Saturday, October 29, 2011

photos from a recent download

I believe that I posted this photo on a blog in August.  We were up in Shichigahama, Miyagi prefecture, on a walk in an area that had been destroyed in the tsunami, and a collection of stuffed animals had been put together on one vacant lot. There were notes on some of the animals.
In early October, Stan and I went up there again, and on our walk one afternoon we passed the same place. Notice that more animals have been added to the collection, and the big tiger on the old TV stand has acquired a hat. Not only that, but ...
The animal box has been filled with cat food,and... 
There is also a collection of individually wrapped KalKan packets.
 I think about those who have made this a shrine to the memory of children and animals lost in the tsunami.

Then there was the Karaoke music book with the trophy someone had set up along the way in the middle of what was the tsunami equivalent of a ghost town--just the cement foundations. The town has done an incredible job of clearing away  debris.
Some of those foundations seem to be suspended in air because the water swept under them washing away huge amounts of dirt.
To the left we could look across the breakwater to see the ferry  heading in toward Sendai port.
I wonder how long some of these memory markers will remain.  As we come to the 8 month mark in two weeks, and the weather is getting colder in this area, our thoughts go to the survivors who are living in temporary housing stacked right next to one another.  How weary they must be after all they've experienced since March.  Pray for their resilience, and that they would have an opportunity to be encouraged and cared for by God's people.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

I am still grateful when...

We have a full tank of gas in our car.
  It means we can drive a long distance if we need to suddenly evacuate.
I can buy as much milk, bread, yogurt, rice, and toilet paper as I want to.
 It means the supply chain is working again--but I like to keep stocked up these days.
The earthquake tremors I feel are almost unnoticeable, or last just a short while.
 I think my reflexes are still on edge, but they are much better than they were.
I have my passport with me, we all have reentry permits that are active, and know where we can get a hold of them.
 It means we could more easily leave the country if we needed to.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Focusing on November 8 - 11

Faith at the 2009 Church Planter's Institute
National Gathering near Mt Fuji.
I am facilitating a Personal Development and Discovery Center at the upcoming Japan Church Planter's Institute's 2011 National Gathering of missionaries and Japanese church planters from November 8-11.  The Center will provide opportunities for attendees to meet with counselors and coaches, as well as to elect to participate in seminars related to their well-being.

This is the third center with which I've been involved, the second I've been responsible to organize.  We have had wonderfully qualified staff each time.  This year I fully expect the center to be well utilized since most missionaries and Japanese church planters are dealing with an intensity of life following the disaster in March.

But in a year when missionaries in Japan have been so affected, and people around the world have been so much more aware of the needs of this country,why is it I have had a much more challenging time gathering the staff I had anticipated to attend? Two counseling centers that had sent multiple staff last time have opted not to come.  A few others I've contacted with the specialties I've been looking for have also not been able to commit to coming.  This doesn't mean I don't have staff, but I had anticipated the composition to look a little different.

I am expecting God to work in very precious ways with the staff I have. Three of the counselors are Japanese women who have been educated in the States, but are practicing in Japan now.  They have the benefits of being bilingual, and understanding cross cultural issues. One turns out to have particular training in trauma. Several of them have been volunteering with a relief agency for the past months, and see the needs of our constituency for rest and restoration. There is a bilingual coach with a specialty in Japanese cross cultural conflict issues. I also have a veteran mission psychologist who travels through Japan several times a year who will lend his experience and insight to the group.

The other day, when I got the news that another set of psychologists with experience in trauma couldn't make it, I believe God gave me the assurance that He is providing everything/everyone that we need.  I choose to be thankful, and look forward to watching Him work through this unique blend.

In addition to the counseling staff, we have two specialists to work with families. One is a speech and language therapist who has offered her time to come and do assessments for missionary families. These specialties are rarely available to families on the field, so this has already been well received. I am making appointments ahead of time for these.  Another is an education consultant, particularly for families that are from non-American education systems (countries of the Commonwealth, Europe, Korea, Brazil, etc.)

