An update from Miriam Davis, Jan 2016
Following the disaster, OMF established a relief project in the coastal area of Iwate prefecture. From mid 2012 on relief and outreach mainly centred around a temporary building Ippo Ippo (meaning Step by Step) in the town of Yamada and a more permanent base in Kamaishi city—Ippo Ippo Kamaishi. The OMF project came to an end in May 2014.
From June 2014 practical support and evangelism in Yamada and Kamaishi has been under the management of a non-profit-making legal entity set up by a Sapporo church: Hokuei. The vision of the new Ippo Ippo Iwate is that practical and social support will go hand in hand with evangelism.
I am not a camel
This was how one Japanese member of staff who relocated from Tokyo reflected on her first six months working with Ippo Ippo. “I am not a camel and I was not created to live in a barren concrete desert. Yamada is not a place where ordinary people live. There are no trees, nowhere to go on a day off and it can be very lonely. It’s a cross-cultural situation—I find the local dialects really difficult to understand and have to concentrate hard.”
A large part of the work of the café at Yamada is listening to people and this can be very draining particularly for long-term staff. Even a brief visit can bring a sense of heaviness. One volunteer listened to a café visitor express bitter resentment towards people who, unlike her, had escaped loss in the tsunami. “It was just a short encounter but even so my heart was saddened. I realised afresh the strain on the long term staff listening day after day to this kind of conversation and continually praying for customers.”
The pressures on staff are great. Sundays are not a rest day either as, at Yamada in particular, two to six non Christians (mostly elderly) have started attending services regularly. Staff pick them up and take them home, help lead services and prepare lunch.
Pray staff may daily find their emotional, physical and spiritual strength in the Lord and get the regular refreshment and rest needed to continue long term. April 2016 will see staff changes. Some are already decided, others are still praying for God’s leading. Ask God to provide just the right people for this challenging ministry.
Ippo Ippo Iwate activities
The autumn saw many activities organised in the coastal towns of Iwate amongst people of all ages. In November a Japanese Christian singer and a missionary, who is a professional harpist, gave a concert in a public hall in Kamaishi.
A local Christian has been holding a Beads Class at the Yamada café which has proved immensely popular. After the tsunami ladies felt it would be inappropriate to wear jewelry but now they are finding joy in making accessories which is doubtless a sign of emotional recovery. In November it was decided to make this a monthly activity of the new Sanriku Hope church and introduce a 15 minute Bible time or testimony. It is now held upstairs so that the regular café can continue down below as usual. The transition to inclusion of a Bible message has been well received by around 20 participants.
I heard for the first time that God is alive. I thought ‘god’ was in the Buddhist altar.
Rejoice that seekers are regularly coming to services! Two ladies have confessed faith and one even asked for baptism but since then has expressed reluctance to be the first to be baptised. Pray both may follow through on their decisions. One can hardly read and so some of the usual methods of follow up through introductory Bible studies are not appropriate.
Singer Miss Kudo has a beautiful voice and the wonder of having faith came through in her testimony. I am not a Christian.
Two lady visitors told a volunteer that a local Buddhist priest quit his job because his son was killed in a traffic accident and another won’t take funerals since the tsunami because he doesn’t know what to say. “How do you Christians cope?” they asked.
The OMF Project code for Ippo Ippo is #L60502
Will you pray for Japan?
- Pray that Ippo Ippo Iwate may continue to be a beacon of hope pointing people to Jesus, the Light of the World.
- Pray for perseverance for the volunteers and workers.