Hysten Rpt: May/Jun ’11
Greetings from Japan! Etsuko and I hope our newsletter finds you doing well and enjoying the best of everything. In my last newsletter I indicated we were experiencing fast-paced lives especially following the major disaster of March 11. As you can imagine after such a catastrophe, the lives of literally millions of people are in turmoil. I think I used the word “chaotic” in my last newsletter to describe the state of events for many. There are many who did not directly experience the tsunami or earthquake; however, because several family members or friends were affected, the nation of Japan as a whole is experiencing turbulent times. The tenuous nature of the nuclear power plant situation adds to the overall sad state of things. While progress toward restoration is being made, we remain busy doing what we can to assist those in need. Beyond our efforts to help those hurt by the events associated with this terrible tragedy, we are continuing to perform our work of missions—our primary reason for being here. God has been good to us! What follows is a limited summary of some of our undertakings.
With both brave and gallant efforts underway, we find there is still much that needs to be done to bring about a state of normalcy to the lives of those who have been so greatly impacted. The truth for some is there will never be enough that can be done in a human sense – to satisfy especially those who have lost love ones. Thankfully, we know the One who is the great Comforter and master physician—God Almighty– can heal all wounds. As I write this newsletter, many are still displaced and homeless. Amidst the physical needs for supplies and suitable housing, people are in need of mental and spiritual assistance. The reality is the ordeal of restoringJapanwill involve a long process.
In early May, we continued to coordinate with churches in the Shizuoka area and those in northern Japan concerning relief efforts. Collectively, we planned to serve together to do what we could to ease the physical and spiritual burdens being experienced by so many. In keeping with this objective, during May I traveled to Mito to serve with some brothers and sisters from the Mito congregation in support of relief efforts in the Tohoku region. We were also joined by four young Singaporean Christian volunteers from the Bedok Church of Christ in Singapore. Together, we traveled to four major sites: Sendai, Hachinohe, Morioka, and Ishinomaki. At these first three locations, our involvement consisted mostly of interacting with the brethren by way of encouragement and fellowship. Aid has come to these locations from a variety of sources. While recovery is in process, some damped spirits remain. Thus we wanted to promote goodwill and let everyone know by our presence we were behind them in every way we could possibly be of assistance. We had a joint service with the Sendai, Hachinohe, and Moriyoka congregations on Sunday, May 22. Following our time with these congregations we performed relief work in Ishinomaki. Ishinomaki, like many places, was heavily devastated by the impact of the major disaster. While in Ishinomaki, we visited a local elementary school. One of the highlights for the students and teachers alike was the barbecue we hosted for them. Because of the recent tragedy, some of the schools were destroyed. Students from three elementary schools that had been destroyed were meeting at this one school. Since the tragedy and opening of this one school, students had only been able to have bread and milk for lunch. Experiencing a barbecue was an uplifting event! God blessed our efforts. In addition to feeding the students and teachers, many local residents also participated in the event. God enabled us to feed and serve over 300 people.
We also traveled to the central area of Ishinomaki, bringing supplies to those in need. In the course of a few days we distributed hundreds of goods, fresh produce, offering encouragement to as many as possible as we went. Additionally, while there we worked to clean and repair facilities. Overall, God blessed us with a very eventful journey as we labored to assist, inspire and render aid to those in need. This opportunity gave us occasion to bring honor and glory to the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ as we traveled from place to place. We want you to know we are so grateful for the funds you sent our way. We have made every attempt to carefully assess and investigate how to wisely administer and distribute the funds you generously provided. To date, we have dispersed most of the funds you sent.
From the outset, our goal has been to glorify God; appropriately represent you; and help those in the Lord’s Church first and foremost who were impacted by the disaster. We were desirous also of assisting those we were aware of or were informed of, who appeared to be good candidates to be converted to Christ. Thus we have distributed most of the resources you entrusted to us within these parameters primarily. At this point, three congregations and one Christian brother and a non-Christian (a close friend of Etsuko’s and prospective candidate for the Lord), have been the recipients of your financial gifts. Here is a brief summary:
Nakaminato Church of Christ: We have given funds to help in the repair of their building. The church building sustained a great deal of structural damage to its roof, ceiling, and walls.
Katsuta Church of Christ: We gave funds to help in the repair of their building. The ceiling and roof of the church building sustained major damage. Additionally, the home of the minister of the congregation (which is located on the church’s property) was also damaged. We contributed funds to make repairs to the home as well.
