Sunday, March 27, 2011

“Waiting for the Rising Sun: While trusting in God's only Son”

“Waiting for the Rising Sun: While trusting in God's only Son”
by Greg Asimakoupoulos

"The ancient land of rising suns
still waits for dawn to finally come.
The nightmare of that afternoon
continues without end.
A quaking earth and monstrous waves
destroyed her dreams creating graves
for countless mothers, dads and kids
who died that dreadful day.
The cherry blossoms mask the fact
that everything is not in tact.
Whole villages have been destroyed
and hope's been washed away.
Mt. Fuji silently looks on
and weeps to realize what's gone.
Untapped potential, precious life,
the chance to say goodbye.
O God, give grace to these perplexed
who in their grief must face what's next.
Please penetrate their broken hearts
with that which pride prevents.
Be known as One who freely gave
His only Son who came to save
a world destroyed by death and sin
and human suffering."


ISAIAH 50:4, “The Sovereign Lord has given me his words of wisdom,
so that I know how to comfort the weary.
Morning by morning he wakens me
and opens my understanding to his will.”


Friday, March 25, 2011

living in the "not quite normal"

The past couple of weeks have been a little unnerving as things we assume to be normal haven't been available for us. Things are getting better, but it isn't like it used to be.

Gasoline:
Yesterday when Stan and I drove out to shop around 5 pm, we noticed that gas stations were just closing up. Recently, stations have opened for a few hours and have rationed fuel, with long lines of vehicles waiting to get in. Most have been closed by late morning. Since today marked two weeks since the earthquake, and the news has been telling us that gasoline supplies should be adequate, we've been hoping that we'd finally get a chance to fill our tank soon.

Its not that we were empty--we have seen God's mercy in the timing of our fill-ups right before and after the quake. In a normal month with normal driving we only fill it up once. But knowing that at anytime, the environment may change to a point where we would be compelled to leave Tokyo, we were looking forward to the time when we could get a full tank of gas.

Today, our regular station was open, without lines. I was free to "fill 'er up." Thank you God! One other friend wrote on facebook how he felt a load off his shoulders when he was able to drive away with a full tank of gas.

Milk:
Milk has been one of the staples rationed over the past weeks. Some stores have limited customers to 1 liter (~quart) per family. On some days, our family can go through three of those. Today there was no milk at the first store I visited. I decided to try one other store--the Seiyu near our church. Because of the rolling black outs, the normally 24 hour grocer is open about 9 hours, and it looked like they had gotten a new shipment of milk with just a few hours to go before closing. Gone were the signs restricting how many cartons I could buy. I brought my three cartons to the check-out, and the clerk stopped to refer to the "ration sign" before running them all through the scanner. Who knows what it will be like tomorrow...

Toilet Paper:
Apparently there is a history of toilet paper shortages in Japan during crises situations. It was one of the first things that people ran out to buy after the quake. We still had a reasonable stock from our last Costco batch, but did pick up a package at a Japanese store early on, just in case. Yesterday when we went back to Costco, there was no sign of toilet paper anywhere...who knows when the next shipment will come. But today at the Seiyu they again had toilet paper, without rationing.

Electricity:
We haven't quite figured out why, but our house seems to be in a "do not black-out" zone. Most of our friends have one to two 3-hour blackouts during the day. We were ready during the first few days, and when the times passed, we wondered if we misunderstood. We speculate that because we are near a train station or the city hall that perhaps our "grid" is off limits. Last night we drove past the block of apartments we called home last term and it was eerily black. And driving down the road it looks like stores are closed--when in fact they don't have their exterior lights on, and are using only half the interior lights. It reminds us of visits we've made to second-world countries. The news tells us that we will experience electricity shortages through the summer, at least.

Talkative People:
It has been a long time since I've had Japanese come up and start conversations with me. But recently, people have made an effort to ask us where we are from, and when we say we live here, they are surprised. There has been a great flight of foreigners from Japan in the last two weeks. The Japanese Immigration office had a record 10,000 people request re-entry permits on Wednesday of last week. We had one member from church write us thanking us for staying with the Japanese at this time.

