Note: This post is from pastor Yutaka Takarada who is currently in Japan ministering alongside Texas Baptist Men volunteers in the wake of the recent tragedy. Takarada pastors the Japanese Baptist Church of North Texas. To support the ongoing ministry efforts of Texas Baptists, click here.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ:
At last, we are headed to Sendai today.
We bought boxes of cup noodles, Kit Kats, two cans of gasoline and four cans of kerosene. The van was fully loaded. As we departed, we prayed together with convention office workers for God’s protection and His guidance so that we could do what the Lord wanted us to do for His glory. We left the convention building at 10 a.m. and arrived at the Yokodai Baptist Church in Sendai after 2 p.m., where we unloaded some of those boxes and kerosene. We filled the tank of the van that the on-site director is driving.
We went to two churches located closer to the real disaster area: Ishinomaki Eiko Church of the United Church of Christ in Japan and Ishinomaki Yamashirocho Church, which is also belongs to United Church of Christ in Japan. The pastors and their wives of both churches were so appreciative to the boxes of noodles. They told us that they didn’t have water until two days ago. They were so thankful for those boxes of supplies.
Kerosene and gasoline were very difficult to get in Sendai. Yes, you can get gas at a gasoline station, but you have to wait in line for five-six hours. A week ago, people had to wait in line for gas for almost 24 hours. Sure enough, when we drove around the town, we encountered many long lines of cars to get a limited gas – 2,000 yen (165yen/litter) worth of gasoline was the limit per car. Only emergency vehicle can have 3,000yen.
After we delivered the supplies to the churches, we went into the disaster area. Because it was already night, we could only drove around the area. Yet, the scenes in the head lights were beyond our imagination, and we truly witnessed the power of mother nature. There were many signs of the devastation caused by the Tsunami. What I cannot report on in this is the smell, which was also present with all the debris piled up along side of the roads untouched.
We stopped by one of the shelters to see if it were possible for us to interview some of those victims, but they said that people are damaged not only physically but also emotionally and spiritually so greatly that they didn’t want to bother them with strangers coming to them. We understood that and quietly left with our prayers that God could heal their pains soon.
When we went to the church where we spent a night, it was already after 10 p.m. But a pastor of the church was waiting for us with rice cooked and hot drinks ready. We had a fellowship with this pastor before we went to bed. In his words, we learned of the true situation of Japanese churches in a rural area such as this one.
This 81-year-old pastor, following the passing of his wife, decided to reinstate himself for God’s service in order to rebuild this church. The church has more than a half century of history, but it was at the point of closing the doors because the church got so small that only 15 kindergarten students were left and no adults were coming to worship service on Sundays. I didn’t hear the details why the church got so small and lost all the members, but one of the reasons was that young people left town for bigger cities and elderly have left and many of those people have gone with the Lord, so they couldn’t support a pastor. The income that they had to support this church was the income received out of the kindergarten. However, a few days before today, all 15 students graduated, and so there is no one left except this retired minister. The only alternative for the convention now has is to close this church door permanently. The pastor didn’t want to see this happen, so he has once again committed himself for ministry and started serving this church as the pastor. Today, he said, there is only one person coming to Sunday services, but his vision is not only to sustain this church but also to see the church grow big enough to call a young pastor again.
This pastor was a “kamikaze pilot” trained to be deployed for one-way battle, but the war ended before he was deployed. He didn’t know what to do because his reason to live was snatched away suddenly, and there were no mission for his life anymore. He was walking without knowing where to go, but on the road he heard the voice of a street evangelist preaching the hope in Jesus Christ. He received a copy of New Testament from this street evangelist. This became a turning point for his life and later he became a Christian and in a several months he committed himself for kingdom work. He has served the Lord for more than 50 years.
Because he has nobody else to live with, he decided to live in a small room behind the auditorium to save church expenses. People in the convention brought foods and other everyday goods for him, but he doesn’t need much, so he decided to use the church to provide supplies to those in need. In the auditorium where we slept were dry foods, diapers and others goods displayed on the desks. We provided gasoline for his car, and he was so thankful for that. With a smile in his face, he repeatedly said “thank you” to us. It was a time of joy for each one of us the relief team. We could serve literally to a needy person, and we shared the love of Christ in fellowship with him. We prayed together bowed down before the Lord, asking His divine guidance on his life and on missions. We all know now that if we are faithful to what the Lord tells us to do, then He will bring us many blessings. These encounters and experiences are something that you cannot earn but only God can made possible for anyone who is in his business. How great the Lord our God is! Amen!