Japan Quake Rpt: Logwood May 30 ’11

Editor: Miranda Logwood, Assistant English Teacher with the Mito city schools and member of the Mito church, gave me permission to reprint her thoughts about the Mito congregation and the relief efforts the Churches of Christ East Japan Aid Committee is doing.

Miranda’s Testimony about the Mito Church of Christ

How I view who we are, how we reach out and our relief efforts

My name is Miranda Brazle Logwood, second child of Paul and Carol Brazle. I grew up in Belgium in the Antwerp Church of Christ. Now my husband, Derrick Logwood, and I live in Mito, Japan, as Assistant English Teachers and members of the Mito Church of Christ.

In the aftermath of the Earthquake/Tsunami/Nuclear problems I have come to the decision to put into words my testimony about my life and ministry here as it is linked to the Mito church. In this testimony I want to share my general view of Mito Church of Christ, explain the ways Christians in Mito reach out to the community and the world, describe the experience of the days of the earthquake from our perspective in Mito and show how the church members in the area have taken measures to do relief work for those who have lost much more than us.

My general view of Mito Church of Christ

Mito Foreigners' Retreatt
Mito church's foreigners' retreat

Three years ago, Mito church was just the church we decided to attend and try to help out where we could, as a temporary place to worship God for our short stay in Japan. Over the years, this group of people has become my Japanese family. I have at least three or four mothers who would do anything for me. There are so many people, American, Japanese and other, who I consider brothers and sisters and even best friends. Mito Church of Christ is not just a group of people who get together to worship God. This group is a family who worships God, loves one another and God, has fun with each other and invites anyone to join in the fun and God’s joy.

The Mito church has definitely changed over the years. Two years ago we had to say goodbye to the main Japanese minister and his family (Yuki and Hiroko Obata) when they moved to the States. Atsushi and Mari Tsuneki then decided to work with the Mito church, along with their four kids! As former Abilene Christian University students, they have a pretty good grasp on American culture and how to cope with the differences between America and Japan. Through them, the Mito church is getting better and better at bringing all of the nationalities together as one family.

Last year, the American minister and his family (Mark and Mayumi Hancock) also made the decision to move to the States. Once again, God blessed the church with someone willing to come to Mito as a minister: Joel Osborne and his intern Sasha Ingle came with their loving Japanese friend Gaku Osugi from Sendai. Since this change, many of Mito’s non-Japanese members have become more and more comfortable with calling Mito church their church home and are becoming a more active part of the family. College students from nearby universities (mostly Ibaraki Christian University) are coming more often and getting to know more Christians in Mito. Probably the biggest change to Mito church since Joel, Sasha, and Gaku have come is the globalization of Mito Christians’ view of God. Joel brought with him his ministry to Cambodia, alongside the churches in Singapore. In Mito, God’s global presence is becoming more and more tangible.

Monthly meal for the homeless in Mito
Monthly meal for the homeless in Mito

The Mito Church is filled with God’s presence. The family is changing and letting God work through its members daily. Of course, the church family still experiences problems, difficulties, and challenges. We are definitely not perfect. But more and more this family is realizing what it means to be just a small part of God’s global family and what it means to trust in God. I pray that God continues to bless and strengthen this group of followers so God’s light can shine greater to the Japanese population.

How Christians in Mito reach out to the community and the world

The Mito family has two main ministries that have been going strong for several years and other smaller ministries daily, weekly, monthly, and even yearly. As already shown, the people here are also open to new ways of showing God’s love and are more than willing to go to strange places, do hard work, and serve new people.

Just like any other country, there are many people who have lost homes and the ability to take care of themselves. They live on the streets, eat what they can, and just barely survive. In Japan, homeless people are not just looked down upon, but they are typically ignored even as a member of society. If you didn’t know Mito had homeless people, you just wouldn’t know. Mito church gathers clothes and food for Mito’s homeless and once a month a group of people gets together to make and serve a nice lunch and disperse necessary items. With some of these people, we have created a special relationship and we hope they are able to see God despite their troubles.

Japanese people are becoming more and more aware of the need to learn English. People pay upwards of $40 for a private English lesson with a native speaker. We offer a series of English conversation classes, much like Let’s Start Talking, with our own materials called English Bible Class (EBC) for free. Some people just come for the English conversation. Some people realize that they are learning new things about God and want to know more. Some people decide to give their lives to God because they have learned to accept Him into their hearts. Through EBC we have many activities to reach out to EBC students and their friends. We have parties, a talent show, a Christmas party, and other fun activities where we can share God’s love.