It seems each day should bring us a little closer to normal, but we're not sure what that will look like anymore. Just today there is news of farmers in the area near the nuclear plant needing to dump milk because radiation levels are too high.

When we visited Moscow in 1996, we were introduced to the concept of "the possibility bag." The missionaries would carry shopping bags with then, in the possibility they might find something they needed while out and about. I may need to start thinking that way! From 24-hour grocery stores to "possibility bags"...life is not quite normal any more.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

What I didn't learn in science class...

Over the past two weeks, as the radiation threat here in Japan has been sensationalized in the press, many, many foreigners have left Tokyo. Some have left out of fear. Others have left because their sending organizations required them to get away. I have no reason to judge their decisions, but in making decisions for ourselves, we set off to figure out just what level of threat there is out there for us.

So we've been introduced to units of measurement that I don't ever remember from science class--dosage of radiation is measured in sieverts, and radioactivity is measured in becquerels. Sieverts are broken down into milli-sieverts and micro-sieverts. Each prefix divides the dosage by 1000, and we're being warned about micro-sievert dosages, little bitty ones...which is what we're experiencing.

This article from Forbes gives a good synopsis of the issue.

In my more sarcastic moments, I think about how last year on home assignment, I (Faith) had two MRI's, one CT scan and two x-rays. Considering my exposure to radiation in those, I should probably stay away from California...


Sunday, March 20, 2011

A picture tells a thousand words

One of the most interesting graphics that I have seen related to the earthquakes in Japan the past 9 days is this one called the Japan Quake Map. You must click it and then be prepared to watch the 600 + quakes and see their depth, radius and frequency.

We feel about 2-3 aftershocks a day...for the people in the central earthquake zone, this is a regular, ongoing, every 20-minutes to one-hour experience. It is very traumatic to live this way.


Spending time with our Church Family

Last Sunday was the first Sunday after the Earthquake and Tsunami--and we were in Karuizawa with our mission family, not at ICCS with our church family. A week has passed, and the tragedies of the quakes, aftershocks (over 650 since the 11th), and tsunami have been added to with the problems at the nuclear reactors in Fukushima.

In that time we've had families leave the area to wait out the possible radiation effects, one family move to their home country, and another member unable to return from Europe because of airline schedule changes. As we made a list of all who would be gone today, I suddenly felt a panic because it was also our monthly covered dish Sunday, and those were the people who usually contributed the larger meals!


Even though there were a large number of people missing, there were others who attended with renewed interest in finding comfort and encouragement from God.


When covered dish time came, we went had a time of celebrating the March birthdays.


We also congratulated Ken, who graduated from Bible School on March 10.


And in spite of my anxiety about not enough food, we ended up with left overs!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Double your Contribution!

Help us match $1,000,000 to bring relief to Japan following the Tsunami:


Asian Access received a $1,000,000 matching gift pledge to help meet the spiritual and physical needs of those who have been impacted by the devastating earthquakes and tsunami last week. This gift and the funds given to match the pledge will help us achieve our mission for Asian Access/Japan "to unite the church" and "extend the transforming power of the gospel."


Asian Access is working with our vast network of churches across the country (400 pastors and 1800 churches - nearly 25% of the congregations in Japan) and with CRASH--a ministry of Grace Church which has grown into the largest Christian coordinating agency--to help meet the spiritual and physical needs of several communities across the nation.

We know of nearly 300 churches in the Sendai area and Asian Access has already launched a disaster response team for CRASH to set up a relief base in the affected areas. A few churches ...

For more information, go to http://asianaccess.org/A2-Japan-Tsunami-Matching-Gift.html

Thank you! We pray that God will bring many, many more Japanese into His kingdom as a result of the ministries of mercy and hope.

Faith and Stan

Friday, March 18, 2011

One week later...

It was a week ago that our lives were "rocked" by the first earthquake that has changed our lives. I would have to say that most of us are still living in some state of shock and grief. People have different ways of responding, but everyone is affected.




