Saturday, April 30, 2011

Tornado Response

Here's the first report from our team in AL. ml

4/29 - 9:45 pm
We arrived at Hope church in Madison Alabama about 8 pm Tonight. Our trip here was mildly eventful ( as most of our trips have at least a little drama). John Horst drove one truck pulling a chain saw/ tool/ supply trailer, while i drove another truck with my family pulling our skid loader.

Just over the Alabama line, I noticed chunks of rubber being thrown up by our trailer, and thought how weird it was because I didn't remember seeing those on the road as I drove over them. One hit the cab of the truck, and I said to Babette," I hope those aren't from us."

About 2 miles later I caught more of them flying off the trailer tire, and realized they were from us as the vibration from the trailer became apparent. We pulled off on to the shoulder and checked the tire to see a large portion of the tread missing from the tire. We drove cautiously to the next exit and proceeded to change the mangled tire( still inflated praise God) with the spare ( which was also still inflated, praise God).

I had thrown my tools and a floor jack in with us since our track record with trailer tires on trips like this has historically been less than stellar. We had to unload the skid loader from the trailer in order for the jack to pick up the trailer.

45 minutes later we were back on the road. At mile marker 66 on I-59, we saw the first evidence of tornadic activity as we passed the Mercedes Benz assembly plant just south of Tuscaloosa. There was a swath of trees on both sides of the highway that were snapped off and twisted like wet toothpicks about 100 yards wide. There were sheets of tin roofing laying twisted up like ribbon in the median, and small branches and twigs laying on both shoulders.

Every so many miles we would see similar sights sporadically along our route. As we drove farther north and into birmingham, we saw several damages houses, flipped over out buildings and even a motel that was just walls with no roof. We needed to stop for fuel and picked a random exit since many of the signs were blown down. We found a place that was open, but the guy behind the glass enclosure told me," Don't got none. We all out."
We drove north to the next exit and after negotiating the string of traffic, we were finally able to get to a truck stop, where we tried to fill up using our credit cards at the pump, only to find out that we had to pay cash because their processing system was down. We emptied our wallets and came up with enough cash to fill the thirsty monsters with 1/2 a tank each, which would get us to our destination.

We continued our trek north not seeing much more obvious damage until about 10 miles from the church. Police were directing traffic at intersections because the lights weren't operating, we began to see trees down in yards and on roofs, we saw what used to be a mobile home strewn across an open yard, and billboards that were bent backwards or simply just a pole completely missing the top.

Darkness was setting in and it was obvious who were the haves and the have nots in the generator department. A convenience store and a CVS store were the only things lit up along the road.

We turned off the main road onto a side road, and weaved our way around downed branches and through passages cut out of trees which earlier had blocked the road, and met Pastor Andy Wulff at Hope church. The church had been spared major damage, but there was leaf debris in the parking lot and a tree down in the front yard.

Andy's wife a 5 children had left to go and stay with family in Indianapolis after the storm, so he had several beds to offer us. We left the one truck and trailer at the church with the skidloader as well, and drove the 10 minutes from the church to his house through the eerie darkness seeing homes that normally would be bathed in exterior lamps and accent lighting, now only showing dim candlelight through the open windows.

We arrived at his house, unloaded our things by flashlight, all the while being serenaded by a chorus of droning generators. We discussed how the storms and tornados 2 days ago came and went all day long from 6 am till 8 pm all seemingly following the same track and damaging the same areas time and time again throughout the entire day.

We are expecting 20 church folks to show up at Hope tomorrow at 8 am to gather with us and move out into the community to share the love of Christ with those in need by helping them clean up their yards, cut down trees and pray for them however God leads.

We will help the church set up some awnings and prepare for their modified outside Sunday program, stage our equipment and return to New Orleans to meet up with our newly recruited group of 8 or so people from Texas, Montana and Wisconsin Sunday night, then return to Madison again to be Gods hands and feet on Monday for at least A few weeks. Won't you come and join us? If you can't, maybe you could give finically, or at the very least, but most importantly, PRAY!


Saturday, April 16, 2011

Touching the Unreached

Here’s the numbers on the Japan Earthquake: * Over 25,000…the number dead and missing * 400,000 people displaced from their homes * 81,000 homes uninhabitable * 8ft, the distance that the island of Japan shifted, and * 40 cm, the elevation that parts of the island sank. * Unknown – the long term effects of ongoing radiation leaks * 19,000 - population of Minamisanriku,Japan on March 11 at 245pm * 50 feet – estimated tsunami height that hit this town * 9,700 - population of minamisanriku. Japan on march 11 at 345pm * ZERO – number of churches in the city of minamisanriku * ZERO – from what we can tell, the number of Christians who have ever resided in this town in recorded history * 2nd and 0.09% - Japan, the second most unreached people in the world, with only 0.09 percent of population being evangelical. * Infinite – the abounding grace and mercy of our God, who according to 2nP 3:9, “is patient…, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance”. In the city of Minami-Samriku it is hard to recognize what life may have looked like before the tsunami wave struck. I heard about the town at 5am this morning, as a team from a partner church returned to Tokyo from a two day trip, focused on serving a hot meal to 1200 people there, and in Ishinomaki. The coastline in the area had a funneling effect, raising the water to more than 3 stories high, as evidenced by the many broken windows in the 4th floor of the hospital, and by the boat stuck in the 3rd floor of city hall. The force of the water was such that the city hall building was stripped down to just steel girders on the lower floors. As the waters rose, some people said they fled to the hills, others ran to the higher buildings in town, only to end up stranded on the upper floors. The most striking note about the trip was the report that as far as anyone knew, there has never been a church in Minami-Samriku. It is even uncertain if a Believer has ever lived in this town. The team went to great efforts though to represent Christ well, to touch the unreached in this community. They assembled generators, cooking pots, food, water, and other supplies to cook a traditional meal for those people living in shelters here and nearby, all from the back of a truck. A chef from a restaurant in Tokyo came up with the idea, though he’s not yet met Jesus. He mobilized resources and other soon to be seekers to join with the church in this outreach effort. - Pray for the planting of the Gospel in this impacted region. Japan is an unreached country. The evangelical population, which is less than 1/10th of 1% (0.09%) in the entire country, is even lower in the part of the country impacted by this earthquake. - Pray for the outreach of the Tokyo churches to the unbelieving neighbors who are coming to the churches because of their caring for others. - Pray for us as we continue to seek God’s leading to the communities that He has chosen for us to serve, deeply.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Yesterday and today… Japan and Haiti… one month and a year and a quarter…two devastating earthquakes. For the people that hundreds of thousands they have impacted in each country, they are still very real. How about for us…how good is our memory? Do we recall the images of 50ft walls of water, or a million people living under tarps?

