Friday, April 01, 2011 12:45 p.m. EDT
OP missionaries Woody and Laurie Lauer (in Numazu) report on the ongoing labors to bring much needed supplies to our brothers and sisters in the Tohoku:
This morning (Friday, 10 a.m., Japan Time), our son David and his wife Noriko left from Numazu with a partial truckload of supplies. Mr. Iida, a member here, has gathered much clothing (1.5 ton truckload) for Tohoku from employees at an insurance company. In addition to that, we have sent food and necessities from our church and are using offerings from the OPC. David and Noriko are also headed to buy still more supplies at Costco, as well as to receive contributions from his boss at Westinghouse and the RCJ church pastor, Rev. Ma, in Utsunomiya, Tochigi prefecture. Afterward, they will press on to Cal Cummings' house in Sendai. On Saturday, they will divide the goods, with the Uomotos help, among Megumi Church and two other churches in Sendai. They plan, after completing the Sendai deliveries, to make a very important visit to Rev. Shiratsu in Ishinomaki with supplies. As a mission, we are eager to aid the church there in ministering the gospel along with offering the important necessities to this community devastated by the tsunami. David and Noriko hope to worship with the Shiratsus on Sunday and to discuss ways to reach out to this devastated peninsular town in the future. Please pray:
- that the Lord would pour out his Spirit on the people throughout Japan, that they would turn to God and believe;
- that God would raise up faithful ministers and missionaries to spread God's Word throughout this pagan land;
- for strength and safety for this trip and for continuing wisdom for ministry;
- that the Lord will pave the way for effective evangelistic efforts, specifically in Ishinomaki.
Kneeling before the only God who by his mercy and love answers prayer, Woody and Laurie
And OP missionary Cal Cummings (in Sendai) writes:
After twelve hours of … meetings yesterday, today seemed like a "let-down"! … We expressed to the men of the Tohoku Presbytery our readiness to help rebuild and rejuvenate churches in this time of great physical and spiritual need. As they make their assessment, we have urged them to pinpoint specific projects and needs which we can report back to our churches for prayer and potential support with manpower and monies. We also met with the Committee for Cooperating Missions, and the Disaster Response Committee. Pray for wisdom as they present the needs before the church.
Pray, too, that the opportunities for the advancement of Christ's Kingdom will be seized upon with vigor. Feeding the hungry, caring for the homeless, nurturing the sick, and listening to the broken-hearted all take time, energy, and ready hearts. Pray for some of the pastors who are appearing to be fatigued. Both Pastors Yoshida and Yoshioka are separated from their families, as they have sent them to safer areas away from the nuclear fallout. Pastor Yoshioka's eight month old son has been hospitalized with pneumonia. So, on top of the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear accident, there are also family crises.
Pray for the increased contact I have with neighbors and student through these circumstances. I visited an older couple today where two-thirds of their house has become unlivable due to the earthquake. They are managing, but are still waiting for the insurance company to assess the damages, etc. Another couple lost their entire house to the tsunami and have been living in a shelter for three weeks now. We are weeping with them and privileged to share the hope in Christ. I checked with Tohoku Gakuin High School, where I preach once or twice a month, to find out how the student body had been affected. Twenty students lost their entire homes, forty lost half of their homes, two lost their father, one lost his mother, and three are yet living in shelters. I have heard that seven students at Miyagi Gakuin College have been orphaned as a result of the disaster. The newspaper this morning was appealing for the need to build facilities to care for the orphaned. Pray that the church can respond to these needs.
Please keep praying for a suitable place for our son Daniel to use his doctor skills during the time he is here. I have leads in Watari/Yamamoto and Natori. The national government has given freedom to practice, but the local chapter of doctors is giving opportunities only to those who come in under a recognized organization. Keep praying that he might be able to serve.
Lord willing, I will be preaching at Megumi [in Sendai] and Fukushima on Sunday. Pray that our hearts will be built up with the understanding that we have an eternal King and everlasting High Priest, who loves us and works for us without fail. Greater is he that is in us, than he that is in the world. God never fails.
I am expecting David Lauer and his wife and a friend of Murray's from Seattle here shortly. Dan and Luke are to come in tomorrow. A neighbor said he was bringing over some clothes to be taken to a shelter tomorrow. So the place is filling up again. Pray that the Lord will be glorified and hearts blessed with new life as we move among the broken and oppressed.
Please continue to uphold the labors of our missionaries in your prayers.
