Posted by: grantmiho | October 17, 2011

Disaster Relief- Part One

Seven months after the tragic earthquake and tsunami, relief efforts continue in the north of Japan. While Miho was able to head up and serve in July, I (Grant) finally was able to spend a week serving with a fellow missionary and other Japanese. We were privileged to serve with Michio, who moved up for the year weeks after the event in March. He has been building relationships with these people and hosting teams weekly. Our group consisted of several people from Hokkaido (the northern island), Chiba (east of Tokyo), Saitama (northern Tokyo), and Osaka (west Japan).

Our first day was spent driving up along the coast and witnessing the devastation that we had only seen in photos and videos. I will share more about this in the next post. For now, I will just say that seeing it up close and personal was surreal and heavy. Also, photos are coming.

1. Overview of Our Work

We visited two temporary housing sites, which are basically glorified trailers that extend row after row with hundreds of people living at each site. Through our continual presence, they have welcomed us into their community center. We were able to host a “Mobile Cafe,” where we demonstrated making soba noodles and “takoyaki” (octopus balls that look like hushpuppies). People could come and go, enjoying good food, drinks, and conversation. At one point, we brought out blankets for them to pick up, as winter is coming soon. We also had a table with free Christian books, Bibles, and children’s books. As there are few foreigners in that area, they seemed very surprised to see Americans. By the end of our time, we all became experts at making takoyaki. Over the months of meeting with these people and serving, we have heard from Michio that several of them have come to faith! This is incredible, given that for hundreds of miles of coastline in that area there are only seven Evangelical churches! It is the least populated area of Japan, with many small fishing villages. They are cautious of outsiders and religious groups. Yet, I sensed a warmness, humility, and appreciation of our presence and care.

We also were able to distribute food to homes in several neighborhoods. Just a few hundred yards in front of these homes were barren foundations of homes washed away and destroyed. Most of these people were elderly. Nobody turned down any food we offered. There was no shame in accepting food. With all the stores destroyed in their area, we heard that some would have to wait for a bus and ride 45 minutes to another town to get groceries.

2. Impressions of People There

Japanese people in general are very resilient. The town we were in, Taro, had experienced tsunamis in the late 1800s and 1930s. They built a wall over 30 feet tall. Yet, at some points, the wave measured around 100 foot tall! On the town hall, which was just up the hill from a completely destroyed area, was a sign that said “We are a tsunami-ready town.” How do you pick up the pieces of a town that lost most everything? One lady said that she might be living in that temporary home for the next two years. The fishing industry is now 10% what it had been. For most older men, it seems overwhelming to think about a career change and finding work in that area. The physical needs are being cared for now, with homes in place, food supplies slowing coming in, and gas stations and convenience stores being reconstructed. Yet, it is unknown what these communities will become. We also pray that these events will open them to their spiritual needs. How do you find hope for a new day and life?

With the mass media moving on from this story, please keep these people in mind. This is just the beginning for their lives and society to be rebuilt. Much has been done already, but there is so much that remains to be done. Pray for those working up there and for these affected families.


  1. Thank you for sharing about Japan’s rebuilding. Here in the states we hear nothing anymore of what is happening in Japan. It gives me great hope of salvation to these people because of your willingness to be the hands and feet of Jesus…and help them in the great need for food and shelter.

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