Today, Stan, Noelle and I went to say goodbye to friends who pushed their departure from Japan up by three months, following the quake. I can't imagine what they've gone through to be anywhere near prepared to leave the country within this week. We also talked with a missionary family who has been instructed to evacuate the area by their sending organization.

Afterward, Noelle and I went to the CRASH office to volunteer our services. I had been in touch already with the woman who is overseeing the finances, and it was the first time I could get down there to begin working with her. People are giving generously, and at the same time the expenses have ramped up, so there will be plenty of work for us to share.



At 2:46 p.m. we all stopped to remember the time of the first quake, and then to have a season of prayer. It was an emotion-filled session.


Noelle found a great spot to work--helping new volunteers into the office sign in, get registered and then to direct them to places to work. It looks to me like they were having fun at that table!



Another Asian Access missionary, Nozomi, has been a part of the group corresponding with volunteers who have contacted by e-mail and phone. Her bilingual ability has been very helpful.


At about 7:30 p.m. four of our missionaries from the Osaka area drove in with this two ton truck filled with donations. In addition to what the missionaries purchased, friends and neighbors contributed lots of supplies.


After unloading it into the CAJ cafeteria for storage, we got the group together with Pastor Hari for a celebration photo. Three of the men will be part of an advance team going up to the Sendai area tomorrow to set up a base camp for volunteer teams.

Finally, we never expected that the aftermath of the earthquakes and tsunami would be the fear of a nuclear crisis. We continue to watch the news and assess what our next steps will be. Several missions with leadership outside the country have pulled their staff out of the Tokyo area, while many missionaries themselves are feeling deeply drawn to remain and do the work. Today I spoke with several who were having to make decisions for themselves and their families. If you pray, please remember to pray that each one of us will have discernment as we daily assess the safety situation.

In the scope of missions around the world, Japan has been one of the safest fields in which to serve. We have very little terrorism, anarchy and criminal activity. I have often thought that if we 'die for the cause of Christ' it will be because of environment factors. For years our community was know to have a high level of dioxins. And now, there is a risk (at this time small in our geographic region) of radiation. We don't want to be foolish and set ourselves up for harm, but we still are not convinced that the danger to us, in our location, merits evacuation.

And there is so much to be done...

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

What about Radiation? and Was that another quake?

I've seen several people refer to what is happening in Japan as a horror movie--earthquakes, tidal waves, and now radiation leakage from damaged nuclear power plants. Add to that frigid, cold weather, lack of fuel and electricity in the tsunami-ravaged areas, with continued aftershocks and it is dreadful.

In the Tokyo area we have been watching the nuclear reactor situation very closely. As an administrator with our mission, I am part of discussions about whether those of us in Tokyo should be evacuating from here. Each mission organization responds differently, and for a while we were all quite panicked based on the kind of information we were getting.

Yesterday we received three assurances that it is okay to stay put for the time being.

The first one was an explanation of the levels of radiation that were being thrown around in the press. When we hear its 10 times higher than normal, is that excessive, or is it 10 times more than a minute amount? How does that compare to what one normally gets in an X-ray? Seeing it written out was very helpful for us all to put into perspective that presently we are safe to stay in the Tokyo area.


I grew up with maps--and perhaps this will help you understand the distances we're talking about. Our home is near the A on the map--to the North West of Tokyo. The nuclear power plant having the problems is at B. The distance is 260 km (160 miles). The quake area is in Sendai at the very top of the map, 360 km from us.

The second and third assurances came in communiques from both the British Embassy and the American Embassy. The Japanese have set up a 20 km evacuation zone around the power plant, and a 30 km warning zone. Independent experts quoted in the Embassy reports said that we are safe in the Tokyo area.

Even with these assurances, though, there are some who have already taken off. There are Japanese who are highly concerned, and others who are not.

