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SEND International Okutama Bible Chalet Ministry Trip Report Tuesday, October 25 - Thursday, October 27, 2011 By Darwin Stoesz “Come and see what the LORD has done� Members: 1. 2. 3. 4.

Bruce Harris (SEND US) (Okutama Bible Chalet) Yasushi Okura (Okutama Bible Chalet) Joshua Naito (SEND Japan Staff) Darwin Stoesz (SEND US)

Ishinomaki Christ Church Sign

We met at SEND International Headquarters at 8:00 a.m. on Tuesday, October 25 where we all got into the Nakamura van and headed to Ishinomaki Christ Church where we had a brief meeting with Pastor Ito Sensei at around 3:00 p.m. The purpose of our trip was to assist Pastor Ito in providing aid to the city of Onagawa, which has no known church. OBC gave Pastor Ito-sensei a souvenir from Ome, the city where OBC is located, of Yuzu jam, which Ome is famous for. Pastor Ito has a continual relationship with people in both Ishinomaki and in Ishinomaki Christ Church Building Onagawa, however his main responsibility is with his church in Sendai, where he resides. Ito-sensei shared that due to various reasons he will be ending his responsibility with Ishinomaki Christ Church, but continue his focus on his church in Sendai and his continued ministry into Onagawa. Ito-sensei shared that he is very conscientious and careful with relief money that has been given to him by various sources for his expenses such as gas. I was impressed by his humility in his requesting for things from us as he realizes that without outside help, he cannot provide for the many needs he has for his church members and neighbors. Pastor Ito and wife

We were given a list of items that people in Onagawa are requesting from him that he could not provide on his own. His main concern is that the temporary houses that the government built lacks sufficient insulation and they are very cold. A typical Japanese home has a tatami or straw type flooring in them, but these temporary housing units have just regular flooring on them. They are very cold. The people were requesting kerosene heaters, carpets, electric heated carpets, kotatsu tables, 1


and blankets. They were requesting these items to be small as they do not have much space. They were also requesting kerosene heaters that do not require electricity in the event of a power outage this winter and also to keep their utility bills lower. Personal Reflection: We found the toll roads in and out of Ishinomaki to still be quite congested, but a little bit less than when I was there in July. I think one of the reasons is that the train is now running into Ishinomaki. I found the city of Ishinomaki to be a lot cleaner than previous trips and more and more businesses are now back in operation. I did not see new construction happening especially in areas closer to the ocean. They are still cleaning up debris and one can now see enormous piles of garbage piled up in the distance. On one of my first trips in April to Ishinomaki we helped an elderly man clean up his house and SEND was able to purchase him some much needed items such as a new bed, blankets and clothing. His name was Mr. K. I was surprised to see on this trip that those houses where he lived had been completely cleaned up and only an empty lot remained. There is no doubt that Mr. K’s house needed to be destroyed, but I was wondering where Mr. K. went and I hope that he was able to take his new items that we purchased for Naito-san, Okura-san, and Bruce Harris Loading relief goods him with him to his new place. Most important that he would remember that it was people that were representing the love of Jesus that gave him his bed and other items. I failed to ask Pastor Ito what happened to Mr. K. Nitori a home furnishing store

We went to Yamada Denki, a large store that sells electrical items, and bought all four of their small kerosene heaters for 8,500 yen or a little over $100.00 each. We then went to Nitori, a home store, and bought 15 small carpets, 5 kotatsu tables and blankets for 147,400 yen or about $2,000. Personal Reflection: Four adult men shopping is a very interesting phenomenon there seemed an unanimous unspoken need to get the job done and get out of the store, especially Nitori. No matter what culture one comes from it seems like it is a cultural norm that guys don’t generally like to go shopping. We ate that night at a restaurant called “Big Boy” where we met Sano-san, a mutual friend of Naitosan and Okura-san. We stayed overnight at the cabin owned by Steve & Janet Kunnecke. His cabin is located in Shichigahama, just outside of Sendai City in MiyagiKen, Japan. The next morning, we woke up and we could see the beautiful ocean that completely surrounded us on three sides. We decided to go to Ishinomaki that morning by the “lower road” instead of 2

Okura-san and Sano-san


sitting on the toll road in congestion. We stopped and were amazed by the beauty of Matsushima. We arrived at Ishinomaki Christ Church in time to join their Wednesday morning prayer meeting. There were nine people in attendance and the meeting was led by Pastor Ito’s wife. Bruce Harris was asked to share the Bible lesson to these kind and gentle people. Bruce shared about the power of prayer from Revelation 3:20, Psalm 68:19 and John 2:1-11. He also shared from a famous book on prayer entitled “Inori no Sekai” by a Norwegian named Ole Hallesby. Bruce shared with these dear people the challenges that OBC and he has had and how when we are powerless, that this is when we really pray. We should pray when we are in the middle of our hardships.

