go big or go home!!

WOW. It’s been quite a week since I last updated. Time is literally flying and I cannot believe that we will be leaving Japan in less than two weeks now, and Nasu in just one. Summer heat and humidity have finally set in here and we have had several days over 30 C. I missed sweating!

Maybe you remember, but we had 37,000 jars of baby food and dozens of other pallets full of baby food ad children food and muesli cereal. We were at a loss of what to do with them, especially 25,000 jars that were expiring end of July. Saturday was the beginning of distribution!! We loaded up our 1.5 ton truck with food, clothes, shoes, and diapers for a 保育園 (day care) in Iwaki, Fukushima, about 3 hours away. Calvin and I drove there, unloaded the food and spent some time with Akatsu san who is not yet a Christian. Even though we got lost a few times and I was new at driving stick, it was a great trip and a chance to bless that 保育園 that was in need and especially share with Akatsu san about why we are doing this! 

loading up truck in rain = not fun

Akatsu san!

filling up their warehouse

Sunday, Yuko Calvin and I drove to 恵泉チャペル(Keisen Chapel), a chuch two hours away in Aizuwakamatsu, Fukushima. We gave 10 boxes of baby food to a representative from a town that evacuated almost entirely from near the nuclear plant to Aizuwakamatsu. It was his first time to a church. We had good fellowship and food with the church people afterwards and I was so encouraged to hear what they’ve done and their desire to continue helping the almost 8,000 evacuees in their city. This disaster is bringing many churches to work together to do relief work and ministry and visiting churches like this brings me great joy!

We got to go to a 太鼓 (Taiko) Festival on the way home because my leader Scot was playing in it. Unfortunately he played before we could leave church, but still had an awesome time!

Monday, Kondo sensei and I went on a roadtrip around northern Tochigi. We went to several churches, preschools, and day cares to give out muesli and also to show the baby food. Through one of his contacts we were able to find a place that would take 15,000 jars of baby food! We were overjoyed. Kondo sensei said that I should definitely get an A in my class for finding a home for all the food :) 

Wednesday we left Nasu at 6 to go to Big Pallet (evacuation center) to do 炊き出し! We made ラーメン (Ramen) for 1000 people! It was quite the job but we worked with two churches to make it happen. I did not have much opportunity to talk with the people in Big Pallet, but I pray that they saw our love through the ramen that we made. In the end, we fed about 700 people. It was encouraging to see everybody working together and putting their whole heart into making ramen and then serving it to the evacuees. A very rewarding experience. I now have a new appreciation for cafeteria staff. お世話になりました。

Finally, today we distributed 16,000 jars of baby food to two different day cares connected to churches in Fukushima ken. It took two trips, a lot of sweat, and several hours of work. But it was all worth it to see the faces of the teachers receiving it and to know that all the baby food we were so worried about going bad was finding homes for families that need it. Calvin and I will have another big delivery next Tuesday.

I love my work here in Nasu. Thank you for praying. おやすみなさい。

a pair of shoes anybody?

It’s a humid night in Nasu. Today was 37 Celsius! Since Tuesday it suddenly became summer and the mosquitos have decided to come out and launch their attack, especially on Calvin ;) 

This week has been consumed with warehouse stuff. Almost all day Tuesday was spent in the new warehouse making sample packages of all of the food we have, making phone calls to churches, other CRASH bases, and Big Pallet to see if they could receive some sample packs. Through those sample packages and the many phone calls made by our team, God has opened many doors for the abundance of food sitting in the warehouse! This is definitely an answer to prayer. 