Stan and I have spent time talking through this for ourselves and believe we should be staying here.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We continue to have earthquakes and aftershocks. It seems like they frequently occur around 10:30 or 11:00 at night, and at 4:30 or 5:00 in the morning...makes for broken sleep. I realize how tense our bodies are as we walk around wondering if we're feeling another earthquake.

Today was a very windy day. Our house is a three story house, with some "give" built in, so the wind was rocking the house quite a bit. Our physical responses were the same as when we feel a quake coming on.

How can we tell the difference? By looking at pull strings hanging from ceiling lamps...they don't move with the wind. They clearly move with an earthquake.

Pictures tell so many stories...

This morning we stopped by the church. With all the concerns about radiation (that will be another blog entry!) I knew that anxiety was running high, so I sent out an e-mail last night cancelling today's study. Yet, I also knew that some might not read their e-mails, so I wanted to be there to meet and pray with people, just in case. I brought my daughter along with me, too.



Mrs. S had not looked at her e-mail, so was there getting the coffee set up for study. It was good to spend time with her, and find out how her family was doing. It had taken her daughter 4 hours to get to work today (a usual 1 hour commute) because the trains are still running irregularly. She is leaving on a planned cruise on Saturday, so we prayed for her safety and enjoyment.



After we left the church we went to the nearby grocery store--not really because we needed anything, but because we wanted to see what it looked like. I am pondering the instant ramen and cup-noodle shelves. There were signs restricting people from buying more than 2 per household. Its not our favorite food, but we do have six stashed away in case.



The bread shelves were empty. People had been limited to one per family according to the signs.


Other refrigerated items were also slim. Milk was non-existent. We have been told that there actually is food, but people's hording has taken it out of the system. Again, at this point we feel we are well supplied, but we will continue to watch as we go through these days.

On our way home we saw a tanker filling up the tank at a gas station that had run out of fuel yesterday. We're still okay with gas, having topped off before we left Karuizawa on Monday. In a normal month we only go through one tank, so we believe that with conservation we should be okay for a while.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We finally saw pictures of the area around our summer cabin. This small village of Shichigahama (7 beaches) has been our summer home for the past 12 years. We are honestly not concerned about the cabin--its only an old building that probably survived the quake in reasonable condition--but the devastation in the neighborhood surrounding the area of the cabins was heart-breaking.


This normally packed street is one we take regularly cutting through from one main street to another. For those who know, its the road near the McDonalds, heading toward Jusco.


This is the community near the beach between the two hills of cabins.


This is the road above what we call "the surfers' beach."


This is the beach between the hills, where those with young children often play.


This photo was one of several, showing a survivor. The house is across the street from the beach shown above. I love his expression!

There are actually about 40 photos of this area, which we spent time going through today. Seeing them left us even more sad. We were grateful to see some of the long-term residents in other photos. In comparison to photos of other areas, this almost seems like mild destruction. First had reports talk about driving into the tsunami areas, and how things go from normal to overwhelming so quickly.

CRASH Awareness

Monday, March 14, 2011

So you want to know what's happening...and how you can help...

We are so thankful for the response of friends regarding the situation here in Japan. Several have written asking what they can do.


DEFINITION OF THE CURRENT RESPONSE SITUATION:

The following definitions were given to be helpful for understanding the aftermath of a crisis like this.

  • Rescue: this is what is currently taking place. This is done by professionals, and we need to trust them with this phase.
  • Relief: can be defined as the urgent and temporary provision of emergency aid to reduce immediate suffering from a natural or man-made crisis. There is a need to halt the free fall, to stop the bleeding, and this is what relief attempts to do. It targets those who are largely incapable of helping themselves at the time. The Good Samaritan bandaging of the helpless and bleeding man is an excellent example of this. Once the rescue work is done and access to the region is opened to the public, groups on the ground here want to be ready to have teams going in bringing relief and initial assistance.
  • Rehabilitation: begins as soon as the bleeding stops. It seeks to restore people and their communities to the positive elements of their pre-crisis condition. The key feature of rehabilitation is a dynamic of working with the victims as they participate in their own recovery. This is a much longer term involvement. One way to engage with this is to get churches inside and outside of Japan to become sister churches with those in the affected zone, working through them to bring help in rebuilding the communities.
COMING TO HELP:
If you are interested in coming to Japan, I would suggest you not rush to the nearest airport! This is not the time for untrained teams to be coming into the country. Things are much too unstable here for this! There are professionals involved in the rescue, there are resident teams that are doing assessment for relief, and there are structures being constructed for coordinating outside teams for relief and rehabilitation. Instead it would be good to begin following the posts on the CRASH (Christian Relief Assistance Support and Hope) . Many mission groups are mobilizing together through the experienced leadership of CRASH, and we will be doing our part to help in the work there.

