Heart lights

Japan relief over, but Texas Baptist help still need in recovery

May 15th, 2012 at 1:43 pm

DALLAS – Japan may have received relief in the wake of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, but many of its residents who were affected by the disasters still need to recover.

The rubble has been cleared, rebuilding has begun and people are living in temporary housing, said missionary Michael Towery. But putting bricks back together doesn’t mend the pieces of a broken heart.

“We came to realize [during the past year] we can’t neglect the broken hearts that needed to be mended as well,” he said.

Even now, people are just beginning to open up to missionaries in Japan, said Towery, who was commissioned to Japan with his wife Yu by First Baptist Church in Arlington through Kinexxus, a missions network supported by Texas Baptist churches.

Some of the people affected directly by the tsunami and earthquake are living in small temporary housing. They are coping with that well, but it still isn’t their home, Michael said. Fishermen have lost their jobs and cannot afford to support their families.

“Many of them are still hurting, depressed,” Yu said. “Because of that, they are hurting physically.”

The missionaries are delivering food to those in need and building relationships with those who are struggling. Texas Baptists Disaster Recovery is planning a trip for June 18-26 to help the missionaries with those tasks. Through interpreters, Texas Baptists will visit with people, get to know their stories and be able to offer support as well as encouragement.

“These people want to share what’s in their heart – what happened to them, what happened to their jobs,” Yu said.

Texas Baptists Disaster Recovery Specialist Marla Bearden believes that is precisely what Texas Baptists can provide during the trip – Christians who care about the Japanese and want to help in the recovery process. To help Texas Baptists do that, $500 travel grants are available from the convention to help defray trip costs.

“Our presence helps those affected by the disaster to let them know that they are not forgotten,” she said. “The Japanese are excited to meet new people. They enjoy sitting down with people, spending time, telling their story about former jobs and lives. Many of these people have lost every material possession they had. They lost their jobs and loved ones. They need an ear to listen.”

For some of the people trip participants meet, Texas Baptists truly will serve as the presence of Christ for someone who knows nothing about Christianity.

“A lot of the people we have reached out to in the last year didn’t know about Christianity,” he said. “They had no contact with Christians. In some cases, they had no word for ‘Christian.’ They would ask ‘Are you Christ?’”

For more information about the trip, call Bearden at 888-244-9400 or e-mail her at Marla.Bearden@texasbaptists.org. Additional trip information – as well as other disaster recovery trip opportunities, including a fall Japan trip – also is posted at www.texasbaptists.org/disaster, where individuals also can give to Texas Baptist Disaster Response.

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