Don’t worry, we are usually hard at work in our warehouse :P

Wednesday was Yuji’s birthday! It was also the team day off, so we went to an onsen (hot springs) in the afternoon and then an All-you-can-eat (in Japanese, バイキング, Viking) to celebrate. The onsen was probably the stinkiest I’ve ever been to. The water comes straight from the volcano it is next to and smells like pure sulfur, or rotten eggs! There are 8 baths, 41, 42, 43, 44, 46, and 48 degrees Celsius (105~118 F). Cal and I got in each one but only one second in the 48 degree bath. Hottest bath EVER. Stopped at a beautiful view of the valley. As far as the eye can see, a few hundred-thousand people, and only 10 churches according to my base leader, Scot. A good reminder of how urgent the harvest needs harvesting. 

awesome Nasu team!

On Thursday, several volunteers came to the warehouse to help us sort through more than 2000 pairs of new Adidas shoes from Germany that were ‘bara-bara’ (mixed up) in 94 boxes. They are now all packed in boxes, labeled, and ready to send to those who need them. 

Today, another shipment came! We unloaded hundreds of boxes filled with thousands of pots and pans to give out to families moving out of evacuation centers and starting their life over in pre-fab homes. We had a team meeting, planned our tripped for tomorrow, and I made several phone calls, practiced stick, and some other random things. 

Our new warehouse sign! 

Tomorrow morning, Calvin and I are trucking a ton of food to a day care/preschool in Iwaki, Fukushima prefecture. Please pray for safety for us as we travel. Pray that we will be able to make good connections with this 保育園 (Hoikuen) and be a blessing to them. We are bringing baby/child food, diapers, socks, shoes, and formula.

Today in our team meeting, Scot and the rest of the team wondered why Calvin and I had to go back to the US and asked us to stay on the rest of the summer and next year! How tempting that is! I have grown to love my team mates here and it will be very difficult to leave. My heart does not want to leave this country which I love and call my own. I want to be a part of what God is doing and going to continue doing in Japan. God, please send me back here very quickly!

Thank you to all praying for me and Calvin. Good night Nasu.

blessed beyond measure

It’s Monday night in Nasu, Japan, and Calvin and I just got back from my favorite onsen (hotsprings) here in Nasu, 那須山 (Nasuzan). We were at the old warehouse for several hours today doing inventory of dozens of boxes received from a church in Koriyama. After a lot of めんどくさい (bothersome) counting and sorting we finished just in time to come home to ハヤシライス (Hayashi Rice) made by our own Yuji Hayashi! Today, I was also taught how to drive stick shift by my base leader Scot. I learned in a 1.5 ton truck! I only stalled 3 times, unfortunately all on a busy road. He said that I caught on real quick though. After I learn Cal and I will be able to transport smaller shipments to other CRASH bases and churches.

Sunday was one of my best days yet in Nasu. The night before, Yoko-san had asked Calvin and I if we could play special music, so we played 「主の恵みはとこしえまで」, the song below this post. Although my voice was half gone, God used our music to be a blessing to the church. I would love all of Japan to learn that song. After some tea, we went to the church cemetery to weed. Right next to the church grave was a Buddhist cemetery where many of the graves had cracked and tumbled over due to the earthquake. However the Christian gravestone was completely intact. It reminded me of the ark of the covenant in the Midianite camp in Judges when Gideon and his army is trying to return it. God had caused the idols to fall down in front of the ark. 

Later that afternoon, Calvin and I took a train and bus to Big Pallet to see our high school friends, Taira, Yutaka, and Toshinubu, who live in the evacuation center there. I was overjoyed to see their smiling faces again. They had two friends, Naoki and Koumei, who already moved away from Big Pallet into homes provided for them. We played with the frisbee I brought for a while, then some soccer keep away. After working up an appetite we walked to a 回転寿司 (Conveyor Belt Sushi) restaurant and ate to our hearts content. Before we started eating, I asked them i I could pray for God’s blessing on the food and for them. They all agreed, so I prayed in Japanese. I talked a little bit about God and my faith. More than anything else, I wanted them to see God’s love through our words and actions yesterday. They are some of the most happiest high schoolers I’ve ever seen and I long more than anything for them to experience God’s love for themselves. My prayer is that God will continue to knock on the door of their hearts until they let Him in! Before we left, they asked when we were going to come back. I said hopefully next weekend if we could.