Monday, March 28, 2011 4:30 p.m. EDT
This morning we again heard from OPC missionaries Woody and Laurie Lauer in Numazu, Japan:
Friday, March 11, 2:46 pm. Earthquake 9.0 followed by tsunami off the Tohoku coast. Whole towns on the coast virtually washed away. Thousands missing, over ten thousand confirmed dead. Telephone, electric, and gas lines destroyed amidst the snow and winter weather. Food, gasoline, kerosene, and necessities quickly became scarce. Devastation here exists on a scale difficult for any man to comprehend.
One week later following the example of Luke Cummings and friends, six volunteers using four trucks left Numazu early Friday, the 18th, to collect food and much-needed supplies in Yokohama and Tokyo. Arriving Saturday 8 am, the party rested at Megumi Church and met with Murray Uomoto, Cal Cummings, and Hideo Ogata (RCJ cooperating evangelist) to discuss the best way to distribute the goods in the name of Christ which had been so generously provided through the diaconal offerings of the OPC. Two homes and five churches later, the caravan had distributed all to pastors and church members who themselves are on the front-line of the disaster and able to share these gifts with members and seekers. They are very thankful for these concrete gifts of love from the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. After arriving back in Numazu at 8 am Sunday morning, we praised God for safe travel. We are grateful to our volunteers: Mr. Iida, Kita Numazu church member, our son David and his wife Noriko and our son, Jonathan.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Mukasa, another member of Kita Numazu, was organizing a collection of more supplies from our members and seekers while we were gone. She herself drove a truck to Sendai, arriving at East Sendai RCJ on the 22nd, and returning safely early the next morning. Praise the Lord for such a faithful servant!
On Wednesday evening, the 23rd, as we studied Psalm 22 in prayer meeting; we considered God's perfect foreshadowing of the suffering of the Christ to come through his servant David. Meditating on the excruciating agony which our Savior underwent, we were reminded that our sin had brought this upon him. We had to stop at verse 21 that night since time ran out. Immediately following the meeting, having gotten word from our Sendai missionaries of a continuing need, we rushed to complete preparations for a second trip to carry supplies on behalf of the OPC to missionaries and RCJ churches in the Sendai area.
Thursday A.M., the 24th, three trucks and six volunteers (including two pastors from the RCJ's Eastern Presbytery, Kita Numazu member Mr. Oomizu, and our son Daniel) embarked for Sendai. Again, we praise God for the OPC diaconal aid which made the acquisition of relief goods possible. Friday morning, several pastors and missionaries gathered at Megumi church to collect goods for distribution as well as gasoline for their tanks. We had the privilege of distributing directly at East Sendai Church (planted by OPC missionary George Uomoto) and Watari again as well. We enjoyed fellowship at all three churches and were truly humbled by the joyful service to us by those who themselves have lost so much in earthly goods. We pray the Lord will use them all mightily to bring the good news to this vast region that the Living God, their Creator, calls them to obedience and has provided a Savior, his own Son, for their sins. His mercies endure forever.
Now, just over two weeks after the calamity, although Sendai (pop. 1 million) has largely restored electricity and phone lines, authorities predict restoration of natural gas service will take several months more. Food preparation (usually gas burning stoves), hot water, and home heating are all affected by this. Rationing of both kerosene (affecting the same) and gasoline make daily life a challenge. Food is relatively still in short supply although that is improving as well. Many coastal towns such as Watari, where the RCJ has a church and kindergarten, suffered significantly worse damage due to the tsunami and face much greater challenges.
In the daylight, this time we were able to see far more of the extent of the destruction. Mile after mile of devastation: on the right side of the highway, we saw winter fields of stubble awaiting spring planting, on the left side of the highway in what used to be farm fields lay cars, trucks, uprooted trees, flattened houses, and all manner of personal belongings strewn in the winter fields now covered in mud and water left behind by the tsunami. It was breath-taking. Words cannot describe the sight. What comes to mind? Who was riding in that truck when the tsunami came? Who was standing in that home or field? In what or whom did those now departed souls hope? God's power has been declared to this idolatrous people. He is calling them to repentance. Will they listen as did the people of Nineveh? Will they heed his warning, believe in him, and be saved from the final condemnation to come?
