Yesterday was an encouraging day. Shiro Obata, minister for the Haruna church of Christ, traveled to Mito to join our leadership meeting and basically…he said many things I have been thinking and wanting to say, but it was so much better coming from him because he’s older, he’s Japanese, and he has the life experience. He has been so wonderful in all of this, and my respect for him and my appreciation for him continues to grow yet again. Mostly likely, he, Sasha and I will go to Sendai next week for a couple of days.
On Thursday (April 7), the Mito church leadership will have a meeting and discuss in more detail about our hopes going forward. The following two Mondays will be the regional preachers’ meetings (April 11-Ibaraki/North, April 18-Tokyo/West). A few of the Mito members are currently in contact with CRASH and we are hoping the church will send a team to Sendai at the end of this month for 9 days. Sasha and I will be a part of that group. We also hope to take a group to Hachinohe during the third week of May.
The church secretary visited the church in Morioka, and Christians from the Tomobe and Omika churches visited Fukushima and Ofunato, Iwate. The Ochanomizu church has been distributing water in northern Ibaraki. The Yokota church has also been receiving supplies and funds. Ibaraki Christian University has also set up a fund to help students to be able to continue to attend school and get an education. The quake and tsunami has place an economic hardship on many families to the point that some students may need to quit college if they don’t receive help.
It seems from what I have heard that the earthquake damage was more in Ibaraki, and the tsunami devastation was more in Miyagi and Iwate. A committee is beginning formed representative of the two regional preachers groups, and perhaps including church members (I personally hope a couple of women will be on the committee), and they will be the body to decide how funds will be used. The Mito church will simply be the collecting agency.
This from another note.
The Japanese churches have, in fact, been busy. Since I’ve arrived back, I have witnessed people volunteering in shelters for displaced victims, tarping damaged roofs, and helping elderly people clean up their homes. Several individuals are gathering information as they take some items to those who need it in Fukushima and Iwate – and this is all unfolding as gasoline comes back, roads open etc. They are struggling with recovery and emotions, but in addition they are looking to the needs of others and being positive.
The leaders here are asking questions and looking not only for the immediate relief but also about the longterm because they will help walk through this as a part of the nation. The government and big organizations have been really good about the initial response and we have seen some great accomplishments. But the organizations and volunteers will leave, and there will still be things to do. People will have fallen through the cracks. So I think the leaders here are trying to keep those things in mind, as well.
Joel became interested in mission work in Japan through a Let’s Start Talking campaign to Sendai while a student at York College. He and four other York College classmates returned to Sendai to work. They committed themselves to work with the congregation for five years.
After that time some of the group returned to the states for further study and Joel worked in various mission points in Asia gaining experience in church planting and ministry outreach. Upon returning to Japan in 2009, Joel sought guidance through prayer as to his future work. He began working with the Mito congregation in April 2010 focusing on discipleship and spiritual formation. He and Kristin Hanaoka were married on November 22, 2015.