One guy’s dad, Toshinobu, works at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. He says that he is gone for two weeks and can only come home for one day. Although he says his dad is rather safe, Toshinobu says he misses his dad. My heart went out to him. Please pray for Taira, Yutaka, and Toshinobu. Also remember Toshinobu’s dad who works in the nuclear power plant. 

On Thursday through Saturday, had an unexpected time to hang out and talk with Josh Spangler, a friend from Toccoa Falls! I was encouraged by talking and sharing with him. He is here with a prayer team visiting different CRASH bases and evacuation centers to pray and worship there. Three TFC people in Nasu, Japan! I don’t think that will ever happen again ;) 

I am blessed beyond measure to be serving God in Japan this summer.  Although there are days when I am weary, every day my heart is full. Thank you to all who are praying for me and my awesome team mate Calvin. God continues to open hearts of people and doors for ministry here. The harvest is coming.

A powerful Japanese song, taught to me by Ashley Sakamaki in Georgia, and now spreading around Japan. “The love of God is forever”

横山大輔 主の恵みはとこしえまで (by GospelLionDK)

a whirlwind of a week

It’s time to update again. The last several days have been packed from sunrise to sunset. Although I have been very busy, I have been very blessed by all that has happened and the different people I could meet.

Monday, Calvin and I went to Fukushima Big Pallette again with the Emotional Care team. We were only able to be there for a few hours. However, during those two hours, I talked with two obaasan who had lived in a town very close to the nuclear power plant that experienced a melt-through. I offered to give them a hand massage, and the first lady, Haruko san, eagerly accepted. She told me about her time in Big Pallette, and how she was moving out tomorrow with her older sister. Even though she was getting a new apartment, she was very sad to leave all of her lifelong friends, with whom she had become even closer to because of living in close quarters for three months now. When Katsuko san saw Haruko san getting a massage, she came and asked for one too! She also called some of her friends to get one from Calvin and two other team members who were there. 

My heart broke listening to these two ladies talk about how they came to be at the evacuation center, and how they were so sorry to be leaving. Later in the day, I was thinking to myself, who will be able to find these two elderly ladies after they leave the evacuation center, one on Monday and one on Tuesday? Will they ever meet another Christian? I understood the urgency of displaying the love of Christ to everybody I come in contact with because I may be the only Christian they meet. I did not have a chance to witness to either obaasan, but I did tell them that I would be praying for them. I pray to God that one day their eyes will be opened and that Jesus will become their Lord and Savior. It was hard to leave that day, and honestly I wanted to take those obaasan home and take care of them. That evening this verse was burned into my head.

Matthew 9:36-38: When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”  This is truly my prayer for Japan. Please pray for Haruko san and Katsuko san that they would one day find salvation through Christ Jesus. 

Tuesday, Calvin and I had two 10-ton trucks come with baby food, child’s food, and tea. Everything is in German so it is very hard to read. We have to find a place to send this. Please pray that God will show us where this needs to be sent! Thursday, today, more baby food and tea came, as well as 500 Japanese rice cookers. The rice cookers will be packaged with some Christian literature and given to evacuees as they move into their new homes. 

Tuesday evening and Wednesday all day was spent with my girlfriend, Rachel! Her team is working in Sendai area and took a 3 night 4 day break in Yamagata ken (prefecture). I took a train to see her, as well as my buddy Brandon! We had a great time singing karaoke that first evening, and then had good fellowship with Brandon. The next day was spent with Rachel, walking around Yamagata city and visiting famous sites. We talked each other’s ears off and caught up after a month of not being together. It was a beautiful day spent in a beautiful city with a beautiful girl. Unfortunately, I could not find my camera while I was leaving my base so we do not have any pictures. Just like the good ol’ days. It was so amazing to see Rachel and Brandon and I was encouraged by them both!

