Japan AGMF Relief Efforts

Japan AGMF stands for Assemblies of God Missionary Fellowship and is made up of AGWM (Assemblies of God World Missions) missionaries serving in Japan. There are 31 missionaries and all have been accounted for during this time.

Give to JAPAN DISASTER RELIEF at the Assemblies of God website.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

How to Become a Volunteer

Shelley Carl, AGWM Missionary, just returned to Japan last week after 6 months of itineration. She is co-leading volunteer groups in relief efforts. She recently sent the following info:

I want to make you aware of a fantastic opportunity to dive right into helping with the relief efforts in Tohoku. The AGMF (Assemblies of God Missionary Fellowship) is working together with the JAG (Japan Assemblies of God) to send teams to the Tohoku region and we are requesting volunteers. Perhaps you or people in your churches, or people from your districts and churches in America want to volunteer. We have streamlined the process. All you have to do is complete the required Volunteer Registration Form and send it to shelleycarl@msn.com.

We are looking for people who can give a full week of Monday-Friday. Typically we will be driving vans up to Tohoku from Tokyo on Monday and returning on Friday. If people are coming from the States we want them to be able to arrive in Japan on a Friday evening if possible. This will give us Saturday to have orientation and give them time to go shopping to buy their own food and water that they will need to take with them to Tohoku. We ask that they stay at least until the following Saturday. The churches in Tohoku are requesting volunteer help only during the weekdays at this point.

If you or someone you know wants to volunteer for one or two days, then please have them complete the same form, and we will send them information on volunteering at the Relief Headquarters on the JAG campus.

On Saturday, April 16th our first team from outside America will be coming from Saipan. Six teachers from a Christian school will be coming. Joyce Kitano will join the team as the interpreter and Amanda Fosburg, MAPS worker, will be with them as well. They will be going to Tohoku together with a team of Japanese that the JAG is putting together. Here is their tentative schedule. I share this with you so you can get an idea of what future teams will be doing.

  • Sat 4/16 Arrive at Narita Airport, Japan at 8:30 AM. Take the limousine bus to Ikebukuro, then a local train to Komagome (The JAG headquarters is here). Stay at the JAG lodge on Sat & Sun night. Saturday afternoon: Orientation and Shopping for groceries.
  • Sun 4/17 Minister at a local church.
  • Mon 4/18 Go in a van to Tohoku, Stay at the Peters' cabin in Takayama.
  • Tues 4/19 - Fri 4/22 Volunteer work will include cleanup and perhaps distributing relief goods.
  • Fri 4/22 Return to Komagome. Stay at the JAG lodge Fri-Sun nights.
  • Sat 4/23 Debrief, rest, sightseeing and shopping in Tokyo if they desire.
  • Sun 4/24 Minister at a local church
  • Mon 4/25 Return to Saipan
Please help me get the word out. Feel free to forward this Volunteer Registration Form to your churches and districts in America or any other contacts you have. We are looking forward to see how God will use these volunteers for kingdom purposes in Japan.

JAG Relief Efforts in the Sendai Area

On Monday Central Bible School President Koichi Kitano and a van load of Bible school students went up to the Sendai area to help with relief efforts. They are staying at a former U.S. A/G missionary family's cabin at Takayama, a missionary camp. On Tuesday a Japan Assemblies of God team led by Pastor Wada left early to go to the same general area to also help with relief efforts. I, Susan Ricketts, AGWM missionary, joined the JAG team as the only woman among 8 men. Upon arriving in Higashi Matsushima, the team shoveled thick mud from the front area of houses. Although residents have been allowed to return to their homes from the evacuation centers, only 20-30% of them have actually returned in that particular neighborhood. The tsunami flooded the first floors of their homes and destroyed or swept away the furniture and belongings. Those who have returned are living in the second floors of their homes. Afterward working there, we then traveled around the area as Pastor Wada pointed out places that needed help. At one point we went to Camp Moringo where Crash Japan has set up a distribution center. We met several missionaries there while Pastor Wada met with some pastor friends about relief efforts.

