Thank you so much for your prayers during my time in the Tohoku region. It was a blessed, intense, glorious, and frightening. But in all things God got us through and revealed himself to people.
We headed out from Okinawa on monday by plain and flew to Tokyo where we met up with our friends; Pastor Travis of CC west Tokyo, Pastor Rich, and Pastor Santo. From there, we drove five hours deep into the Tohoku region. Finally we arrived at our destination, Higashi-Matsushima（東松島) at 9:30 at night.
The next morning we awoke early and had devotions with one another. Pastor Travis shared from 2 Kings 4:18-4:87, Using it to highlight the method of the ministry for our time there. He said that the purpose of the time their was to build relationship with the people in order that they will allow us to help them. When the woman went running to Elisha, Gehazi meets her on her way to him and asks if there is something wrong and the woman says everything is fine. However, later when she sees Elisha, she falls at his feet crying and begging for help. She had no relationship with Gehazi, and therefore she did not tell him of her problems, but only shared them with the man she knew, Elisha.
It is very interesting that in our time there I realized again how important trust and relationship is to the Japanese people. In Katrina, everyone wanted and needed help, and took as much as they could get if anyone offered it to them. However, something we realized quickly is that if the Japanese don't know you and therefore don't trust you, they will not relate there problems to you or accept the help you are offering for the most part. We came in the first day, making it clear we were there to help, and for the first day no one asked for it really, and the one person that did ask for our help was very timid about it and only allowed the work to go on for a shorter amount of time.
But then Travis added this in his devotion, that they way in which Elisha ministered and was used to heal the dead boy was that he lined himself up with him, eye to eye, head to head, shoulder to shoulder. He placed himself at the same level with the boy. From this he said that the way we would minister was to just stand with them, talk with them, listen to them, show them that we were with them in this disaster and that God was too.
When they were hesitant to ask for anything. We just started spending time with them. Some of us sat around with those gathered in the shelter, while some of us, including me, spent time with kids, playing with them, teaching them crafts, and just loving on them. And as the day wore on, God began to work in hearts and open doors with the people there. They began to talk more, share more, and ask more.
By the time that evening rolled around, we stared to prepare dinner. Pastor Santo, who was a former owner of a Japanese restaurant in San Francisco started teaching the women who came with us how to cut cabbage, professional style. One of the Japanese ladies who was washing her dishes came over and started watching him. Then travis invited a whole bunch of women to come in and see his cooking skills. While he was showing them the way to cut cabbage like lighting and how to do this and that, he was sharing with them about why we had come. From this point things really started to roll. We fed everyone dinner of Teriyaki chicken and rice with corn soup, salad, sausages, and ice cream. Everyone ate their fill. Including the defense forces.
This was an unexpected aspect of the ministry there. There were Japanese defense forces stationed at the rescue center we were working at. Mostly to distribute rice and help anyone that needed it. But when we offered them a hot meal as well, they were taken quite aback. In the end, we at dinner at the same table with the defense forces, talking and laughing. Later that evening, it was mentioned that one of the girls on the team, Taliya Hokumori, knew how to hula dance. Soon everyone on the room was asking here to dance for them. She danced a few dances while Pastor Travis, originally from Hawaii, played a hawaiian song on his guitar. For the last dance, Travis called me up along with all of the defense forces stationed there to stand behind here and copy her dance. It was hilarious. Everyone in the rescue center was busting out laughing. After gabbing for a while, the whole group played with the kids, making balloon animals and fighting wars with balloon swords until late at night. We then returned to the hotel to rest up for the next day.
We woke up the next day early again and had our devotion time. Pastor Rich shared from 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8. I think the thing that I remember the most clearly from this was in verse 8 where it spoke of not only sharing the gospel, but our lives. He said that often time the emphases is the opposite in this kind of ministry. That I will share my life with you, but I must share the gospel with you. That if I share the gospel in words, the trip is validated. Paul of course shared the gospel, he preached everywhere he went, being lead by the spirit. But, here he emphasizes that he was sharing his life with them. He said that we should also seek not only to share the gospel, but our lives which speaks of the work of the gospel with people. Then we headed off.