Hanakawa Church of Christ: Most recently in June, we gave funds to help in the repair of their building. The church building sustained a great deal of structural damage to its roof and ceiling.
Ishioka Church of Christ: We gave financial assistance to a member of the Ishioka Church of Christ, Takumi. Tragically he lost his home and younger sister because of a fire that came about as a result of the massive earthquake that occurred on March 11. We were emotionally moved when we learned about his devastating losses; however, we were saddened even more to learn of the death of his sister. She was scheduled to be baptized the weekend of the earthquake/tsunami.
Yurino: We also gave financial aid to the family of Yurino. Yurino and her family were deeply impacted by the recent earthquake/tsunami. The day before the tragic event of March 11, Yurino, gave birth to the family’s second child. The earthquake/tsunami struck while her husband, Yoshiji and son, Kouki were visiting her at the hospital. Due to their home being in close proximity to the Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant, they like many in the area had to evacuate their home. After a month away, they were finally able to return toFukushima; however, their home was severely damaged and they currently are staying with her grandmother in the area. To further complicate an already difficult ordeal, Yurino’s baby, Marin, is not doing well physically. Yurino is an old friend of Etsuko’s whom she has been trying to reach for the Lord for years. Although this is a tragic event for them and many others, we are hopeful assisting Yurino and her family that they will be more open to learning about Christ.
In the middle of June I made a return visit toRikuzentakata,Japan in support of ongoing relief efforts. (Please see our last newsletter for details concerning our first trip to Rikuzentakata.) I traveled with brother, Tomoyuki Shinozaki, minister for the Numazu congregation. We went to Iwate Prefecture bringing a variety of aid items and supplies. Beyond taking relief provisions, our purpose for traveling to Rikuzentakata was to do what we could to bring about encouragement and hope. To say that the people in this area of northern Japan are discouraged and downhearted would not be a sufficient description of their plight; many are simply in a state of despair. The Japanese people have exhibited great determination and resilience in the face of what they have had to endure. Notwithstanding, the magnitude of what has taken place most certainly has taken its toll on many at a tremendous cost.
During many conversations, brother Shinozaki and I shared with one another just how blessed we are to live in Shizuoka—not having to experience the emotional impact and major devastation of the earthquake/tsunami. Tragically, the effects and results of this major catastrophe are felt and seen daily by those who remain in Rikuzentakata. Like many places ravaged by this tragedy, the inhabitants see daily what little is left of what was once a vibrant neighborhood, village shopping center or a thriving metropolis. An older lady expressed it to me this way: “Across the street there used to be houses, cars and neighbors; and now there is nothing.” Of the funds you, our Mac Family provided, there is a small residual amount remaining. We will use these remaining funds to make another trip or two to the north in support of relief efforts. Please know the name of Jesus is being magnified and the benevolent hearts of the members of the MacArthur Park Church of Christ are being displayed even more clearly through your gifts. There are people in this distant land approximately 6,500 miles away whose lives are being graced because of you.
Special Visitors from MacArthur Park: Margaret and Karen
Over the years we in Japan have used the Let’s Start Talking (LST) program as a springboard for evangelism. LST has proven to be a very valuable catalyst as a door of opportunity to pursue potential prospects for Christ. We strive to continue the interaction established by the groundwork provided through LST, reaching out to LST students who have gained an introduction to Christ through LST. We are diligent in our efforts and thankful for the opportunity to utilize a variety of evangelistic tools to pursue new (and some previous) leads to reap new fruit for Christ.
I am happy to report that at the end of June we were blessed with one of the best LST teams we’ve had the privilege of working with, Margaret and Karen from our church family there at MacArthur Park. In addition to performing a wonderful service in the name of our Lord for our evangelistic efforts here, Karen and Margaret were a wonderful source of encouragement to us. For overall 12 years we have had LST teams come to serve with us. Over the years, we in Japan have used the LST program as a springboard for evangelism. This year we were blessed with not just being able to continue partnering with LST but being able to have a team come from our Mac family. Sisters Margaret and Karen were received well by all and they did an excellent job! We are hopeful this year will be the first of other LST teams to come to Japan from Mac. Thank you for sending Margaret and Karen to serve with us this summer!
We are grateful to you and are praying that God will bless you for gracing our lives and giving the hope of Christ to the people of Japan. Please continue to pray for us in all that we strive to do here. Our family here, sends our love to each of you there…
Ken and Etsuko Hysten