This weekend we had a great team from California help out with some church programs. The team came with the primary purpose (I think, though I technically didn’t ask) of volunteering at some of the coastal ministries which serve tsunami survivors. While they were here in Iwate they helped out with our mommy and me english class, and passed out flyers for some church-related holiday programs in the neighborhood. The team was a big blessing for our church plant, and they are currently on their way to the coast to spend the week working with tsunami survivors.
Over the past four years, ministry in Iwate has changed drastically. According to Operation Japan, before the tsunami struck Tohoku in 2011 there were no international evangelical missionaries serving in Iwate prefecture. At the same time there were close to 1000 missionaries in Kanto (the seven or so prefectures surrounding and including Tokyo). The need for relief work brought in new missionaries and many many short-term teams. While some agencies helped provide infrastructure in hosting teams and getting them to the coast, a few pastors from some of the inland churches have set up a network to streamline efforts. Today, the Iwate 3.11 Church Network is, to my knowledge, the last remaining evangelical platform hosting foreign assistance in Iwate. What this means is that in 2011, four churches needed to share their pastors (and pastors wives!) with coastal ministries. Unlike larger western churches or even churches in larger Japanese urban areas, the churches of the Iwate 3.11 Church Network were too small to have assistant pastors, and too remote to attract cooperating missionaries; staff consisted of lead pastors, with the unwritten expectation that pastor’s wives would contribute time as unpaid assistants.
The church where we serve is one of those churches. Since Maki has known one of the pastor’s for a decade we were familiar with this situation back in 2011, and it was one of the motivating factors in bringing us to serve at one of these churches, in addition to helping the church, we could help tsunami survivors by sharing some of the infrastructure work that our pastor was responsible for, It’s another way we get to see God work in Iwate.
This team helped out with some of our church ministries on their way to the coast.