Wednesday, August 31, 2011

How to Pray for Me

One question that churches and prayer partners often ask  is . . .
"How can I pray for you?"  (I love this question by the way!)

While there are often specifics I can give there are also some overarching themes which every missionary - including ME needs.  Here is a list of 10.

1. Freedom from Fear
2. Growing Hope
3. Big Faith
4. Battle Skills
5. A True Band of Brothers and Sisters
6. Authority
7. Wisdom
8. Perseverance
9. Rest
10. Joy
I found this list in an article by  Shane Bennett from a  Missions Catalyst ezine. Read the original article by clicking here.   It's well worth your time and perhaps something to share with your family, church, small group, bible study and mission team.
Thank you for your prayers for me! I couldn't do any of this without the power of God working through prayers!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Shout out to Wooddale!

THANK YOU,  Wooddale Church!
Thank you for featuring me and the educational ministry happening in Japan in your publication
Wooddale Week!  (check out page 6!)

Your involvement in my ministry is such a blessing throughout the journey!
If you're reading this blog and you attend Wooddale please leave a comment!

Halloween 2007 - Me in a Yukata next to Kim, dressed as Wooddale church.
This was the weekend I learned I had received 100% of needed funds
 and given the green light to go to Japan.

Hope in the Wake of Disaster

My fellow Converge Worldwide missionaries John and Elaine Mehn have put together a video of  their ministry in Tohoku and Ishinomaki.  (Same city but different area than I was working in.) I encourage you to watch it and consider coming as on short-term team to Japan to help bring Hope!  Visit them on line at

Please contact Converge Worldwide if you are interested in joining a team.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Search for Hope

What is most needed in the Earthquake and Tsunami destroyed areas of Tohoku?
In my opinion it would be HOPE.

Looking at the worst areas - even after 5 months of clean-up work, it resembles a war zone.  It looked to me like the areas around Hiroshima after the atomic bomb hit. Shells of buildings,  blocks of buildings completely crushed and left as a pile of rubble.  

Going further inland, buildings look more intact but a glimpse of the inside would show the first floor is unlivable due to the water damage.  People who lived in this area have basically made one of three choices:
 1.) Leave the area and relocate in another area of Japan permanently.  
2.) Get out of the area temporarily and return at a later date. 
3.) Remain in the area living on the 2nd floor of the water damaged home work to rebuild.

The efforts of volunteers and organizations in the area working to clean and encourage the residents gives them hope that their neighborhoods may be revitalized and their homes fully livable again.

But this isn't just a physical need there is also a  emotional need for hope as suicide rates are expected to rise and reports like this have already been seen in newspapers in this country.  

At the root of it all this is a spiritual need for Hope! As a Christian in Japan it is my job to give witness to the lasting hope that can be found in Jesus Christ.  This is not new for Japan - an unreached people group with less than 1% Christian - even before the 3/11 disasters Christians felt the need for HOPE in Japan.   But it was amazing for me to be in Ishinomaki a city of over 160,000 people that only has about 130 Christians meeting in 7 churches, 3 of which were damaged by the disaster.  To know that 5,000 people from this city were killed or are still missing - which makes up about 1/5 of the total dead or missing from the triple disaster.  

 It was amazing  to talk with people in the neighborhoods and see an openness to spiritual issues that I have never before seen in all my 6 years in Japan.  I even saw a Buddhist Karate teacher explaining to another Japanese man why these missionaries "God's people" as he called us were here. He said, "Many Japanese people go to temples and shrines for many different gods but these Christians have god with them. They really have god with them! They work hard and they don't give up!" 

  May we not squander the time and opportunities that we have.  May we be faithful to use our lives and resources to shine our light so Japanese people will see the Hope and Compassion that Jesus has for them. 

Matthew 5:16
16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Hope for Tohoku

Aug. 10,
The guys on our team loaded the vans and headed into Ishinomaki.

Their task for the day was to clean near the Be One house and distribute more supplies. 

The ladies stayed at the Karate Dojo (training hall) and talked with the Karate Master, Onodera Sensei about plans for the next 48 hours.

I did not know ahead of time what we'd be doing but after hearing that our task was to accompany/chaperone/entertain/befriend 103 elementary and junior high students from Ishinomaki on a 2 day trip to neighboring Yamagata Prefecture -  I thought 
God orchestrated the dream team - for this task.   

Aubrey & Tori - English Teachers
Bethany - recent KCS graduate and P/T English teacher
Kami & Lori (me) - 1st and 2nd grade teachers at an International school
Beth - Be One Tohoku Aid Leader & most energetic gal I know!

(Actually, I wasn't originally scheduled to go with this group. But since another team member was dealing with an infection from a bug bite and couldn't go - I got to be her substitute!)

^Aubrey & Lori (and our matching outfits!) 

