The Japan Mission Trip for August 2014 was a richly rewarding experience for the seven Texas Baptist Disaster Recovery volunteers who participated, led by retired IMB Missionary to Japan, Sherwood Moffett. Since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami of northern Japan, teams of Christian volunteers have expended time, money and energy to be the face of hope and the arms of grace to the survivors.
The team spent the first few days in the city of Sendai, the largest city in the disaster area, worshipping with Taitomi Baptist church and participating in ongoing youth fellowships and adult Bible studies. The aim of these activities was to show support for our fellow believers in Japan, who have carried the burden of support and to witness in the disaster area, despite being overwhelmed at times by the enormity of the task and by the sheer numbers of those in need.
The rest of our time in Japan was spent in Ishinomaki, the center of the tsunami zone. Casualties in this area were in excess of 18,000, and many survivors have been housed in government units because so much of the area's infrastructure was destroyed. At the time of the disaster, there was not a single facility of Christian witness, but in the three years since, seven Evangelical churches have begun, along with numerous home Bible studies and mission points. The average Japanese “man on the street" will testify to the love and support given to all by those who came in the name of Christ, and where there was no willingness to listen to the gospel before, there is now an underlying eagerness to understand why so many and from so far away could demonstrate such love and compassion.
The team was housed in a Christian center operated by Samaritan's Purse, and was hosted by the local mission of Tokyo Baptist Church. They did gardening and concrete repair, visited and did crafts with the elderly and youth, and witnessed to neighbors.
Of the five volunteer teams which Sherwood has led to Japan since the disaster, most could be characterized as "seed planting" through our actions - this year's trip was the first where we are actually beginning to see the fruits of our labors. Currently, the rubble has been removed from where the people once lived, and the rebuilding of the town has begun. Cross-denominational Christian organizations served with great love and sacrifice in the area. Efforts have now moved into "community rebuilding and development" in which a community totally without the witness of the gospel now welcomes and functions with Christianity no longer as the "foreigner's God," but as the Lord of hope for all who will receive Him. The prayers and actions of Christians are still needed, and we are planning for projects to continue the involvement during 2015. For more information, please visit: www.texasbaptists.org/disaster.