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We’ve been back in Germany for over a week now. We apologize for the very long break in blogging – jet lag has really thrown us out of whack. Today I thought I’d share just a few things about what we learned during our vision trip to Ishinomaki.

First off, there is a tremendous need for listening ears. Here is a story from a tsunami survivor that just amazed us! Mr. A. is in his 60’s and had no connection to Christianity before the tsunami. He began to experience the love of God through the help of many Christians who distributed many goods in his neighborhood. He first heard about Jesus Christian from the Christian workers and learned that one could pray in Jesus’ name. He was being severely oppressed by evil spirits to the point where he was physically feeling pressure on his body!  Out of desperation he started praying to Jesus and the oppression from the evil spirits ceased. Now he is a Christian and attends a local church in Ishinomaki – praise God!

Second, to have listening ears, one needs to speak or at least understand Japanese quite well. We were so encouraged to see the dozens and dozens of foreign volunteers from all over the world, and each one is working so faithfully to support the Japanese people. We quickly realized that most of the volunteers we met did not speak Japanese; on top of that, there are very few Japanese workers in Ishinomaki. The foreign Christian workers definitely far outnumber the Japanese, which is not necessarily a bad thing. However, there is certainly a huge need for Japanese-speaking long-term workers and especially Japanese Christians workers to reach out to their countrymen. Please pray for more Japanese Christian workers in Tohoku!

Third, we were reminded over and over of this truth: “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21). Missionaries told us again and again that while we can try to make plans to do things in Tohoku, everything is just changing so fast! The needs are changing, the situation is changing, everything is in flux, making it almost impossible to plan very far ahead into the future. This is both very exciting and very scary (especially for those like me with control-freak tendencies)! I think this is a good reminder that we are not in control! This has been true all along in Japan, but in Tohoku it’s especially clear that God is making us all wait on Him!

In summary, during our time in Tohoku we met Christian workers from Asian Access, the Be One Network, Grace Mission Tohoku, Reach Global, Calvary Chapel Tokyo, the Christian Missionary Alliance, and Samaritan’s Purse. We also stopped by the base of It’s Not Just a Mud, an NPO doing amazing work in Ishinomaki. There is a lot of awesome work going on, and it will be a challenge for the many Christian groups to work together, despite theological differences. It seems God is testing the workers – are we willing to put first His kingdom and lay down agendas in order to fulfill Jesus’ prayer of unity? “That they may be one as we are one…Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17).

Awesome video from Samaritan’s Purse:

A side note about Samaritan’s Purse – here is a short report we heard, word for word, from a SP worker: SP has been mainly working in Shiogama, Shichigahama, Watanoha, and Shintate. Until recently, their bases were located in Tome and Kesennuma, with the Tome base now moved to Rifu. Their goal is to work on 400 houses before the end of the April (500 by end of year).  Volunteers have been doing work such mud-out, tearing down walls, bleaching, etc. Then professionals will come in to do the dry walls, ceilings, etc. Word of mouth has been the best way to get the word about their work. From the website: “Doing mud-outs, rebuilding homes, and providing relief items met people’s physical needs. But our staff realized the most important, and rewarding, aspect of the work is building relationships that open doors to talking about the love of Jesus.”

For those of you interested in reading blogs by Christians working in the disaster area, here are just a few (and please let me know if you know of any other blogs):

Chloe M’s blog, Out Of Dust – a college freshman (daughter of a Japan MK) writes about her experiences doing relief work in Tohoku
The Takamotos, missionaries with Asian Access in Ishinomaki – definitely read this post about a drive through the disaster area
Virginia L., missionary intern in Ishinomaki
The Thomas Family, long-time OMF missionaries in Shichigahama (Here is the link to their family website)
The Littles in Sendai, documenting their recovery ministry

Plus, I found another interesting one: http://recoveringtohoku.wordpress.com
The author seeks to “keep track of news and other information related to the response and recovery from this disaster.”