A man at the Ishinomaki Church Prayer Meeting

One lady requested pray for Ms. S. who is her younger sister as she lost her entire family on March 11 and she is now struggling and the family is very concerned. I was told later that this possibly means she is suicidal. We then ate lunch with them which was rice topped by a ham and egg sauce with the optional fried locusts to put on the top. Everyone in our group ate the grasshoppers except for Darwin who refused to eat them, even after Pastor Fried Grasshoppers

Ito put some on his plate. It is obvious that he needs some cultural sensitivity

Rice covered by eggs and ham

training. Personal Reflection: In retrospect I suppose I should have eaten the fried grasshoppers. When I heard from the lady that brought them that they were from her back yard I couldn’t get over the fact that they were grasshoppers. They said they tasted sweet, but I think they were lying just to encourage me to eat them. At 1:00 the nine attendees stayed for a baptism preparation meeting which Okura-san and Bruce Harris stayed to encourage them. They were impressed with the faith of the new believers, or how close they were to making a decision to follow Jesus. Mr. T. was very timid to pray, but stayed a long time to help afterwards. Ms. C. had many questions about Christianity. Ito-sensei shared from Romans 10:9 and asked them why they first came to Ishinomaki Christ Church and some were honest and said because the church was giving out relief goods and that is why they first started to come to church, others because of relationships they had with people from the church.

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Volunteers with Samaritan's Purse

Naito-san and Darwin Stoesz went to Ishinomaki-Shintate where they met up with a SEND appointee to Spain and SEND Japan MK who has been volunteering with Samaritan’s Purse – Joel Barkman. We were able to see some of the work that he has been doing. We also were able to connect up with Dean Bengston who is heading up the work there and encouraged us to get more volunteers to come as he has more houses than he has volunteers.

Naito-san and Darwin returned back to Nitori and another home store to purchase more items that we needed for the next day. We all met again that evening with Pastor Ito and prayed Darwin at Nitori and confirmed our plans for Thursday morning. The plan on Wednesday night was to distribute these goods to three different locations in Onagawa on Thursday morning. We ate at a restaurant called “Joyfull” on the way back to the cabin. In the morning we packed up and loaded up the van. In the parking lot at Takayama I was able to meet Larry who is one of the leaders of Samaritan’s Purse and he shared that Samaritan’s Purse will eventually be leaving Japan, but that they want to make sure that each contact they have is connected to a local church or missionary organization. I encouraged him to attend a JEMA sponsored Church Planters Institute from Nov. 9-11 to share his vision with the missionaries in Japan. The following morning we Naito-San unloading relief items returned back to Ishinomaki Christ Church. As often happens on relief trips everything we had planned Wednesday night had changed. We arrived at the church to find out that eleven volunteers from a church in Sendai had come to help. I believe the name of the church was Aobaso Church. They brought along many vegetables and a willingness to help. With the help of a van that showed up with someone from the 4

A Sign in Miyagi Ken


Sendai CRASH Japan base we loaded up three vans with all of these relief goods and headed to Onagawa. Half of the volunteers, including Naito-san and Okura-san stayed behind at the church to provide relief goods and coffee house ministry. We arrived in Onagwa and went to the Asahigaoka Community Center where we set up the items around in this big room. At exactly at 1:00 the loudspeaker blared out throughout Onagawa to please come to the community center to receive goods from the following four organizations, with SEND International being one of the four organizations that were providing relief. Yamagata Church pastor’s wife and her friend were also their providing help. Her friend had met Richard Nakamura in Washington. The people had to sign up and there was very specific instructions given as to how many objects they could have. Every heater, every carpet etc. had a sticker attached to it with the church’s name on it. They opened up all the boxes and made sure that the stickers were attached to the heater, not just the box. They could also take one bag of vegetables. Bruce Harris then shared with them all the power of the gospel and both he and Pastor Ito sensei prayed for them. They all received tracts and they were very appreciative of the help that they were getting. Darwin’s Japanese wasn’t nearly as good as the native speakers so I tried to help carry their stuff to their cars or to their home.

Bruce Harris sharing Good News in Onagawa

One house I delivered items to I was invited into their living room and drank tea for over an hour. Needless to say, the group was quite concerned where I went as they wanted to go and they could not find me. I had a fabulous time with this family where the retired fisherman was the same age as my father. We had a wonderful time of fellowship despite my limited Japanese. We were able to meet Kimiko-san and her two year old daughter Sachiko-chan. I have come to Onagawa three times and have been able to meet her each time. I enjoy Bruce Harris putting tracts into boxes of relief goods this continued relationship with this family. Bruce Harris had a special time of prayer with Kimiko-san. Her elderly mother is the only known Christian in Onagawa.

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Everything was taken except for a few clothes items that were the wrong size. We cleaned up the community center and returned back to the church where we met up with Naito-san and Okura-san. We met Okura-san’s brother-in-law, Masato Kotani who is a carpenter with Samaritan Purse. The house they are working on is very close to Ishinomaki Christ Church. We also met Masamichi Harada who is the son of Harada-sensei who provided my Japanese language proficiency test. Another volunteer there was Ochaii-san a former Volunteers in Ishinomaki

neighbor of Bruce Harris. We then returned back to Tokyo Thursday night arriving at SEND Japan headquarters around midnight. Personal reflection: This was my first trip to Tohoku where I was not doing physical labor and though there is much physical labor yet to do, the work that is needed right now is sharing the love of Jesus through the power of the gospel from the Word of God as that is what will provide long-term relief to their soul. I was thankful and constantly mindful of the intent of the many people who gave sacrificially so that we could provide aid to the people in Japan. It was not about me, it was not about SEND International, it was not about Okutama Bible Chalet, but it was all about God. Psalm 46 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Come and see what the LORD has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. 6


SEND International and OBC Tohoku Relief Trip Report October 25-27,2011