As things stabilize, you can begin making plans for teams to come, but please do not expect missionaries to be available to support these teams unless you come through an organized structure such as CRASH. Asian Access is going to be working to assist churches where we have relationships within the Tohoku region beginning this summer. To get in on those conversations, please go to http://go2japan.org/tsunami-forum

GIVING FOR RELIEF:
Asian Access is collecting funds to be used in the relief efforts for Japan, directing them through our local network of churches in the affected area where we have had ongoing relationships.

CRASH is also collecting donations.

We encourage you to give through one of these organizations, because we know the funds will be used to directly impact the lives of the Japanese people, through the local churches in Tohoku.

PRAYING FOR JAPAN:
I am attaching a prayer list from the CRASH site. Since it was created, the Nuclear Power Plant situation has become even more serious. Honestly we don't know what this means for us at this time. (We live around 180 km from the power plant--the evacuation area is 30 km).

Bullet-point Prayer List

Postby anne.winters » Mon Mar 14, 2011 8:06 am

  • At 2:46 PM local time, March 11, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck Japan off the eastern coast of Miyagi, prefecture. This is the largest recorded earthquake ever to have struck Japan, and one of the five largest recorded earthquakes in the world. It has been days since the initial temblor, and heavy aftershocks are still being felt throughout northeastern Japan, with no way of knowing how long these aftershocks will continue. Some experts have said that there could be strong aftershocks of up to magnitude level 8 for six months. Please pray that the earthquakes will cease.
  • Pray also for the buildings that survived the initial shock, but are being hammered by the aftershocks. Many buildings still stand, but were weakened, and because of this strong aftershocks are very dangerous.
  • The devastation from the initial earthquake was compounded by heavy tsunami that hammered the east coast. Sendai City was hit the hardest, both by the temblor and the tsunami. Some towns were entirely obliterated by the tsunami. Please pray for the survivors and for those who are still stranded and missing.
  • The tsunami from the earthquake swept away entire cities, and there is still risk of further tsunami from large aftershocks. Please pray that the affected areas remain safe from further tsunami.
  • Due to the seismic activity, the ground level in much of coastal Japan actually sank, so sea water that came in during the tsunami is not receding. This is hampering relief efforts. Please pray that relief teams will be able to work safely in these areas.
  • In the wake of the earthquake, fires raged throughout affected areas. Pray for the victims of these fires and those who have lost their homes.
  • Hundreds of people are still stranded in damaged areas. These people have been without food, water, and heat in freezing temperatures for three days. Rescue is difficult due to tsunami water that will not recede. Please pray for their swift rescue.
  • Casualty reports are still coming in. The death toll estimates keep rising. There are over 2,000 confirmed dead. It is estimated that the death toll could exceed 10,000 in Miyagi prefecture alone. Pray for those who have lost their loved ones. Pray for those who are trapped and injured, as well as those who are missing friends and family.
  • In Fukushima Prefecture, two nuclear power plants are under a state of emergency. Three explosions have happened at the Fukushima Daiichi plant; one Saturday, one Monday, and one Tuesday. These explosions were caused by hydrogen build-up, and authorities assure that the reactors have not exploded. Those within 20 kilometers have been evacuated, and those within the area 20-30 km away have been advised to stay indoors to avoid radiation exposure. Please pray that the situation will get under control soon.
  • Pray also for the weather. With radiation being diffused into the air, wind or rain could carry it into populated areas and expose people. Pray that any wind will carry radiation out to sea rather than into populated areas. What's more, bitterly cold night-time temperatures could prove life-threatening for those who are trapped.
  • Public transit systems in Tokyo and the surrounding areas are taxed to the limit by this disaster, and the transportation companies are no longer confident that the infrastructure can handle rush hour traffic. Please pray that this transportation situation can be resolved.
  • Millions of homes in northeastern Japan are without power. This has led to Japanese power companies arranging planned blackouts to conserve energy. Millions of people are still without water. Pray for the power plants and water facilities to be able to resume their work, and pray for those who do not have these essential supplies.
  • Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes in the coastal areas and the area around the Fukushima nuclear power plants. Please pray for them, and all who are having to stay in public shelters.
  • Relief workers are working around the clock to rescue survivors, but reaching many victims is proving incredibly difficult due to the rubble and water levels. Pray for the relief workers, that God would grant safety and stamina.
  • Pray for the Christians of Japan, that we would be able to mobilize relief efforts and provide for people's needs, both physical and spiritual.
  • Pray for areas where food, medicine, and drink shortages are occurring.
  • Gasoline shortages are starting to become a very large problem. Pray for gasoline for those who need it.
  • On Sunday afternoon, Shinmoedake volcano on the island of Kyushu erupted, spewing ash and boulders into the air. So far, no casualties have been reported. Pray for the safety of the people of Kyushu.
  • Please pray also for the other countries affected by the tsunami.
  • Pray for Japan's economy. There have already been massive losses, and it is quite likely that the long-term impact of this disaster on Japan's already-strained economy will be quite serious.

