Missionaries reach out to devastated Japan
Beaverton Christian Church members visit ministry partner in Japan
Three members of Beaverton Christian Church recently returned from a 10-day mission trip to Japan where they encouraged local Christians and viewed the progress made since a devastating earthquake and tsunami hit the countrys northeast coast in 2011.
In Tokyo, Executive Pastor Dan Ferguson, his wife Terrie, and Janell Struckmeier, director of the childrens ministry, were joined by Pastor Takeshi Aida of the Sayama Church of Christ, a long-standing ministry partner with the Beaverton church.
The 9.0 earthquake on March 11, 2011, triggered a tsunami that killed at least 16,000 people, left another 2,600 missing and prompted meltdowns at a nuclear power plant. Today, official records show more than 300,000 people are still living in temporary housing.
Help from around the world poured into Japan following the tsunami, including financial assistance from Beaverton Christian Church. When the tsunami hit, the Sayama church mobilized what resources it had and headed north to the affected areas. Over the next six months, Pastor Aida made the 800-mile round trip a dozen times, bringing practical aid to survivors of the tsunami. Last summer, a team of construction workers from Beaverton Christian joined with Samaritans Purse to help re-construct homes in the area ravaged by the tsunami.
Its been two years since the earthquake and tsunami rocked Japan, and Pastor Ferguson still can hardly believe the sight.
Even though I had seen pictures of the initial destruction of the tsunami, I was unprepared for the magnitude of how many towns and cities had been affected by the disaster, he said. What was most startling was seeing town after town simply left with nothing but leveled foundations of buildings destroyed by the 50-foot wall of water that inundated the area that March afternoon.
While the mass of rubble has been cleaned up, little has been done to re-build in areas impacted by the tsunami.
According to the Japanese government, close to 27.6 million tons of debris were left behind after the emergency, and while 77 percent has been transported to areas for waste disposal, a mere 27 percent has been moved to permanent locations.
While the relief efforts have been successful in bringing some sense of order to life, there remains uncertainty among government officials how to proceed.
Apparently some people want to rebuild where they had once lived and worked, but the cost of providing the necessary seawalls or other protective barriers are prohibitive, Ferguson said. Some people simply dont believe another tsunami of this magnitude will happen for hundreds of years and are willing to move back without any precautions taken.
Some, on the other hand, have moved well inland, or even to other parts of the country, to avoid ever being in such imminent danger again. I think for many of those who survived the disaster, there remains memories which will haunt them for the rest of their lives.
The Beaverton missionaries also hosted an outreach rally to the local community, shared the gospel, ministered to youth groups and encouraged believers in their faith.
Beaverton Christian Church has sent a childrens ministry team to the Sayama church for the past 11 years to reach out to the community by offering an English-speaking childrens program with fast-paced action music, crafts, snacks, games and Bible stories.
We have established a strong relationship with the church, encouraging them and partnering in serving their community, Struckmeier said. The program appeals to the Japanese community to hear native speakers of English. The church families participate in all aspects of the program, establishing relationships with the families that attend.
Children 5 years old through fifth grade attend the four-session camp. We have seen children come back each year to the camp excited to learn more about Jesus. Some even come back to help after they have graduated. The teams from both churches have been blessed by this cooperative effort to teach children.