As you think of it over the next few weeks, please be praying for the work of this center.  Pray that those who are on the staff will have adequate rest and be prepared for their times of meeting with people.  Pray for three of us who will be leading seminars related to stress, restoration, and where we go from here in Member Care.


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Seven month reflections

This past week we passed the seven month mark since the earthquake and tsunami.   Trauma experts say this is the time generally of deepest despair and hopelessness, when the suicide rate tends to peak in fact.

There have been a number of stories in the media. This one is about how couples are finding more difficulties in their relationship.

As people have moved from living in gymnasiums and other shelters into temporary housing, they have lost a sense of community that kept them going for months after the events. In some neighborhoods there are attempts to bring people together which will aid in the emotional healing.

Some communities that have had to abandon their home want to be relocated together to a new location.   One church from within the zone required to evacuate because of the nuclear accident, and its members stayed together at a conference center and hope to return to a new location where they can rebuild their church.

This week, Stan stopped by the Samaritans' Purse camp as he took a friend on a tour of the area.  They have housing for many, but few are coming to volunteer right now. They are looking for carpenters to volunteer a month to help put in floors and walls for houses that have been "mudded out." The demand is so great--we have heard that Samaritan's Purse is offering to pay airfare for any carpenter that commits to working one month. They also have three month positions available. We are very impressed with the work of this organization and are always ready to recommend that people come work with them.

We know that there are many other places in the world experiencing natural disasters, and our hearts go out to them.  But what we have seen in the past 7 months is a renewed interest in a country (Japan!) that we felt many in North American Christendom had written off their list.  

God has opened a door to people and communities that were resistant to the gospel through this tragedy.   The stories are so touching of people learning about God through the kindness and service of others. Mission organizations are sending people to the area to begin concerted church planting.  Asian Access is also prayerfully making preparations to send a team up there early next year.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Living in a land of radiation...

This illustration is making the rounds of facebook among people in Japan today.  Depending on who we listen to, we either are or are not worried about the amount of radiation in our area.  

From all I have seen, the top left illustration is probably the most accurate but there is a tremendous lack of trust among people in Japan these days.  Who is telling us the truth?

Monday, October 03, 2011

An opportunity to show some care...

From November 8-11 there will be a Japan Church Planter's Institute bi-annual conference being held near Mt. Fuji. Already there are over 100 missionaries and national pastors who are registered for this conference.

 Along side the conference, I am coordinating a Personal Development and Consulting Center, where we will have counselors, coaches and educational specialists available to talk with the conference participants on personal and ministry related matters. As you might imagine for a population of missionaries who have been working under significant stress over the past 7 months, there should be no lack of those who want to meet with our staff.

 Three of the staff are Japanese nationals who have trained in the US for their counseling degrees. Having the cross-cultural experience makes them very valuable members of the Center. But there is a catch... All the professionals who staff the center are expected to pay their way. We don't have funds for them through the parent organization I represent in this capacity (the Japan Evangelical Missionary Association, JEMA, and their member care committee). Nor does the Japan Church Planters Institute have additional funds for this purpose. But several of our national counselors are in need of financial help to attend. The average cost for a counselor coming from inside the country for those four days is between $650 and $800, inclusive of housing and conference fees, as well as transportation to and from Tokyo.

 Here is how you might be able to help. If you are able to provide scholarship funds for these counselors, you would be investing in the health and well-being of missionaries in Japan as well as Japanese pastors and church planters who rarely have an opportunity to share their heart struggles with anyone.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5
Please feel free to send me a message ( you can use the comment feature if you wish) and I'll let you know how you can contribute to this.

While we're on the subject of the conference, I would like to be able to have Stan attend with me as well. We are praying for God to provide places for our sons to stay during that four-day period so we can get away. Please join us in that prayer!