Other ways Mito members reach out to people include weekly Bible studies, visiting college campuses to talk to the students, small concerts, adventures in the park, group outings, etc. The newest big ministry that the Mito members are excited about is Joel’s work with street children in Cambodia. Joel goes to Singapore and Cambodia two or three times a year. This past year around 10 members of Mito’s church family joined him in this endeavor, more have committed to go this coming year and everyone has helped raise money. This family is becoming more and more aware of people’s needs and how we can help those needs. Many members are eager to help with the relief work for the tsunami victims through the church’s newly organized endeavor.

The experience of the days of the earthquake from our perspective in Mito

It was a Friday. Most people were at work. Teachers and students were in class. My school was fortunate because of a special schedule that day the students had gone home at 2:30. I had just made crepes with my 6th graders when they all hurried out to the playground for the school goodbye before dispersing to go home. Wit the kids gone, the teachers went back to the teachers’ room or to their classroom to clean up. At 2:40, the earthquake hit. We are used to decent sized earthquakes here, so at first we just looked at each other wondering how long it would last. When we realized it wasn’t stopping right away and that the shelves were shaking harder than usual, we unanimously decided to run outside. Now, they always say, if a disaster happens, leave everything and run. I’ve always said, if a disaster happens, I’ll grab my cell phone and run. Well, I forgot my cell phone. We all just ran outside and waited. We spent the next hour or two going back inside and running back out when a new one came. We stood out on the playground for about an hour with the after-school kids until we felt it was finally safe to go back inside. Some teachers drove around to make sure students got home safely. Other teachers searched the school for damage. All in all, the earthquake was big enough to be scary, but small enough to still be exciting. I would be lying if I said I didn’t think the experience was kind of cool. Our school didn’t incur too much real damage, so it was difficult for me to be in a state of emergency.

Even after leaving school and going home my feelings were more of excitement and wondering what work will be like on Monday. I hadn’t yet realized the extent of what had happened. Traffic lights were out. Some of the roads had cracks or had simply sunk in, creating huge bumps. When we got home we realized that water and electricity were out over a large area….we had no idea how large. We also learned a whole new way of interpreting the sentence “Our home is a mess!” But that was the extent of our worries.

Damaged railroad bridge
Damaged railroad bridge

We decided to drive around and check on some of our friends. Phones were still not working, so no matter how much we tried to call or message, we didn’t get through to anyone. We met up with Luke and Emily first. They joined us as we drove on to look for Chelsea and Kendon. We all got together and drove back to our place to keep each other company and try to share food for dinner. We wanted to drive around more to look for other people, but it was getting late and we needed to spare gas. So we just waited, and tried our phones every once in a while. During the course of the evening, more people made it to our place and we were able to enjoy good fellowship.

It wasn’t until later that evening that we realized how big this really was! Up until this point, it was just an earthquake that knocked out water and electricity. Then someone got a phone call from their mom. “Are you okay? I’m seeing pictures of the tsunami and I’m worried!” We all just laughed. “What tsunami? We aren’t anywhere near a tsunami! We just had a big earthquake. That’s all.” Then we started hearing more about the tsunami and seeing pictures and videos on the news. That’s when we started realizing that this was bigger than ‘just an earthquake’.

Wooden doll waiting to be found
Wooden doll waiting to be found

That night, none of us got much sleep. Between the shakes of the earthquakes, the readiness to jump out of bed and run outside, the sweat from sleeping in my clothes, the constant sound of helicopters and ambulances and the worries of our large bookshelf falling on top of me, my dreams were laden with all of those same sounds and feelings, waking me up as often as possible.

Throughout that week, many things happened. People lined up at grocery stores and gas stations for hours. Food and gas were being tightly rationed. Little by little different parts of the area got electricity and water back. Some areas got utilities back within a day or two; some had to wait longer than a week. We started hearing more and more about the nuclear disaster and evacuations. All the while the victims of the tsunami were adding up to more and more missing and dead people.

Mito was still coping with the electricity, water, food, and gas shortages in addition to damaged property. The world was worried about the radiation and watching the tsunami disaster. AETs in Mito and Mito church members were feeling torn between getting their life back on track, fleeing because of the radiation dangers, or planning how to get gas to drive up North with help.

