Since March 2011, City Harvest Church has been sending disaster relief teams to Japan to provide practical help and emotional support.
Contributed By Jonathan Teo
It has been five months since Japan experienced her biggest earthquake to date.
According to the United States Geological Survey, “the March 11, 2011 earthquake far surpassed other post-1900 earthquakes in the southern Japan Trench.” The tsunami that swept across the affected regions added more damage to the already alarming rate of human casualties as well as property and infrastructural losses. The economic damage is estimated to have cost the nation between USD35 and USD171 billion dollars.
Back in Singapore, Naomi Lee, a Japanese national and City Harvest Church staff, approached her senior pastor, Kong Hee, upon receiving news of the earthquake. Lee asked Kong if he could help the people in Japan and within a few days, arrangements were made to bring disaster relief aid to the country.
Although Lee had heard many negative comments and prophecies towards Japan, she was unfazed and believed that God still loves the Japanese. “I believe that our God is a God of restoration, not a God of destruction. Being Japanese, I felt that I wanted to do something for the church and the body of Christ,” Lee shared.
Not long after that, Kong and a few members flew to Fukuoka Harvest Church to meet some church pastors and discuss relief work strategies. Plans were made to connect the various CHC Singapore teams with Japanese churches in the wake of the calamity. At FHC, Kong brought a word of encouragement and comfort to 53 pastors and church leaders who had come from different parts of Japan. He also spoke in a conference for 140 believers and ministered the love of God to those who were present.
Back in Singapore, the Japanese Fellowship in CHC conducted regular prayer meetings for their beloved homeland every Wednesday. Three of the members also volunteered to go on the humanitarian trips to help in whatever way they could.
Over the past months, Lee has been in constant contact with some of the churches in Japan, as well as Japanese non-profit organizations. They would inform her of the kind of help they needed, and Lee would then plan the trip according to their needs.
To date, six CHC teams totalling 61 people have been sent to help Japan, mainly in Ishinomaki City, in the Miyagi Prefecture. The teams were involved in a range of humanitarian aid such as clearing the debris, cleaning homes, as well as rebuilding existing ones. (See below.)
The teams also worked with other non-profit organizations as well as volunteers from other countries. It did not matter that there was a difference in nationality, as everyone had a unified purpose to help Japan.
Twenty-one-year-old Joel Tan, a School Of Theology student who volunteered for the trip, shared with City News that he was surprised by the reaction to the calamity the Japanese had. Instead of feeling discouraged, the Japanese displayed a “never give up” attitude.
Heading to the affected area was a challenge. One of the obstacles that Tan had to overcome was the language barrier. But showing concern and care was something that transcended language, and this trip changed Tan’s perception of life. “We should cherish our lives. The events of life are never predictable,” he said.
For 32-year-old Kevin Wong, a managing director and SOT student, reality sunk in when he saw how people not only lost their homes but their workplaces and factories, which were their means of livelihood. Like Tan, Wong was surprised by the strong resolve the Japanese had, and how they stood by each other during those fragile moments. “We can all do more as a people, not just our church, but as human beings. We can spend more time helping people when they are really in need,” said Wong.
For 25-year-old Gideon Yeo, a postgraduate student who attended SOT this year, the trip proved an enriching experience. “Everyone we talked to had lost somebody they knew. The Japanese do not usually reveal their emotions, and they may not have said as much but we could really sense their pain,” he revealed.
Currently, Japan is in the midst of rebuilding its worst-hit towns and cities. Some of the debris has been cleared but a lot still needs to be done. The cleanup and rebuilding will take months, maybe years. Despite this, the Japanese people are filled with hope.
Although circumstances seem dire, Lee believes that this is also a good opportunity to share the gospel and strongly believes that God’s mercy and grace is upon Japan, and that He will work everything for His glory.
If you are keen to volunteer as a relief worker, email CHC at email@example.com.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE IN JAPAN
What City Harvest Church’s relief teams have done so far.
In April, CHC donated money to help Kumamoto Harvest Church, Fukuoka Harvest Church, Ariake Bible Church, and Minamata Gospel Church purchase 100 bicycles, vegetables and other relief goods.
Hongodai Christ Church hosted a relief team of 10 people from CHC, FHC and KHC from May 29 to June 3. They helped clear debris in Ishinomaki City.
A team headed by Kenneth Sim, a CHC pastor, presented a truck to Onagawa Village on June 2. The village chief and his wife later received Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
Dehumidifiers were donated to students in Onagawa Secondary School.
Midorino Christ Church hosted CHC’s second relief team of four people from June 18 to 25 to clear debris of several homes in Ishinomaki City.
Tohoku Chuo Church hosted another relief team of 24 people from June 25 to July 2. The team visited a school, distributed 500 bento lunch boxes to several evacuation centers, gave out clothing, cleared debris, and presented a car to a home for the elderly.
Hongodai Christ Church hosted City Harvest Church’s fourth relief team of eight people from July 10 to 15. The team focused on clearing debris in homes in Ishinomaki City.