managed to get enough gasoline to get there and back so even if we can't find gas, we should be ok. We plan to go to Morioka to sleep- they have utilities and are inland.
As to over here- the stores are cleaned out of essentials- meat, dairy, noodles, bread, rice. Gasoline is available but lineups are 80-100 cars. From tomorrow we have 3 hour blackouts as a means to not use up available power.
German embassy has ordered Germans to leave Japan, and since our cowokers are German, they are leaving now. Armin will stay behind to keep the fort.
So all in all, it is an eventful tme. We pray that people would find Jesus and would be minsitered to in practical ways. We also pray that there would be an awareness around the world of the lack of churches and Christians and as a result there would be a massive church planting effort.
We are on facebook- as is the church. Sometimes we update the blog.
Grateful for your partnership for Jesus glory.
Martin and Ruth Mae
Saturday, March 12, 2011
We finally got our power back tonight just as we were about to start another candle light supper. Last week when we had an earthquake I thought that would be as strong as it got. Yesterday started out pretty normal. I made pie for a special cafe event-Martin was doing a stained glass workshop with 11 people in the second floor of the bookstore/cafe. One of the ladies has been to several events and told me how much she wants to be invited to our house. We were having nice chats with people. I went down to help serve up the pie and drinks and then the earthquake began. It was the longest earthquake I have ever experienced. When it finally stopped everyone went back inside. The electricity went out pretty well right away. We thought it would come back so everyone went back inside and started to work on their projects again. But then it started shaking again so half of us ended up outside again. For awhile I tried to stop the hanging lights in the cafe because I was afraid they would shatter on the wall. It's interesting to try and figure out whether you should try and stop damage or run. But in the end we had no damage although we have had many aftershocks and some of them have been fairly strong. We lost electricity but had water and have a wood stove so have been warm and fed.
Yesterday and today some church members hung out at our house because it is warm and we could cook. I was worried about the coffee shop freezers because we didn't want them to lose what was in the freezers. We lost some of what was in the fridge. We moved our fridge onto the deck in the middle of the night to cool it down. We still don't know what will happen in terms of gas and supplies but for now we are ok. The place where we go on summer vacation has been hit. The tsunami hit the beaches we swim on and has taken out the villages there. There are two cliffs that have old cabins that missionaries stay in. The cliffs are ok but our friends are trapped on them with no way down because the water hasn't receded. They are melting snow to drink. News of the nuclear power plants down south is really disturbing. We have a nuclear power plant in our prefecture on the Pacific side as well as inground cannisters to store nuclear waste from France??!!!!! We pray it all stays canned. Fellow OMFers are all accounted for. We have much to be thankful for. We are safe and although it shook long and hard we only had a few things fall and nothing broke. But I think that the distruction up and down the coast will affect the whole country financially and emotionally.
Of the people killed most maybe even all of them will not have known Jesus. People already struggle with depression and hopelessness and it doesn't occur to them to look to Jesus for answers so the emotional blow to the nation will be huge...Pray that destruction will open peoples hearts to the message of hope and give us opportunities to share. Pray for our hearts to be protected. Pray for people to be rescued physically and spiritually. Pray for supplies to get to where they are needed. The reality is that we still really don't know the extent this will affect this nation. And of course we wonder whether we will keep getting aftershocks. We spent the morning listening to warnings.
We are supposed to have our annual meeting a week from tomorrow. It's hard to think about that right now but that really needs prayer as well. Will send you another update before it and probably say more at that time. We were so encouraged to hear of so many of you praying for us and for Japan.
THANK YOU!!! Love Martin and Ruth Mae
Monday, June 14, 2010
Our team was able to perform a few concerts at various sized elementary schools in Hirosaki and the surrounding area. I didn’t know what to expect to see at a Japanese school, but it turned out to be a time to show the students love while simply playing along with them. We got the kids jumping and dancing with us through fun games such as tag and an arm tangling challenge. We performed a hip hop dance that spoke about finding our identity in Jesus and not in our clothes or houses. A few team members acted out a skit about how Jesus can lighten our load when we feel over-burdened. It was great to get the kids involved in fun songs such as “Alleluia” and “This is how we overcome” with actions. The moment we got the kids involved in the songs, the smiles burst out and everyone began to relax and have a blast. During a few of the fast songs, some team members jumped with the students in the audience and joined in the fun. At two of the larger schools we were able to eat with the students and have fun with them during their lunch period. It was a blessing to know that we were God’s ambassadors showing them His love and opening doors to future ministry opportunities.
