by Kent Muhling
Has it really only been 3 days since we arrived in Sendai? Feels like much longer. Whew.
Yesterday and today were more visits to churches and evacuation centers, trying to assess needs and figure out where we can be of help. The situation changes daily. We hear of a place in need of water, for example, and by the time we get there we find that the Japanese self-defense forces have showed up and are delivering water daily.
Or we visit a church to find out what they might need, and when we get there a Samaritan's Purse truck is just pulling away.
This can be frustrating, until I remind myself that the important thing is that people’s needs are being met, and for that I rejoice!
Not just we, but others with significant disaster relief in lesser-developed countries expected the situation to be in emergency mode for a longer time. But the Japanese government and self-defense forces have years of experience in disaster preparation, and they are very, very good. What they have been able to do in just 2 weeks compared to a country like Haiti is truly remarkable. In many cases, by the time an outside organization hears of a need and mobilizes to meet it, the Japanese have already gotten it done.
At least that has been our limited experience.
Our team is realizing that the best contribution we can make is in more long term support of churches, equipping them and coming alongside as they begin clean-up and rebuilding, and offering church leaders and members the encouragement and spiritual care that they sorely need.
We have seen that our visits to local churches in the affected areas have been a real encouragement to the pastors – just listening, asking questions, offering assistance (but not coming in with an agenda of "here's what we want to do for you"), and praying with them.
Think about it – in such a time as this, who will care for a pastor, when everyone expects him to care for others? And how will we partner with churches if their leaders are stressed, depressed, and unable to imagine offering help to others?
I think these visits have been as helpful as the food, water, and other items we have delivered to those in need. They are paving the way for future ministry as they get to know us and trust develops. Again this might not be necessary in another culture, but in first-world Japan, this is how things work. Typically little can happen without a trust relationship being built.
That's it for me tonight. But I do want to share with you some very poignant pictures of the coast where the destruction was severe. Our team leader took some pictures and posted them on his blog, along with his own reactions to what he saw. Very similar to my own.
Thank you again. Please continue praying for the people of Japan, and that God would grant us opportunities to share His love and His salvation during this time of unprecedented need and, I believe, opportunity.
Yours in Christ,