Originally I was supposed to stay with the female Bible school students at the cabin. However, there was not enough room so we all went to Izumi Fukuin Christ Church, one of the JAG churches that has become a distribution center, to spend the night. At the last minute, a church family invited me to come spend the night in their home, only a 2 minute walk away. I met the Konebuta family, talked a while before praying together before going to sleep. Once I laid down on the warm futon, I prayed that we would all experience a night free of aftershocks. God heard my prayer, because we all slept soundly.

I got up and walked back to the church for early morning prayer. It was amazingly passionate, loud prayer going up from our team, the Teen Challenge team, and the church members. We all prayed out loud in preparation for the new day.At one point, I heard the guy next to me pray, "God, protect us from the radiation" in English. Later, I met the man next to me, Japan Teen Challenge's first graduate staff member who is leading a relief team made up of young men newly set free from alcohol and gambling addictions. I returned to the family's home for a quick breakfast, packed my bag, said goodbye, and left for the day.

We drove to the Shichigahama City Office and signed up as volunteers for the day. The Bible school students and we all joined many other young people there to help clean homes and restore recovered photo albums and documents. From about 8:30 AM we had a brief orientation and then joined various task groups. I joined the group restoring photo albums. We cleaned, moved, and spread out photo albums to dry in tents set up on the soccer field. There were wedding photos, children's photos, family vacation albums, graduation diplomas, trophies--all of which represented significant memories for many in that area alone. To think that we were restoring lost memories left a very deep impression on all of us. ("Us" includes three female college students whose college has yet to start the new school term this month because trains are not yet running there.)

As we were working, a video crew came to record what we were doing and to interview people who came to search among the recovered items. Some people found photos that they thought were lost forever. It was amazing to watch their faces light up as they discovered lost memories of loved ones. This morning the news clip appeared on TV. Sou Yamamoto, who was a member of our JAG team, was interviewed along with Kitano Sensei, as they sat cleaning photo albums with great care.

We finished up at around 4 PM and waited for our rides to show up. (A few team members of both groups had gone to another area to help with efforts there.) As we headed out, we continued to note the areas greatly damaged by the tsunami. Every bump in the road reminded us of the damage caused by the earthquake and its many aftershocks.

As for fuel, we stopped once on Tuesday to fill up with diesel and then once on our way back to Tokyo. I asked our driver how much it cost to fill up the 10-passenger van fuel tank. A full tank cost about 5,000 yen (~$60.00). So roughly, the 5-hour trip cost about $120.00 for fuel. Since we had an emergency sign for our vehicle, we did not have to pay tolls which would have cost more than the fuel itself.

I had expected difficult conditions because of the aftershocks affecting water utilities and electricity. I  expected to see overwhelming devastation. In spite of much clean up that has already taken place, I still saw unbelievable destruction in places like Ishinomaki, Shichigahama, and Higashi Matsushima. (Those places still do not have working traffic signals so the police directs the traffic.) Those places were struck hard by the brute force of the monster tsunami.

On the other hand, I did not expect to have a hot shower that I had at the church Tuesday night. I did not expect to sleep in a warm futon as I was supposed to sleep in a sleeping bag at the cabin. I did not expect to meet so many new friends with whom I was able to talk freely and easily in Japanese. I did not expect to see convenience stores open in so many places with electricity, running water, and working toilets.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Convoy of Hope Container Received

Today a container of relief supplies from Convoy of Hope was delivered and unloaded at the Central Bible School campus and placed in storage tents. Many came from various churches in the Tokyo area and helped to unload and sort the supplies.

Hal Donaldson, president of Convoy of Hope, and other Convoy of Hope workers arrived in the country to meet with A/G missionaries and the Japan Assemblies of God officials.

Central Bible School students left  after unloading to distribute relief supplies in the Tohoku area.