Over the years I have seen the Church respond to the numerous natural disasters of tornados, tsunamis, earthquakes and hurricanes. This, in itself, is not bad nor am I against the Church responding financially, materially or with sending volunteers. However, has the Church become just as reactionary and temporary in its attention span as a CNN or FOX news? These news services focus and exploit these attention getting events for ratings, but once the event has lost its excitement or some other event is more extraordinary or disastrous then the interest ends and the story fades.
The case in point is Japan the earthquake/tsunami of 2011. We, with other ministries and churches, responded following the disaster. We sent a team soon after to help in the area of Ishinomaki, north of Sendai. The devastation and loss of life was horrible. Teams and ministries from the US as well as others from or out of Japan flooded into all the areas most affected. But once the ministry of relief was no longer needed so was the influx of funds and volunteers. However, when the relief ends the real ministry actually begins for there are still lives that are shattered, in fear and without hope and most importantly people are still without Jesus. This is why we have committed to continue our support to the ongoing mission work in the area and sending teams to come along side the missionaries to perpetuate the witness. Consistency is where the real witness exists.
In our last trip in July I was able to speak with many and there was reactions of surprise and then deep thankfulness when they heard of my returning five times since the tsunami. Questions like, “Why do you come back?” or “Why did you care about us?” are presented to me. Many times with tearful eyes.
There is one gentleman with his mom who own a stationary store that I met on my first trip. They were busy scavenging through the pile and debris in their store. They were not willing to do more than acknowledge my hello. On the 2nd and third trip the same or they were not at their store. But in 2013 I was able to visit them the week they reopened their store. They didn’t remember me but as I shared my joy for their reopening their hearts opened to listen and hear God's love for Japan. They sat and share with me the horrible experience they had when the tsunami hit and the struggles they had with reopening their store. Their thankful hearts were obvious when they insisted I accept a gift. Then this year I visited again and to my surprise the son remembered my name as soon as he saw me. He and his mom again welcomed me into their store with my translator in tow. The time was even more precious and personal for they asked deeper questions about my faith and listened intently as my translator shared her personal testimony. Again the door of their hearts squeaked open a little more.
So in a manner of speaking a relief effort still exists in Japan. It is no longer the delivering of food and resources to a battered community but the delivering of God’s living water to thirsty souls. The opportunity is turning white for harvest but the laborers are less than before so we will pray as the Lord of the harvest that he send more laborers.
"How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things.” Rom.10:14-15.