Thank you everyone for your prayers for me so far in my trip. It’s crazy to think that it’s more than halfway done! 

May God’s name be made famous in Tohoku.

hand massage + bball + soccer = new friends

Today, Calvin and I went to an evacuation center in Koriyama, Fukushima prefecture, about an hour away from our base. This evacuation center, Big Pallet, is the largest one in Japan, with 1200 people. Before people started moving to pre-fabricated homes nearby, there was over 2000 people. It was built as an exhibition hall.

I had little idea of what it was going to be like as you are not allowed to take pictures inside where people are living. We went in through the back entrance, and saw a huge room filled with supplies, food, etc. This is where volunteers come and prepare and give out food. Every meal is prepared by the volunteers and served to the line of people as they come into that huge room. 

After taking a look around at the three floors filled with cardboard houses of around 2 meters squared, I was stuck at how little these people had. Most if not all of the people in Big Pallet lived within 20 km of the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant. They were allowed to return only once to their home to retrieve necessities. According to my base leader, these people face a different type of emotional pain. Even though they have a perfectly good house with furniture and kitchen ware and clothes, they are being left, most likely for the next 20 years.

Calvin and I went up and talked with a group of 8 high schoolers. Later, two girls from our team came and we gave them hand massages—a method of getting people to talk and open up to you! I know it sounds kind of weird, but it has been very effective in the evacuation centers. The high school guys loved it, especially because they had never had one before. It was really sad to leave them, but we told them that we would come back even though when we didn’t know when that was going to be.

After eating lunch, we attended 郡山キリスト教会 (Koriyama Christ Church), located 5 minutes away from Big Pallet. God placed their church very strategically near the evacuees, and has been using that church to do emotional care and help families get started in new houses when they move out. The government provides a house, but nothing inside. Japanese Red Cross provides the basic fridge, TV, rice cooker, microwave, etc, but not the smaller essentials. The are a very lively church.

We went back to Big Pallet, and Calvin and I played basketball and soccer with three of the guys from earlier. The rest have moved to pre-fab homes but still hang out with their buddies. Their faces were so full of joy when we came back and we had the funnest time playing sports and games with them. One boy, Taira, said that he hated living here at first but that he was used to it now. Despite their circumstance, they are very strong. I wanted more than anything to show them God’s love through my actions and words and I pray that I was able to do that. I did not want to leave when it was time to go. Even in a short time, we had become very comfortable around each other. Tomorrow we will go back to Big Pallet, and hopefully be around when they come home from school again. During the day will be centered around the elderly. Please pray for God’s love to abound in Calvin and I as we minister tomorrow. Please pray that many seeds will be planted, especially in the hearts of Yutaka, Taira and Toshinobu. 

building bikes, cooking, phone calls, onsen!

Since I last wrote, I have been to Tokyo and back, and I up a mountain and back down. Friday, Calvin and I went down to see Taro graduate from high school. おめでとう太郎!While at CAJ (Christian Academy in Japan) for grad, I got to see some old classmates, friends, and teachers! Spent the night at Tyler’s house, one of my good friends from high school, then went back up to Nasu the next morning and right back to work!

 

—Taro, my little brother, and me

On Monday, Calvin and I helped this kind Japanese obaasan (grandma) make tempura and two other side dishes for a group of pastors from northern Tochigi prefecture. They came to hear more about CRASH and see how they can get involved with the relief efforts, especially the emotional care training. It was a good time of fellowship with the pastors and their wives and we sure had a fun time making food with the obaasan!

Later that night, we celebrated two months of Nasu base being located at the House of Rest, located right next to 那須高原教会 (Nasu Kougen Church). The pastor and his wife own House of Rest and have been an invaluable part of CRASH’s ministry in Tochigi/Fukushima prefecture. We had a candle-lit table with cheesecake and coffee. The picture shows the Nasu Base team, plus the Kondos! 

