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Here is a brief report that I gave to my church after my trip to Japan in May. It was given along with this slide presentation (PDF).
Good Morning. I am Phil Tsai and I am up here to talk about my trip to Japan in May and then share some details on the upcoming trip in August.
In many ways my trip in May was an exploratory one. While I helped in whatever ways I could, I also had the opportunity to see how things are progressing, how organizations are working and where the greatest needs are. Not only was I able to help in many ways, it also allowed me to understand where we could help the most in August.
For instance, the amount of effort that goes into organizing a response to a disaster is huge, and I got to see some of that. I spent two of my weeks in Tokyo doing administrative and IT work for two organizations, CRASH Japan and Converge Worldwide. During that time I worked on managing a database of donors, building a tool to aid in translation and fixing some websites.
I also spent one week in the region of Tohoku with the Rengo network, which is an association of Japanese Baptist churches. Tohoku, which was the region hit hardest by the tsunami, has 6 prefectures (which are roughly equivalent to states), as you can see in this map
Three of these prefectures were severely damaged by the tsunami: Fukushima, where the damaged nuclear reactors are, Miyagi, where Sendai is, and Iwate. I went up with 40 people from the Rengo network. This included several pastors, church members and seminary students. The focus of our trip was the prefecture of Iwate, which is north of the epicenter. There we did physical labor and outreach in three different cities.
This portion of the trip allowed me to serve in a more direct, tangible manner. It also let me see the enormity of clean-up and rebuilding work that faces Japan. Even though it had been two months since the disaster (three months now) the work is really just beginning. In fact, some groups are estimating that full recovery will take over 6 years.
For additional information, please see my other blog entries below. For now, here are some pictures from the areas we worked in:
So that was my trip to Tohoku. We learned a lot on this trip, for instance there are some unique challenges to doing relief work in Japan. The Japanese generally don't like to ask for help, as it is considered a sign of weakness. The government has relief centers, like the one we visited in Yamada, where people can go for help. But when we were there, they told us that people aren't asking for help, and if they do, they often feel indebted and obligated to return the favor, and I suspect that many people do not want to feel obligated to the government.
This is actually where we can make a big impact as volunteers. We can go in and get to know people and offer our services, for free, and they do not have to return the favor. In fact, we met people who struggled with the concept of volunteering. They were surprised that we would give up our work and vacations to serve them, without getting paid for it. This gives us an opportunity to tell them that we are Christians and we want to serve them because Christ served us and gave us salvation, no strings attached. In August, as we spend a couple weeks in one neighborhood, we hope to build relationships through that, we can connect people to the local church. Our work will include tearing down walls and floors to clean out mud from the tsunami; cleaning debris and mud from buildings, yards, parks, sewers and streets; delivering supplies and providing meals to families; and reaching out to people to address whatever other needs they have. Through all of this, we will also be giving emotional support and connecting people to the local church.
The team will go with Converge Worldwide and work with Samaritan's Purse (who you may recognize as the group that does Operation Christmas Child). The team will be made up of myself and Agnes from Bethel. We will also have Pastor Mas Kobayashi from Edmonton, Alberta. He will be our translator and I actually worked with him when I went to Japan 4 years ago. There are two others from St. Louis who will be joining us as well as three from Hawaii. And there will be some local Japanese church members too.
In order to make this trip possible we need your support. First of all, we need your prayers.
Posted 07/18/2011 11:08 PM in Christianity, Japan | Total Comments: (2)
Link To This Blargh
Did you want to update with the exact dates in August and all that? And spammers really hit the comments fast and hard now. Thinking of implementing some other test(s) to keep the spam at a minimum?
Submitted by Dan on 07/19/2011 09:55 AM
Those are the exact dates, aren't they???
Submitted by filbert on 07/20/2011 11:02 AM
Ha, ha... my bad...
I was going by just the text here without opening the PowerPoint file; I see the August dates near the end there.
Submitted by Dan on 07/20/2011 06:18 PM