^Beth and Kami on the bus

^ Tori and Bethany - also sporting the yellow bandanas! 
There were 3 buses of children with connections to the Karate Dojo. 
 Each bus had 2 members from our volunteer team on it.

^This is Onodera-sensei - the Karate teacher, leader of the group and one who commands respect of all there but has such a soft heart for the children!

 ^ This is the program for our 2 day events - 
"Everyone, Lets go to see Akagawa fireworks in Yamagata (prefecture)!"
(rough translation)

Yamagata prefecture is the western neighbor of Miyagi prefecture. (see map
The Akagawa fireworks are supposed to be some of the best in the whole country with a crowd of about 400,000 people enjoying the 2 hour festival of lights!
  The people in Yamagata had made arrangements of children from the Ishinomaki area (8 buses full) to view the the fireworks, stay overnight, and then go hiking in a national park the next morning.
All the transportation, lodging, meals, snacks and souvenirs where provided by the trip organizers - it was completely free to the students and volunteers.

Their idea was to provide some Good memories for some children who had been through and were still going through some pretty tough stuff.  More than a few kids had lost family members, friends and homes on 3/11.

 Be One Volunteers were in charge of entertainment-on bus. 
 We had fun playing games like rock, paper, scissors - (in photo). 

Once we arrived at our destination everyone put on their yellow bandana - 
(A great way to help locate 103 children in a crowd of 400,000!)
We walked to the riverside seating, received our obentos of curry rice, edamame and green tea.

^The fireworks were set to music and UH-mazing!

There were special songs dedicated to people who had died
 in the Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear Disaster.
 The child sitting next to me said, "I wonder if they can see this from heaven?"

After about 3 songs and of amazing fireworks there was a delay as it started to rain.
One student was heard saying - it would be sad if the rain means they have to cancel everything but its so cool, I would go home happy with what we've seen so far!

Thankfully the rain stopped and the fireworks continued for the full 2 hour show. Including Pikkachu fireworks!
The students and volunteers had a BLAST! 
At the end Onodera-sensei and two student got a chance to speak to the whole crowd on the sound system thanking them for their generous gifts and asking them to continue to remember the people of Ishinomaki.


Flexibility is one of those traits that is required for every missionary no matter where in the world you serve.  Like when you think you are going to get down and dirty cleaning out old fish and 5 months of mud from under a tsunami hit home and then you're assigned another task - you just roll with it and say - "Whatever you need!"

Or when you have only 3 licensed drivers in the group and the leader needs to split people into 3 different vehicles and then says - ok who will drive for this group - you say, "I'll do it!" even if you were expecting to go with another group consisting of all the students you brought with you from your school.

Or when the leader says one group is cleaning, one group is distributing, and one group is shopping - and you're the only driver left for the third shopping group you say "THANK YOU!" 

Our task - was to find enough supplies to hand out to 160 households at a temporary housing unit in Onagawa.  We were given a list - sticky fly paper and Ka-tori-sen-ko, (basically a tin of 30 coils that when one is lit repeals mosquitoes.) popsicles, and laundry detergent. 

In Japan it is unusual to be able to find 160 of any item
 let alone buy 160 of 4 different items!
Thankfully at the 2nd store we stopped at 
we found the full amount for all but the laundry detergent!

^Beth was THRILLED with our shopping success.  
Although the people around us gave us interesting looks as 3 foreigners had 6 shopping carts overflowing with items. vTori and I continued with the joy of knowing our purpose.

Of course when we stopped to take pictures in the store they were even more confused. But when we tried to explain that we weren't hoarding the things or going to open a new store somewhere - That we were in fact going to GIVE these items to a tsunami hit neighborhood they bowed and thanked us with some very humble words. 

The poor checkout lady was required to count EVERY single ITEM!

After navigating the towering carts through the bumpy parking lot,
 the next task was trying to fit it all into the van.

We drove back to the Be One house and had tea with 2 Japanese community members who had connections to Onagawa  - the community where we were going to distribute the supplies.  We waited for one more driver to arrive with some of the ACE Hardware donations and then we drove through some VERY devastated areas to get to the Temporary Housing Units (THU).

Because I was driving I only got one picture at a stop sign.  Here you see the results of 5 months of clean-up efforts.  The white building with pillars in the middle used to be the Onagawa train station, tracks were no where to be seen. As we passed we learned the train tracks were twisted by the tsunami and eventually removed in the clean-up.  

^After sending word around the T.H.U. that there were free items to be given away near the community building we set to work putting the supplies in bags. Duct tape, sponges, gloves, batteries, a Japanese Christian track, and the supplies we purchased in the morning.  
Our Japanese contacts helped us load supplies.  I think it took about 10 minutes for a line to form and after 20 to 30 minutes about 100 households had received their bag of supplies.  