PRAY FOR US:
We are feeling the stress in many ways. We slept fairly well last night, except for an aftershock at 5 a.m. that woke us up briefly. We have just received news that our sons are out of school through the end of this week at least. Their school is making plans for some online virtual education opportunities, but we anticipate that getting their wholehearted cooperation will be difficult. Trying to decide what continues and what doesn't in ministry, too, is a bit challenging, especially as our different cultures have varying approaches to uncertainty. So please pray for peace in our hearts and our home, wisdom in what we should be doing, and guidance as we interact with our neighbors, our church family, and the CRASH outreach.

Monday night reflections

When asked where I would most like to live in Japan, I have said "Sendai" in Miyagi prefecture. We have vacationed in a rustic cabin at a missionary vacation community called Takayama by the Sea* in the Sendai area nearly every summer for the past 12 years. Sendai is an interesting combination of progressive university city, small metropolitan area, international shipping center and fishing village.

Watching the photos and you-tube videos of this area over the past couple of days is heart-breaking. I keep looking for familiar sites. In the actual village where our cabin is located there are over 3,000 in shelters, and in the Sendai area 15,000 are living in temporary shelters. Seeing a community we drive past several times a year being inundated by the tsunami waves leaves us in speechless. The news stories tonight on the national network where they were interviewing families and friends brought us to tears.

We live about 5 hours away from Sendai, and spent the last five days at a retreat center another two hours away, in Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture. While we felt the major quake and some of the aftershocks, we felt like we were living in a bubble. Logistically it was helpful in that we "knew where our people were." But it wasn't until coming back home today that we had a greater awareness of what changes have taken place in "normal" lifestyle.
  • We had been given advance warning that gas stations were running out of fuel, and lines were long, so we filled up before we left Karuizawa.
  • As we drove in, we saw those lines at three different stations we passed.
  • We were also told that grocery stores were empty--so we also shopped up there before we left. (This photo was taken by a friend.)
  • The electric company is beginning a rolling black out--today they were spotty in their application of it, but tomorrow we will be without electricity from 6:20 a.m. until 10:00 a.m. Our cooking stove is propane and doesn't require electricity, so we can heat up water and cook eggs for breakfast...but the rooms will be cold and we won't be able to take a shower until the electricity comes back on.
  • Our children's school is closed at least through Wednesday, while the administration tries to figure out the best approach with inconsistent train schedules (most students commute to school by train) and electrical blackouts.
One other dose of reality, came when we got out of our car after having arrived home from Karuizawa. A neighbor whom I've only met once ran past us and then quickly returned. She seemed anxious. I asked her how they had fared during the earthquake and she said they were okay...and then mentioned that she hadn't heard from her husband since the quake. What I understand is that he was working in Iwate Prefecture (one affected both by quakes and tsunami). She was trying to tell herself (and me) that he was probably okay -- its been hard to get cell phones to work, etc. While we haven't chatted with this family much, we have noticed the dad. He is a great dad, engages well and plays with his kids. Please pray that we will know how to be a support and an encouragement to Mrs. K and her two children as they wait for news on Mr. K.