In Kanagi half of our team went tracting to promote a concert we were doing a few weeks later at the Kanagi Chapel. Tracting isn’t something normally appreciated in Canada. The majority of tracting done in North America seems to be done by overly friendly cult members and sleazy sales people. It was quite popular in the church in the 70s and most of the 80s but lately the church has tried to distance itself from that form of ministry. Because of the stereotypes associated with ‘tracters’ (one who hands out tracts) I felt most nervous about participating in tracting. However, I was pleasantly surprised about how the Japanese people view the service. When I first started walking door to door (all by myself) I was hoping not to run into anybody face to face. The trick was finding the mailbox. Unfortunately in Kanagi its hard to distinguish which door is the front door of a house (or even what the house is from the shed) and thus the location of the mailbox. So I was forced into stepping in open doorways and calling “Konichiwa?” The great thing is that instead of getting the door slammed in my face, I was welcomed by many smiling faces. Furthermore, through broken Japanese, English, and primitive sign language I had great interactions with the people who were quite pleased to receive my fist full of tracts. I learned what an important part of ministry tracting is in the Japanese culture and not to be apologetic in my deliverance of the Good News. It’s not about pushing your views on someone else, the way we view it in Canada, but about making information readily available to people. So I say to all, “Happy tracting!”
I am a musician. I have played a lot of concerts and shows, at big clubs and small bars, jammed out summer camps and empty rooms. I was surprised to then find out that no one rocks harder than the people at the Misawa Air Force Base in Japan.
At first I was taken aback. It seemed odd to me to fly half way around the world so that I could play worship music in Japan, and then go do it in the United States... in Japan. But OMF told us to be flexible, and hey, I don’t ever mind playing guitar. It was a beautiful drive through the country, we saw hills and mountains and forests and even some public washrooms (those are new to Japan). After a few hours in the car I was relieved to pull into the Airbase parking lot. We grabbed our passports and ID’s and went inside. We had lunch first, provided to us by the officer who invited us, and it was a bizarre switch to suddenly have Taco Bell and Pizza Hut available to us. After lunch we headed to the chapel to set up. We were greeted by some friendly US military who helped us set up and did our sound check. After a few “Check one two’s” we were ready to go, so we headed to the back room to pray. We prayed that we would play well and that God would minister to people through our music and through Martin’s message. He did. As we went through our set the whole team just let go of whatever thoughts or issues they were dealing with and entered into unhindered worship of the most high God, and in doing so we were able to lead others to do the same. As I looked out into the congregation I saw people of every age, race and background jumping and praising God. With hands raised they worshiped, with voices raised they worshiped, with knees bent they worshiped, with heads bowed they worshiped. With genuine sincerity they worshiped, and I was blessed.
Not three days after our arrival in Itayinagi, our Tyndale music team was split up to take on various tasks. Half of the team loaded up into vans and traveled with a youth group back to Tokyo for a Chris Tomlin concert; the other half of the team headed to Nakasato.
This division of the team, consisting of Amanda, Sarah, Rachel, Jaclyn, and myself, met up at the home of a missionary named Angela. After brief introductions, we split up into two’s and went tracting. We passed out information for the Itayinagi/Tsugaru Evangelical Church, Kanagi Chapel, and some of our upcoming concerts in Nakasato and Kanagi. After about an hour and a half of wandering around neighbourhoods and engaging the locals as best we could, Angela picked us all up and we re-convened at her place for some well needed lunch.
Now tracting, for us and our Western minds, comes with a lot of baggage. One would not easily get away with doing it in North America without getting a serious scolding from some unhappy person who’s conscience is offended at even the mention of religion. Here, we had to unload that baggage and accept the task before us. We managed to hit many mailboxes and even interacted with a few people. Getting beyond the language barrier was difficult, but not impossible. The day gave us a taste of the attitude of the people in Japan.
This day also brought realizations and a deeper perspective on the needs for the Gospel. We had with us copies of a Manga magazine called “The Messiah”. It was the gospel presented in a form that was appealing to a younger audience. At one point, a crowd of young boys was waving at us from a window, and I motioned for them to come say hello. When they all came down, I handed them each a copy of the Manga. They took it with excitement. I heard one boy exclaim to his friend “Kiristo-kyo” while indicating the cover of the book. I had mixed feelings. We had just given these kids a unique copy of the Gospel, but I felt that there was still danger for them. Would their parents, with all their traditional cultural and religious views, allow them to engage this literature on any meaningful level, if at all? As we walked away from those kids, I felt that we were leaving them in God’s hands, hoping that what we had given them was a well planted seed that would not be choked out by weeds or taken away by the ravens.