Children recieved some Japanese Christian Children's books, stickers, bookmarks, and letters that had been given from a church in the states. 

People who lost their homes in the earthquake and tsunami initially lived in shelters but eventually moved into these temporary housing units.  (I believe names were chosen in a lottery system). This area of Onagawa had 160 units some held families others individuals.  There were 22 rows with 6 to 9 units per row. In the above photo  5 units are pictures.  

People living in the Temporary housing do not receive free food and aid that they did received in the shelters.  Many people are still without jobs and some have no car so its a difficult time for them.  We learned that some people (especially elderly) are refusing to move out of the shelters where they can have free food and other care.

After our supplies were given away we joined the other teams by going to a public path to clean up.
We saw this amazing sunset along the way. (Photo credit: Ryan)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Ready to Serve

For more details of the trip see the previous post here

I went to Tohoku with the understanding and expectation that we would be put to work on the task of cleaning out street gutters and mucking out houses. I packed work clothes, safety goggles, thick gloves. Ready to pull on the boots and get dirty! I was prepared to work in the hot sun with the KCS high school students on our team, in attempt to make water damaged homes livable again.  While some members were given that task - my responsibilities required some flexibility in the plans.

Our first work day, was Aug. 9.  The team of 16 people that I was with was excited about the potential ahead waking up early and chatting over breakfast.  A Karate Dojo (training hall) was our home base for the next week and each morning after breakfast we did some cleaning chores before starting the devotions.

Women's sleeping area of the Karate Dojo during the day.
At night the white foam matts were placed on the yellow and pink foam matts and topped with blankets or sleeping bags. 

Bethany, David and Caleb led the music for the first morning.

Mr. Mason (in white) challenged us all to see the kingdom of God in the hearts of Japanese people.

Outside the Karate Dojo

After morning devotions we loaded up the vans with our bags packed for the day (including water bottles, work gear, and a change of clothes for the end of the day trip to the public bath) and drove to the Be One House.  (I was one of the drivers.) 

The Be One House is one of thousands of homes in Ishinomaki that had so much damage to the first floor the walls and flooring needed to ripped out and replaced. (after cleaning out the mud, fish and other muck.)  It is now being rented by the BeOne Tohoku Aid organization. It has been cleaned out and remodeling is underway.  

The Be One House in the background, the two gentlemen in the red shirts, Paul and Milton, are regional managers with Ace Hardware stores.  They had come to Japan to donate supplies to help rebuild the area. They stayed at the Karate Dojo with us and we got the privilege of helping them distribute the supplies. 

^ Here are some of the $40,000 worth of supplies that were received. 
“Ace is the place with the helpful hardware folks”  - WOW! so true.
Can I just say if you live near an ACE Hardware store - PLEASE go say thank you! Their generous donation is making a huge difference!   

Ladders, lanterns, batteries, gloves, shovels, buckets, duct tape, trollies, sponges, the list goes on and on.

^ One of the team's first tasks was to install batteries in lanterns. 

^ Jeremy, Bethany, Kami & Aubrey counted gloves. 
 160 were needed to give out at temporary housing unit.

 ^ More work putting batteries in the lanterns.

^As we were working, we were surprised to see Joshua and his friend So walk in the house!
Joshua is a 2009 graduate of Kansai Christian School.  And he "just happened" to be volunteering at the same location as we were for the same time we were.  One of those God orchestrated details. 

^ Inside the living room of the Be One house. The man standing on the right is Chad Huddleston.  He is one of the leaders of Be One And has been working with relief efforts in the area since March! 
Here he is talking about the tasks for the day and dividing the volunteers into three groups. 
  • Group 1-  was going out with a team to shovel muck out of the street gutters.  This helps remove some of the smell and opens a pathway for water to flow when it rains. The neighbors near this project are very appreciative of the efforts in the hot sun and often stop to talk with the workers providing opportunities to share a witness on God's love in action. Most of the high school boys and the young ladies on the team went with this group.  When this group returned they went to a local park and played with children in the area and building relationships with moms.  Many from this team had been in Tohoku Volunteering in the spring working to clean the local park so it would be a safe place to play.  So this was a fun end to a hot day for the group.
  • Group 2 -  the Ace Hardwared group. This group was sorting supplies and going to areas of need (such as the temporary housing units and community centers) to distribute supplies. Mr. Mason was the driver, Itsutaro (KCS 12 grader) was the translator, Chad Huddleston went to build relationships, and Paul and Milton were the Ace Hardware guys.
  • Group 3 - the "Shopping group". - This group was going to look for a list of supplies needed to hand out at another temporary housing unit.  Money donations had been given to Be One in order to purchase 160 of each item that would then be distributed.  Beth, Tori, and Nobue were in this group.  I was the driver. More in the next post about the shopping & distribution day. 