I have a Bible study scheduled for Wednesday morning at ICCS. I sent out a note today to see if the ladies will be able to come. In our study of the Beatitudes, we will be looking at "Blessed are the Merciful" which seems quite time.

Finally, it is easy to be fearful. Whether its feeling the next aftershock, wondering if we'll be able to get food when our stock runs out, or knowing that the Japan Meteorological Society gives a 40% prediction for another earthquake of M6 or less over the next three days (It was 70% for one of M7 yesterday). And we are weary, which make it all the more challenging to handle the emotions well.

~~~~~

There are several churches in Miyagi and Fukushima that have been destroyed by the quake. Others have had to be evacuated because of their proximity to the nuclear power plants that are having such problems. Today I read a translated letter from a pastor in that area who plead for prayer for his people, many of whom are living in shelters. Over the next few weeks, there will be advance teams going into this area to figure out how groups can come and assist in rebuilding projects. This is not the time for groups to come--besides the situation continuing to be too unstable, the work that needs to be done now is the rescue and recovery efforts best done by professionals. Asian Access has worked with a number of churches in this region, and if anyone is interested in giving relief funds that will go to assisting the churches, please go to www.asianaccess.org and follow the links to the Japan Tsunami Relief Fund.


* For those interested in "Tak," the two hills of cabins seems to have been high enough but the beach and community around them were wiped out by the tsunami. We're waiting to get some first hand reports in a day or two.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Heading back to Tokyo on Monday

Tomorrow we head to Tokyo--it will be a different life. We're told that there are gasoline shortages, stores are sold out of certain foods, toilet paper, etc. In addition, we will be experiencing two 3 hour 40 minute periods per day of no electricity.  We've gone from being in a highly modern country to living like a third world country. Pray for us as we adapt. 

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A Kairos Moment for the Church in Japan

We have been on "retreat" this week as the earth started to move in Japan. It has been an interesting season but has given us an opportunity to more effectively address our response as a mission organization to the tragedies in the area.

Asian Access President, Joe Handley, describes our response:

A Kairos Moment for the Church in Japan

As the Lord places it on your heart, please consider sending your gifts to the Japan Tsumani Relief Fund.

Thank you.

Saturday night

Another night of aftershocks. Wondering when this will end!  Our mission is discussing ways to help our Japanese church ministry partners in the affected area. In a day or two we'll have instructions for those wanting to give to this relief work. 

I know some have been concerned but we are not close to the nuclear reactor. 

If the trains are running we hope to have Noelle join us in the morning. Our retreat ends on Monday.

Thank you for your prayers!
Faith

Friday, March 11, 2011

Dear Friends,

Most likely you have heard about the large earthquake, aftershocks and resulting tsunami here in Japan. Our family is safe – four of us are in the mountains of Nagano prefecture at a mission retreat, and our daughter Noelle, who just arrived in Japan on Tuesday, is at our home in Tokorozawa. It has been quite a shocking day for us all, and it’s taken some effort to find out about friends in various parts of the country. Amazingly while our cell phones haven’t been effective, we’ve been able to get news to one another via facebook and Skype. All our mission family is safe. Noelle tells us there were quite a few things that fell from shelves in our living room, some breakage, but our house is okay.

Please be praying for the people of Japan. This is a horrifying event, and watching the tsunami live on TV has been devastating. Earthquakes are occurring now in other areas of the country, and there is incredible destruction. In the midst of this please pray that God’s love, grace and mercy will be poured out on this country. The affect on the infrastructure of this country will take some time to figure out. There are, of course, questions of how we can be involved in ministering in the aftermath of this.

We were reminded of the words of Psalm 46:

