Isaac Knopp went with us to Japan and writes a great update below…
With such devastation it was hard to even begin to process it. The tsunami hit with such incredible force that houses became toothpicks and any previously non-movable object became a projectile. The juxtaposition of seeing family photos, beside tennis shoes, with a piece of a roof and a car on top of that was overwhelming. We could only weep at the horror of the sight when we first saw the disaster area.
Local Laboring – It was very rewarding to serve people in the name of Jesus. So many houses had been destroyed and so many others have had their first floor completely flooded. There was a great need for workers to help with shoveling mud out of houses, carrying heavy ruined appliances to the curb, and lastly being with survivors and just listening to them. Every day we traveled to the Samaritans Purse warehouse to pick up supplies, like hygiene kit, sock, blankets, to be delivered to the areas where we were working. The first several days we work delivering large donations in four ton trucks to Refugee Camps. We then focused on helping local neighborhoods in Sendai City. Sakuragi-cho was an area that all of the houses lost their first floor. Many people were living in the second story of their houses.
The first day we traveled down into this area the piles of trash as high as the car combined with the river sludge and dead fish that now putrefied this once serine neighborhood were hard to bear. I really had to adjust my senses to the acrid smell before I was able to work. The Japanese Pastor of Shiogama Church had told us before we came down to this area that he didn’t think that people would be willing to let us help them clean their houses. To him it seemed like too much of an invasion of privacy. However the first day we were able to put tarps down over the roofs that had been damaged by the earthquake. Mrs. Kimura was surprised when we asked if we could pray after the day was over. She and her husband consented and we prayed. The third day we came back to the same location and she told us that she had concluded that Christ had sent us to them in this difficult time. We were overwhelmed with a sense that God was with us and working even through our small endeavors for his glory!
I was very impressed with how the Church had responded to this disaster. When I arrived in Chiba there were many people gathering food and supplies and dropping them off at the church. People were working night and day to pack trucks with all the supplies that they could carry to go into the disaster area. Several of my non-Christian friends who I had met at the gym had been bringing supplies and helping out at the church to make lunches for those in the Tohoku area. The old ladies were cooking the younger woman were sewing and the children were packing relief packs. There were impromptu prayer meetings and a surprising amount of joy despite the dismal recent happenings.
The specific location we worked in was home to over 700 refugees. There are over 9600 refugees who are still being housed in these areas. According to the Asahi Newspaper Prime Minister NaotoKan is talking about leveling several mountains to create room for rebuilding. Japan is shifting their focus to rebuilding. However, in reality, all that has been accomplished so far in the worst affected areas is the plowing of roads. They are still months if not half a year away from rebuilding.
There was a sobering moment when we were driving through Sendai City on our way to get supplies. We made a wrong turn unto the Sendai Sports Arena and were quickly confronted by a sign that read, “Body Collection and Identification Facility”.
As we grieve and morn over the situation this horrible disaster I think there are some questions that are bubbling up in myself. As you are aware Japan is one of the largest unreached people groups in the world. The area that the Tsunami hit is the least churched area of Japan. I think it is the Church’s responsibility to be present as a part of not only disaster relief but a part of the rebuilding effort. How will we respond? What if we were to pray that God would raise-up Christians to live in the heart of each one of these rebuilding areas? That is something for us to think about for the future.
Thank you so much for your support and prayers! I was so encouaraged and challenged by your generosity!
In Grace- Isaac Knopp