Simply getting from point A to point B is struggle in northern Japan. Sometimes, an all-day affair.
Cars were either washed away or damaged beyond repair. Not that there’s much gas to buy anyway.
Never before has a bicycle meant so much to the seaside city of Ishinomaki, a few miles off the coast where the March 11 tsunami wiped out nearly everything.
Franklin Graham was in Ishinomaki on Saturday, presenting 30 new bicycles to the Minato Elementary School Shelter. Minato, one of 42 elementary schools damaged by the tsunami, currently houses 300 displaced people.
“We give these bikes in the name of Jesus Christ,” said Graham, CEO and President of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse. “We have come to tell you we love you and God loves you.”
The bikes will be a much-needed boost to the small “check-out” fleet the shelter has been using, as people struggle to commute to work, return to their ravaged homes to start the cleanout process or shop for basic necessities of life.
“We are so grateful for all that you’re doing to help us rebuild the community,” said the shelter administrator, a local Christian connected to pastor Masao Kanaya. “I hereby want to express our commitment to keep on moving forward.”
‘NEEDS ARE GROWING DAILY’
The trip to Japan started with a meeting on Friday in Tokyo with BGEA’s Chad Hammond and key church leaders. Graham encouraged and challenged 15 pastors, including the President of the Japan Evangelical Association, the National Director of Assemblies of God and the president of the Japan Mission Center.
Saturday morning, Graham met with pastor Kanaya, whose congregation of 35 – big for a Christian church in Japan – is down to about 20 after the earthquake/tsunami disaster.
Pastor Kanaya has a passion to minister to the survivors, especially those dealing with post-traumatic stress, but the lack of supplies has limited what he can do.
Pastor Kanaya’s wife, Hatsuko, has been making a list of the needs in the communities they’ve been distributing, but recently “everything has come to a halt,” she said. “Needs are growing daily.”
To meet some of those needs, Graham presented Kanaya with a truck, outfitted with a muck-out kit (shovels, wheel barrows, power washers, etc.) to aid the cleanup efforts as 80 percent of the homes were destroyed. Hatsuko, overwhelmed by the gift, was crying as the team drove away.
“I’m so thankful for Samaritan’s Purse and all that you have done,” Kanaya said. “I want to now go and follow your example. I’m bringing materials with Christ’s heart.”
‘AN OPPORTUNITY TO REACH OUT’
Over 17,000 buildings were destroyed and another 138,000 damaged. Experts are now saying there were seven tsunami waves that reached nearly 100-feet high in some areas.
Over the weekend, the Japanese and U.S. militaries launched a three-day operation to recover as many bodies as possible as the official number of dead and missing is now at 28,000.
And the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant continues to be of grave concern, with radioactive water leaking.
In the face of all the destruction and discouraging news, Graham spoke a word of hope and gave a challenge to a crowd of over 100 believers that assembled at a Sendai warehouse.
“When people have lost everything and we give them help, this gives us an opportunity to reach out and help in Jesus’ name,” Graham said. “For all those who have helped in this warehouse, we certainly thank you. We couldn’t have done it without you, but we give God the glory. We certainly are praying for Japan.”
Dr. Jerry Prevo closed the meeting in prayer.
“We pray for the people whose lives that have been affected so tremendously,” he prayed. “Through this difficult time they’ll come to know and find the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal Savior.”