The second day, doors to help were opened up a little more. We we allowed to help one man clean out his house and spent most of the day doing it, pausing only to head back to the rescue center to make hamburgers. We worked until the end of the day and made our way back to tokyo, arriving late at night, and flew out the next day, returning to Okinawa.
There were difficulties on the trip as well. Mostly in terms of spiritual warfare. For reasons I do not fully understand I was often single out of the team for attack when I was there. Sudden feelings of depression and oppression. Sudden unprovoked feelings of anger and hatred. Even suicidal thoughts out of nowhere. In these times, I would pray to God and He would always be faithful to rescue me and protect. They would all pass as soon as I entered into prayer and I would be free again. This is understandable in a way. The forces of depression and sadness, anger and hate, as well as suicide are strong there right now. Please continue to pray that the spiritual strongholds would be destroyed in this time and that the people there are well as those who go there to help would be protected.
It was a short, but a amazing trip. And it will not be the last. Travis has already been to the same rescue center three times before. and is going again next month. At the end of the semester in three weeks there will be another trip there from this school lead by pastor tommy which I am praying about going to as well. Hopefully, in the Lord's timing, foundations will be built to this rescue center and God will touch peoples lives as the months go on. We need patience in this time, knowing that God is working out this situation to bring his children to glory. It was a interesting thing as I was looking at the chaos of the damage left by the tsunami, which included cargo ship in the middle of fields, entire buildings torn apart, houses with holes blown straight through them... of all the structures I saw left standing, I did not see one shrine or temple. In fact, from what I saw, the places that received the worst and most exagerated damage that I saw were the temples and shrines. As I was looking at the decapitated roof of a temple lying shattered in a ditch, I was reminded of the idols lying shattered before the ark in babylon... I know that God will use this catastrophe to bring men to Glory. Let us all continue to pray towards this end.
Because He lives and loves,
It is good to be writing you again. I am only sorry that time has flown by so quickly since the last time I wrote you and time continues to fly by me even as a I write this letter. Firstly, I want to thank all of you that sent care packages to Tokyo for both the support of the church there and for outreach.
Much has happened since that time and God has been opening doors for ministry all over Japan. Currently, my friend Jeremiah Boek, with whom I worked and did ministry during my time in Tokyo, has been working with the crash team and has to my understanding been put in a position to minister to the Tohoku region of Japan. They have been on many relief trips there and have been ministering to multiple areas there.
Soon I will be joining him in ministry to that region. There have been many teams that have come from this area to minister to people on the mainland. As I did not know the Lord's will for me during this time, I restrained myself from going, though I desperately wanted to. Also the opportunity came up to go to Hokkaido and minster at the church that this church planted there. However I was given the strong impression in my heart that I was not supposed to go on this trip either, though I didn't really know why at the time. I even wrestled with God a bit about it, but that is neither here nor there. But, within the last week, the doors have opened up for us to go and minister to a small village in the Tohoku region for about four days and I believe God is directing me to go with them. I understand now why I was kept from all these opportunities, it was for this time now. Pray for protection for the team going. Radiation is still an issue in the area, however I am confident in the hand of God to protect us as we follow His leading.
When we get to the village, we will be doing outreaching to the children as well as food outreach and relational ministry. The village we are going to was not badly damaged by the earthquake, but was heavily effected by the tsunami. Most of their houses have been flooded, but as they are still standing, they are not top priority to government relief right now as there are areas far more damaged. So we are going to go up, speng time with them, put on a BBQ for them, play and encourage the children, and help clean out their houses. Essentially, just love on them and share his love with them.
I have already completed all my studies a week in advance and will be leaving tomorrow. I am very excited.
I wish I could go on, however, my time is short. I will be making this a two part letter this month and will be giving a full report of my time in the tohoku upon my return.
Thank you so much for reading and for your prayers. God bless you all.
Yours in our Lord,
Sorry I haven't posted any new pictures in a while on my flickr account. I reached the picture limit there and didn't want to pay to have more space. So I made a photobucket account instead and uploaded some recent pictures there for those of you who don't use facebook. Hope you enjoy them.