Damaged railroad bridge
Damaged railroad bridge

Mito city, our school employers, and our colleagues all did their best to not let the dangers and disaster further upset their lives. The last week of classes and graduation happened as planned in the elementary schools. By the time opening ceremony started a new year at the beginning of April, things were for the most part back to normal in Mito’s schools. Many gyms are still not safe to use, some schools could not have school lunch for a few weeks because the kitchens were not usable, and school earthquake drills have a new meaning, but other than a few things, life is back on track here for the average person.

How church members have taken measures to do relief work

The Mito church building had some damage, but not enough to worry about now. Soon after the disaster happened, when things were just starting to cool down, Mito church was basically bombarded with questions and offers like “How can we help?”, “I want to come do relief work, what can I do?”, “Where can I send money?”, “What does Mito church plan to do now?”, etc. Mito church was not in a position to really do anything. We were still waiting in line for enough gas to drive across town, let alone gas to drive hours up North. Highways surrounding Mito were destroyed in some places and other roads were blocked or ruined. Some people in Mito were still struggling to find enough food and water. Actual relief organizations were having enough trouble getting through to the authorities and the before mentioned difficulties, let alone a small church who had never done this before.

Team from Mito and Other ChurchesMito church members knew there was a need, they knew there were people willing to help, but at that time, all we could do was plan and receive funds. Currently, Mito church and other churches in the area have joined forces to put that plan into action. Although Mito church has taken on the responsibility of receiving and organizing financial funds, members from several churches are working together to organize the relief efforts. These churches have formed a committee for “Churches of Christ East Japan Aid,” made up of 10 members from 7 or 8 churches from multiple prefectures. This Committee sent a first convoy up to Sendai to help in Ishinomaki and Hachinohe the first week of May. The ministers involved in this organization hope to send a small or large convoy as often as once a week; a group of people able and willing to serve and carrying as many necessary items to give away as possible.

Recently, this committee made the decision to select three people who will be supported and commissioned to specifically focus on this job of relief efforts. These three people will lead the convoys to the North and will organize the church’s relief efforts. The members who have received this commission are Hiroaki Akahoshi, Gaku Osugi and Emiko Namae. Please pray for these three as they embark on this endeavor for God. Pray that God’s light may shine through them and pray that the people of Japan will know that He is God. Even though these three will focus solely on these relief efforts, the Church of Christ East Japan Aid committee members are still organizing, recruiting, equipping, and sending many volunteers from several areas. They are managing work opportunities in four or five prefectures, sending reports and keeping up with communication with churches in Japan and communicating with international donors.

Committee Meeting
Committee Meeting

If you decide to support this work by sending funds to Mito Church, please know that your money will go to these relief effort convoys. Some money will go to buying blankets, clothes, food, etc. for the victims to help them live more comfortably. Some will go to the gas and transportation to get from Mito to the Northern area. Some will go to supporting Gaku, Hiroaki, and Emiko for their work. Some may go to other efforts of relief work that are noticed as needed. Please support Japanese churches in this endeavor to spread God’s love. For more information, you can check this blog: http://EastJapanRelief.wordpress.com/ .

To help financially from the States, please send donations through the Park Avenue Church of Christ, where Dwight Albright is gathering and sending funds to Mito. For more information please go to the Park Avenue Church of Christ homepage. http://www.ParkAve.org/ .

To help financially from Europe (or other), you can wire funds directly to the Mito Church’s bank account, but we ask that you gather funds from multiple churches and send all of the funds from one country together.

Here is the Mito Church bank account information: Bank: Joyo Bank  常陽銀行 (SWIFT code for Joyo Bank:  JOYOJPJT) / Branch:  Head Office 本店営業部 / Bank Address:  2-5-5, Minami-machi, Mito-city, Ibaraki, Japan 310-0021 / 〒310-0021 茨城県水戸市南町2丁目5-5  Phone: 029-231-2151 / Bank Account Name:  Mito Church of Christ, Tohoku Kanto Earthquake Relief, Hiroyuki Suzuki / 水戸キリストの教会 東北関東大震災義援金 代表 鈴木博之 / Branch Code: 004 / Bank Account Number: 3589171

Thank you for your prayers and concern,

Miranda Brazle Logwood