Friday, November 11, 2011

Update from Japan

 My inbox was blessed with a detailed email from Bruce this morning. I share with you both humbled and proud, of the ministry God has called him to.

Konichiwa from Tome Japan !
Thank-you to all you who have stepped up to support the recovery of the Japanese people from the earthquake and tsunami that occured here in March. And thank-you all for supporting my travel here through prayer and finances. Your contributions are directly helping families resume their lives while hearing the gospel, perhaps for the first time.

It has been sensory overload for the last 3-days. Its crazy that we live in such a day that one morning we can walk out the front door of our home in a community of 300 people and that same evening be walking the streets of a city of 9 million people on the other side of the globe. Its an odd feeling to be the minority, the one that doesn't fit in and is dependent on the grace of strangers to help find the way.

Fortunately, the Japanese are incredibly hospitable and helpful. Walk into a 7/11 store (and they are everywhere here) and the clerk jumps to her feet to verbally welcome you with a smile and a bow. Stop at an intersection at night and the car facing yours will turn off their headlights so you won't be bothered by their bright lights in your face. Try to tip anyone at a hotel, restaurant, airport and they will politely refuse. 

The Samaritan's Purse base I am working out of is in Tome which is a 2 hour bullet train ride (at 187 mph) north of Tokyo and then another hour taxi ride. This base is set up in an old sewing factory with barracks type sleeping and a dining hall, flushing port-a-johns and japanese style showers set up outside. There are two other SP bases set up in other places around here.The food is a great variety of authentic japanese cuisine.

There about 60 volunteers working out of this base (Americans, Japanese, Malaysians) and there are two more SP bases set up elsewhere. Each base is staffed with an impressive array of logistics coordinators and team leaders. At 7, after breakfast and devotions, we are dispatched in 6-7 man teams to our various home rebuild projects.

I am part of a group of very impressive men from Steppin out missions (  ( Check out these sites for some more photos.) We are working on a traditional Japanese style home (curve roof, ornate interior woodwork) in a fishing village named Ishinomaki that had water up to the first floor ceiling. Another team went in ahead of us and removed all the mud, flooring and wall surfaces. Our job is reinsulating and sheathing the floors and installing drywall and mahogany paneling to the walls. Final details (wall paper, door replacement, etc) will be handled by Japanese  carpenters. All of this work is being done for free to 300 homes. So far 110 homes have been completed.
Our home sits in an area where the scraped clean ground bears witness to where many other homes once stood. Other homes and apartments sit as hollowed out shells, representing the lives of the families that once lived in them. The sound of excavators and jackhammers continues all day as businesses, warehouses and houses deemed unsafe are demolished. Trucks heaped with demolished cars pass by on a regular basis. A literal mountain of debris is down the road and in the process of being sifted through and recycled.

Every home built in Japan comes complete with a built-in shinto/ bhuddist shrine as we might commonly have a built-in fireplace. This shrine is meant to honor Bhudda, the Kami gods and deceased ancestors. On the job before the one I started on, the homeowners chose to have the  shrine discarded as the repair work took place. In another home the single mother accepted Jesus as Lord because of the kindness she was shown in the name of God. We are 2-days from finishing with this current home and have been working around the shrine waiting to see what this homeowner family will decide about it's place in their lives. Pray for them.

I have heard a couple tsunami survivor stories. One family was rushing to leave their home when the mother went back upstairs to retrieve something only to have the rest of the family swept away while they waited for her to return. She is plagued with guilt. Another family was struck while their daughter was away at school and it took 8-days for them to determine that their daugter was ok. I am certain that everyone I see in the community has a heartbreaking tale to tell. No one is exempt from contemplating the issues of life and death and what can be trusted. There is opportunity like no other for these hurting people to hear and consider the Truth of Christ as superior to the truth of Bhudda. Please pray for the few Christian Pastors here as they continue to reach out after we volunteers have returned home.

Well it lights-out time. Our team has voted to work tomorrow/ saturday..


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