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.

[God] says “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”


... I wrote this last night, but had trouble getting on the internet. After being awakened by an earthquake at 4 a.m. I decided to get up and send this if possible. Thank you for your many inquires on how we are. We will most definitely continue to need your prayers. There continue to be earthquakes and aftershocks, and when daylight comes I know we will be stunned by the present state of damage and destruction.

Thank you once again for standing with us in the gap!

We are safe--but stunned

Stan, the boys and I are in Karuizawa for our mission's annual retreat. Noelle is in Tokyo. We all have earthquake stories from today but are okay. However as you have seen from the news, there is tremendous devastation throughout certain areas. Please pray for the people of Japan.

I will write more in a day or two.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

New VP for A2 Japan!

God has answered prayers for a new leader in our mission here in Japan.

hungering and thirsting for righteousness

Our ladies Bible study at ICCS this spring is looking at the Beatitudes. I have been blessed to have a co-leader, and love watching Ann devour the text and reach out to the ladies in the class. Between my travels and focusing on my grad project, it has been nice to have someone else teaching the study.

But Ann is in Europe with her son, daughter-in-law, and (most importantly) granddaughter for a month, and it was my turn to lead on Wednesday. Our beatitude of the day was "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled." Matthew 5:6 Going from physical examples of being hungry and thirsty, to spiritual examples was fairly easy for the ladies. We looked at passages in both the Old and New Testaments.

At lunch with the ICCS Ladies Bible Study after class

What fascinates me every time is how God speaks to people in ways I wasn't anticipating, and how sometimes the ones with the most profound understanding of the passage are those who haven't yet made a commitment to Christ. I have also found much joy in seeing individual women from the class show love to others who might be marginalized in other settings.

I expect that we will continue to hunger and thirst for righteousness. That was one of the main points of the study. Its not a once-for-all experience, but will continue until we are with the Lord.

In doing some cross-referencing in preparation for the study, I was reminded that in the last chapter of our Bible we're invited to
..."Come!" Whoever is thirsty, let him come;
and whoever wishes, let him
take the free gift of the water of life.
Revelation 22:17

Project finished!

I completed my project for my CIU class last week, sent it off to two profs by e-mail, and felt like I had come up for air following a long underwater swim! Thank you all who prayed me through that experience.

I spent time looking at literature about missionary couples and their transition to on-field ministry, and believe I have a deeper understanding of challenges missionaries face when coming to Japan. After reading my paper, one of the profs suggested I look at literature related to missionaries in Western Europe, who face some issues similar to what we experience here.

One of my conclusions suggested missionary care facilitators get training to use a cultural assessment (Cerny Smith Assessment) in order to help people identify just where they are struggling in their adjustment to a culture. After finishing the paper last week, I was contacted by someone who is thinking of offering the training here in Japan this fall. That was encouraging and unexpected!

Next...I'm taking one of the Old Testament Survey courses online. This has a different set of discipline skills required.

Eco-friendly delivery service

The other day as I headed to the office, I saw this parked near the corner. The black cat symbol means that this belongs to the KuroNeko Delivery service (something on the order of UPS or FedEx).

Usually I see delivery trucks stopping along the street, with the driver running in and out of businesses picking up or dropping off packages. They are timed, and have to keep things moving. We have had several friends' husbands work for these companies, and they have ended up on medical leave for exhaustion and overwork.

So seeing a bicycle-pulled-wagon is in interesting change of pace. It echoes back to an earlier time, with push-cart or pull-cart delivery services. It also expresses an "eco" approach to business...