Robinson Rpt Sep ’11
Numazu Summer Report
Missionary and Assistant Minister of the Numazu Church of Christ
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I pray that God has blessed you as you diligently allow him to guide your steps. I hope that you are well and full of his hope, love, and peace. I thank you for your prayers and financial support that has allowed me to do the Father’s work here in Japan. I also thank you for the love that you have shown my family for it is a blessing that is passed along to me. As I have said before, in many ways I am here because of love that you have shown my family over the years.
I am writing to you at this time to give you an account of the recent work that has been going on here in Numazu, Japan. The report consists of two parts – one discussing the work of Let’s Start Talking and one discussing the relief work we have been conducting in Rikuzentakata. God has been active in the ministry here and has opened new opportunities as well deepen established relationships. As with any congregation, we too struggle with fighting against Satan’s attacks, but God is good and his love without end. I hope that this report will give you some understanding of how God has been moving among the people in Numazu and greater Japan. If you have any questions or just want to contact me feel free to email me at email@example.com. I appreciate you for taking the time to read about what God is doing here in Japan. Once again thank you so much for your support and may God bless you richly.
In Christian love, Chris Robinson
Let’s Start Talking
On June 20th, the Numazu Church of Christ congregation welcomed a team of three university students for the Let’s Start Talking program. The preparation for the LST team is always met with great anticipation. The members wonder what the team will be like, what new people will come to the building, and what change will take place in the hearts of those people. Even after thirteen years of welcoming summer teams, Numazu church buzzes with excitement the Sunday mornings leading up to the arrival of the team.
The team this year consisted of Sarah Leat and Colton Smith, both seniors and Texas natives from Baylor University, and Tim Johnson, a junior at Oklahoma Christian University from Colorado. This summer was Sarah’s fourth summer to participate in a Let’s Start Talking project in Numazu, and it was Colton and Tim’s first.
Let’s Start Talking is a ministry which sends teams of college students and church members to different parts of the world to share the Gospel. The Let’s Start Talking program advertises one-on-one English conversation lessons with a native speaker using the Gospel of Luke as a starting point of conversation. Participants are given an easy to read version of Luke and read one lesson per one hour session. Let’s Start Talking is a great way to introduce people to the story of Jesus. This summer, the LST team was able to share the Gospel with 32 people in a total of 210 hours of reading sessions.
There are so many stories of spiritual light bulb moments to share that if they were compiled they would fill a novel. Here are a couple examples:
This was Yoshiko’s first time to read the Gospel. She had heard the name of Jesus before but she didn’t know the story. Every week it was so exciting for Sarah to watch Yoshiko learn more and more about Jesus. One week she told Sarah, “I enjoy reading Harry Potter but since the world is imaginary I couldn’t understand it until the movie came out. But since this story is real it is easy for me to understand.”
Tsuchiya-san plays tennis with the minister and owns a shop close to the church. This was also his first time to participate in the LST program. Colton and Tsuchiya-san had an instant connection. Almost every day, he came to learn about Jesus for the first time. One day he told Colton, “I feel like these words are speaking to my heart.”
In addition to reading sessions, another part of the LST program was the weekly parties the team conducted on Friday evenings. The parties were a great way for the team and the participants to get to know each other better in a more casual situation. The parties consisted of a small ice-breaker game to play and then a small snack after which gives everyone plenty of time to talk. Party attendance averaged 9 people.
The LST team also blessed the congregation by offering a Vacation Bible School for the children of the church members and the participants of the LST program. The VBS took place every Sunday morning for six weeks. The team called the VBS “Encounter” and every week the children met people who had encountered Jesus. Either the church members or the team would act out the story from the Bible and then the children would do a small activity as an application of the Bible story. Everyone was blessed by the VBS and the congregation was so excited to welcome new people into the church building every Sunday.
Each year after the LST program has finished the follow up work starts. I ask each of the readers if they are interested in continuing to study the Bible whether through an individual lesson or group lesson. This year 15 people decided to continue to study the Bible individually, and there are about 5 people in each of the two group classes that I teach. We praise God for such a response. It has been wonderful to get to share the word with people who are eager to learn about Jesus. Please continue to pray for these readers and that they will continue to have a desire and opportunity to study the about our Lord.
Relief Work in Rikuzentakata
On March 11, 2011 the fifth largest earthquake in recorded history occurred in Japan. It was an earthquake so powerful that the main island of Japan has move 8 feet eastward. The resulting tsunami killed thousands and wiped whole cities from existence. On of the most devastated cities was Rikuzentakata.
Rikuzentakata is located on the coast of Iwate prefecture which is in the northeastern corner of mainland Japan. What once was a small fishing town of 26,000 now looks like a wasteland where no town ever really existed. Over 80% of the homes and buildings including the train station are gone. What is left is a single pine tree where once stood a famous forest of over 70,000 trees and a shellshocked population that is trying to find a way to continue on with their lives.
The relief work that I have been apart of began less than 10 days after the tsunami. The minister has a friend that lives about 2 hours away from Rikuzentakata. He told us about the needs of the people there so the minister and I traveled 12 hours north carrying food, gasoline, and various other items. What I saw there is still difficult to describe. It looked as if the city had been destroyed by a bomb. There were twisted cars and buildings and the remains of the victims were scattered around as workers were still trying to gather them. It is an image that will remain with me for the rest of my life.
Since that first trip the minister, another missionary working at another church near Numazu, and I have been back a total of 4 times carrying various items to provide for the needs of the refugees as well as helping to clean-up some of the area. Each time the conditions of the area have been slowly improving. A full recover is still years away if ever, but currently there is less debris still left and even some businesses have reopened in temporary structures to provide for the needs of the people still left in the city. If you are interested in seeing more pictures or video of the city you can go to Rikuzentakata.org.
During our efforts we have come into contact with two families which we have now focused our efforts towards. One family owns a vineyard and bottling company that has been in their family for over a hundred years. Even though both the vineyard and the bottling plant were completely submerged the machines still work and the grapes will be ready for harvest soon. We have visited this family each time and our hope is that they will not only be encouraged by our presence but they will continue to be interested in why we are doing what we do so that they can become a branch of the true vine.
The other family that we have come into contact with is a minister and his wife. This church is the only church in the city. When the tsunami was approaching, the minister’s wife prayed that God would spare the church since it was the only place for his people to worship. The tsunami stopped less than 15 feet away from the church leaving it completely undamaged. We spoke with them about the work that God has been doing through them for the people of their immediate surrounding area. We prayed with them and did what we could to encourage them. It is a difficult situation. During our last trip the minister mentioned that he now has trouble sleeping because the wave appears in his dreams. His wife also is having difficulty. Please prayer for these servants of God. Not only are they struggling to provide the hope of Christ in a country that is at times unreceptive to the Gospel, but they are also dealing with the trauma from the destruction they witnessed first-hand. Pray that God will grant them peace.
The people of this city are still in dire straits. They continue to need our help and yours. We plan to continue to make trips to Rikuzentakata and to keep in contact with these two families. Please continue to pray for our efforts and the people of Japan and also pray that will have more opportunities to share Christ with a people who so desperately need him.