Nasu CRASH team rocks!! They are all so dedicated and passionate. I am very encouraged by each one of them. We begin our day by having team devotions every day at 9AM. We eat every single meal together and work all day together—I am getting to know each one quite well! :)

Tuesday was spent building bikes for several hours. These bikes were donated by China, and we have to assemble them ourselves. Calvin and I have it down to about 20 minutes now, down from an hour! We will send 10 bikes up to Tono Base in Iwate-ken. Today we gave out two to a church in Fukushima-ken. Thousands of people are in need of bikes.

Wednesday was our day off, so Calvin, our base leader Scot, and I took a trip to a very very old fashioned Japanese inn and onsen, 北温泉 (north onsen) located up in the middle of a forest on Nasu Gata (mountain). When I walked in I felt like I had stepped into 19th century Japan. The hot spring water was straight from pipe coming from the volcano. 

Ended the trip with a sumo match! I won this one, but Calvin beat me next time. Check his videos for live footage ;)

Thank you everybody for your prayers for me, my buddy Calvin, and for the team here at Nasu. There are many shipments coming in to the new warehouse as the flooring was just completed yesterday. It will get very busy from here on out! Sunday we are hoping to go to an evacuation center in Koriyama, Fukushima prefecture. 

Please continue to pray that the Lord will draw me closer to Himself, and use me every day for His glory. I love every chance I have to meet people and talk with them. May God’s kingdom be furthered here in the town of Nasu!

no 茄 in 那須!

no nasu in Nasu! = no eggplant in Nasu! (the town Calvin and I are living in for 6 weeks) It’s a Japanese pun. We actually haven’t eaten any eggplant (nasu) since being in Nasu…very unfortunate.

We arrived in Nasu, Tochigi prefecture for the second time again on Tuesday night and we were welcomed with a wonderful meal of Risotto and vegetable soup. It was great to get back to the Nasu Base staff again—I missed them for the few days that I was gone! 

Yuji, our Logistics Manager and head cook. He’s pretty crazy ;)

Matt, our Operations Chief—also crazy! Calvin and I introduced him to Friday, and now he’s always singing it!

Wednesday we had a neighborhood trash cleaning up party! We were a little late to it, but we probably found the most trash in the forest, including an old rice cooker. We had fun meeting all of our Nasu House of Rest neighbors, and they all got a kick out of the fact that I was from Saitama! Cal and I went to the old warehouse and tried to build 10 Chinese bikes, but realized that we didn’t have the right tools.

Thursday we received training and instructions from CRASH Headquarter’s Makoto-san and then our base leader, Scot, about how to manage the warehouse. Calvin and I will be receiving shipments, ordering shipments, and then transporting them to the bases/churches when there are needs. Tomorrow the new warehouse will be paved and an office will be installed. According to Scot, we will pretty much be designing the job as we are the first ones. 

Please pray as I begin this new role as co-manager of the warehouse. I feel very inadequate and there are many unknowns. 

Tonight, Calvin and I made dinner! We made 親子丼 (Oyakodon), a dish over rice called “Parent-Child over rice” because of the two main ingredients: chicken and egg! It turned out well, because of my new cookbook and help from Yuji and Yoko-san. 

Went to the onsen (hotsprings) again tonight. Ready to call it a night.

first post at 2AM

This is literally my first blog post in my entire life. Finally succumbing to peer pressure. I am currently in Japan doing my internship with CRASH. Me and my buddy Calvin are doing relief work in Nasu, Tochigi prefecture. Nasu has great hot springs and mountains and best of all, rusk! 

I have been in Japan for two weeks already, but just starting this up now. We will be moving back up to Nasu tomorrow for six weeks and be managing the CRASH warehouse, working at evacuation centers, and hopefully starting up community centers. We also gotta cook and wash dishes every day. 

Hopefully I will be updating this several times a week with posts and pictures. 

It’s late now, and I should be sleeping.

Here’s a few pictures of some things we’ve done since being in Japan, mostly from the first week in Tokyo.