In Japan, the news was of officials declaring the nuclear disaster is now at a “7”, yesterday it was still a “5”. “7” is the worst rating of a nuclear disaster. New data has shown things to be much

worse, resulting in many more people being forced to leave their homes, not knowing when, if, they might ever return. Pray for the long road ahead for the Japanese people.

I was in Haiti today, and was struck with reality of so many families still living in some sort of make shift shelter. I seemed to notice more of them in places I had not focused on before. They look more faded and tattered. As I drove through the Champs de Mars, the former park now shanty town of 10,000 in front of the Presidential Palace, there are more signs of permanency; more sheet metal; more furniture; and with the slow pace of the recovery, more of the same for a long time. There is very little new concrete/block construction except for a few church, clinic or school buildings being funded with outside resources.

The striking difference of pre- and post-quake was so starkly seen in my visit yesterday with a pastor near Gressier. He had a relatively nice block home with several bedrooms for he and his extended family of 14. When the quake struck, he and his 2 young boys were in the house. The pastor was stuck in the head with a block, and concrete crashed down on his shoulders. He was dropped to the ground, but providentially was spared from being crushed as he fell aside some furniture in his house that resulted in a void space. As he dug himself out, he told me his thought was only of his boys. He was sure they were dead, then he heard a moan, and began digging, and the Lord spared them all.

Now today, he has been able to build small 2 wooden buildings for the family to cook and eat in, but the slab of the former house is covered with 5 tents, where the family still sleeps each evening. Please don’t forget Haiti. Keep praying. Keep giving. Keep coming to serve.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Aftershock

The 9.2 earthquake is now a 3 week old memory, but reminders of it were very real this week. Several evenings I was awakened by aftershocks, then, last evening, when we were traveling back from Ishinomaki, there was a 7.2 “Aftershock”. The renewed tsunami warnings and the physical shaking, brings afresh feelings of fright and reality for the hundreds of thousands in the recovery process.

The 7.2 Aftershock also undid some of what had been advanced in the recovery efforts. In Tokyo this morning, we got calls from northern areas where utilities had been previously restored, that
they were now cut off again. Some lost water, some electricity, some gas, some lost all. We
heard that food in Mianmi- Suriku was also short. A truck was being deployed today with needed supplies, and additional ReachGlobal staff are flying in Saturday, then, heading north to the affected areas to serve there next week.
Wednesday, I joined up with our ReachGlobal family in Sendai, and we helped with a partner’s distribution effort in Ishinomaki. We had a team of 22 in total, lead by Japanese pastors, missionaries and lay people from our partner churches in the Tokyo region supported by pastor's and missionaries from Korea, S. Africa,
Greece, Britain, Hong Kong and the US. It was a real blessing to see this multi-cultural expression of the Body serving those in need. The team delivered supplies to about 100 families.

One of those participants was Mr. Y. He is an elderly man, who is a part of a fledgling Sendai church plant. He has been a believer for 6 months, and came away from yesterday’s experience of serving others filled with joy. He spoke with me at length afterwards, telling me of the devastation that hit in the village where he grew up.

He asked me to help his village, saying “I am old and can do so little”. But that led to a great discussion of the power of God working in us as believer’s, and I used the mustard seed parable to illustrate the great fruit that can come from such a small thing, as an elderly man with a vision to help his people. Of course, we assured him that if he was called and took the lead, we’d be there to support him. Mr. Y. was just beaming.

PRAY Pray for the continued improvement of people’s living conditions. The Japanese government is very expediently working to restore services build Displaced People’s camps, but the impacted areas are very extensive, with some very isolated, so there are many pockets where relief has been slow in coming.

Pray for workers for the harvest, especially young Japanese men and women. But also, we need non-native Japanese speakers critically, and others “who are willing” (Ex. 36: ) to offer their time and talents for 3 months to two years to step forward to serve in the impacted region.

Pray for the development of really strong, lasting, and missionally aligned partnerships. In the first hours after we landed in Japan, God connected us with a several great churches in the Tokyo region, that umped in right away in reaching out to those affected. Pray that we can solidify and more fully understand how we can serve them, and work together in making disciples and planting churches in the Tohoku Region.

Thank you to those that have generously given already, food, clothing, personal hygene kits, and fuel have been distributed. Pray for a continued outpouring of resources to support what we see will be several years of long term recovery and disciple-making efforts. Click to donate.

SERVE We are starting to make plans now for hosting teams to help in the recovery efforts. We have few details now, but expect that by early summer, all logistics will be in place to host teams, perhaps sooner. If you are interested in being one of the ‘pioneering teams’ (that is, can move forward without having all the “t’s crossed”) contact us immediately, (email put RE: Japan NOW) or just let us know if you have interest in sending a team in the future (put RE: Japan Summer or Japan Fall).