 ^ Here is the van heading out to clean gutters.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Tohoku Mission update: Some basic facts

I've been home a week. The 5 day Tohoku mission trip seemed longer -  packed with opportunities, relationships and the evidence of God's love in the rubble. This week I've been trying to reflect on my experience and recover from some major fatigue after returning. (The August heat & humidity of Nara haven't been helping.)

 It's challenging to put into words the experience that I have yet to grasp with my head and heart. A friend asked me recently, "What was the biggest take away from the trip?"
And while there are so many "take aways", I realized I had a lot of learning to do!
Since it has been a huge learning experience for me, I thought I'd start by communicating some of the basic facts of the trip and things I've learned.

Mission Team Aug. 8 ready to serve

The Team 
Aug. 8-12, I traveled with a team of 16 people to Tohoku* as part of a Christian group called "Be One Tohoku Aid" which has a base in Ishinomaki, Miyagi prefecture*.  8 of the 16 people in the group were somehow connected with the school where I teach, Kansai Christian School, graduates, high school students, the school chaplain and teacher.  There were 6 countries represented in our group (Ghana, S. Korea, USA, Taiwan, Japan, and Australia).

We drove along the Japan Sea side of the country (avoiding the Tokyo traffic).
As our team was part of the relief/restoration aid we had signs and paperwork
 which made us exempt from paying the tolls along the expressway. (Saving about $200 each way) 

We made the 14 hour drive from Osaka to Ishinomaki in 2 vans.  I was one of the 4 drivers.
The white van has made many trips between Osaka and Ishinomaki transporting volunteers.
The Task
 Wanting to aid the rebuilding and restoration in neighborhoods after the March 11 Northeastern Japan earthquake and tsunami. We went with the intent of working in Ishinomaki City on tasks that Be One felt would aid the neighborhoods where they were connected.  Focusing on relationships with a deep concern for the spiritual needs while meeting the physical and emotional needs of neighbors. We worked alongside people from different denominations, mission agencies and relief organizations with the common focus of uniting various parts of the body of Christ to love God, love one another, love the lost and make disciples (BE ONE! John 17:21) to see the Kingdom of God expand across Japan and the world.

The Numbers
From an article in the Daily Yomiyuri newspaper 8/12/2011
Damage from Great East Japan Earthquake and progress in Restoration Work
(As of Thurs. Aug. 11, 2011; 5 months after the quake)

Deaths   15,690
Missing persons   4,735
Evacuees    87,063
Completed Temporary housing units    46,790
Percentage of temporary housing units completed 89%
Temporary Housing units in Onagawa.
 I believe evacuees are chosen by lottery from among those in shelters to live in these housing units.
 In this photo there are 6 units on the left.  

Estimated amount of wreckage   22.63 mil. tons
Percentage of wreckage taken to temporary storage facilities  47%
Near the Port in Onagawa the building behind the rock pile is the former Onagawa train station.
We saw no evidence of  train tracks.
This photo shows the progress after 5 months of recovery efforts.

The Location
*"Tohoku" Is the Japanese name given to the geographical region of  Northeastern Honshu Island of Japan. It includes 6 prefectures  (ken) (a prefecture is similar to a state or province). Click here to see a map of Japanese prefectures.  (I live in Nara which is in the Kansai region or the Kinki Region of Japan)

* Miyagi prefecture (where we were) has Sendai as the capital, and boarders Fukushima Prefecture to the south, Yamagata and Akita prefectures to the West and Iwate prefecture to the North. To the east is the Pacific Ocean. We were in Ishinomaki city - a port town known for its fishing industry. I recently read that about 90% of the boats from this area were destroyed in the tsunami.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Time with God at Camp

I'm back from Nagano where it was 23 degrees C.  To Nara where it is 33 degrees. Tomorrow I'll be heading to Tohoku with a volunteer team to help with tsunami relief efforts. So I'll try keep this short.

Camp with Tamagawa and Yurigaoka Churches was a special time with God and some very talented Christian youth leaders!  I really enjoyed getting to spend time with the kids! I was especially excited to see some students I hadn't seen for 3 years when I last did an outreach at Tamagawa church.
^Chopping ingredients for Curry.

^15 kids and 11 adults gathered for the large group worship time

^ Lower elementary small group bible time

^Upper elementary small group bible time. (Missing picture of Jr. High group)

^Orienteering  around the lake.

^My group in the Orienteering activity.

^Practicing our balance at the park

^Time for the BBQ!

^Making Crafts and Baking Cookies

^Learning Choreography to a new song.

^Bible time outside

^Fukui Sensei teaches us about how to keep growing after camp.

^Small group time.

^Saying good-byes

^A view from the train on my way back to Nara