Please pray with us that the Japanese people will be comforted by the words of Psalm 22 which we look forward to studying this Wednesday in verses 23-28: "You who fear the LORD, praise him; All you descendants of Jacob, glorify Him, And stand in awe of im, all you descendants of Israel. For he has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; Neither has he hidden his face from him; But when he cried to him for help, he heard. From Thee comes my praise in the great assembly; I shall pay my vows before those who fear him. The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; Those who seek him will praise the LORD. Let your heart live forever! All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD, And all the families of the nations will worship before Thee. For the kingdom is the LORD's, And he rules over the nations."
Please give thanks for these things:
Please pray for God's mercy in these things:
Grateful to belong to our God,
Woody and Laurie
Please continue to take these matters to your heavenly Father, who does indeed answer the prayers of His children.
Friday, March 25, 2011 4:30 p.m. EDT
Back home again in Sendai, Cal Cummings wrote a few hours ago:
On Wednesday, my sons Caleb and Luke and I drove up to Ishinomaki to contact and volunteer at several shelters, seeking to build ongoing relationships. What an unbelievable scene! I have never seen or imagined such massive destruction. The chaos of the deep seemed to have been vomited up everywhere. It was surreal chaos. A 30 ft. boat with a car in the passenger seat was plowed prow first into a building 15 feet above the ground. Boats in the street and cars in the water. Cars parked in the living room and the washing machine in the field out back. No surreal art gallery will ever surprise me again. Cars were jammed through the principal's office window on the first floor of the refugee shelters. A foot of muck covered the playground of the elementary school. There were no sidewalks, for the streets were lined with debris of the gigantic sort, such as fire engines and trailer trucks. That is reality here. Many parts of Ishinomaki have become a wasteland. The brackish waters have polluted the soil. Houses were swept completely off their foundations. Oh, the destruction. Incredible! This is what I saw 12 days after the earthquake/tsunami, and the Self-Defense forces had been working furiously to restore order. The power of the tsunami is beyond my imagination. It gave me pause to reflect that a tsunami is but a micro byte (or micro-something) compared to the omnipotence of God. It is that same almighty power that God unleashed to make the seas and the skies that he unleashes to save us from our sins. Awesome!
As the sun went down, darkness settled over the chaos. I was able to visit Pastor Shiratsu and his wife and son, who spend the night in the shelter after spending the daylight hours trying to clean up their house which had been flooded with two to three feet of water. They are confined to their room with five other family units in a 20 by 30-foot room. Each has about an eight foot square to sleep in. They are thankful to be alive and do look forward to continue their ministry among the people with whom they are sharing this hardship. "Learning to be content in whatever circumstances" was their testimony. God is with them in the shelter. Do pray for the thousands who are having to live in these difficult conditions. Some shelters are yet without running water or electricity. Pray that the health conditions might not deteriorate. Caleb and I helped get an older man from a stretcher into his niece's car so that he could be out of the shelter and into a more stable condition.
Pray that the brackish waters will be tuned into the sweet fountain of God's grace. Pray that the chaos of the deeps will be quieted by the almighty love of our Lord Jesus, who was willing to be forsaken so that we might not be forsaken. Pray that we will be faithful in these times to be as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves. There are many fragile lives. Our dear little widow friend who lives behind us weeps every time I bring her a loaf of bread or some ingredients for soup. The little ojiisan who lives alone on the street behind us shed tears of thanks as I took him some meat and pickles that had been delivered to us from Tokyo. It was a privilege to share with both of them what we had received. I was also able to share with them of the greater Gift that lasts forever. We all are fragile, even if we do not admit it. Perhaps that is when we are most fragile. Pray for compassionate hearts that will be ready at all time to give an account of the hope that is within us.
We ate chicken ramen heated over a little gas bomb stove in the dark in a parking lot on the outskirts of Ishinomaki. Talk about darkness! We ran into road construction (not literally!) on the way home. Not many cars out. The toll roads are still open only to those who have received special permits as emergency vehicles.
We made it home in time to welcome another of the many after-shocks that continue throughout the day and night. Somehow our house has become a receiving center. A truck from Chiba arrived, unloaded and left. We now have a room full of clothing that we have the privilege of finding a home for. It is not as easy as it sounds, as many are rallying to send supplies and one day there may be a need, so the network responds and the next day they are inundated. I had a call from an unknown woman who came by to pick up some things that had been delivered here without my knowledge. She seemed to have identified what things she needed and left some as a donation. This then led to a conversation concerning the greatest Gift. The needs keep changing each day, so pray for wisdom to perceive and be ready to meet them. Wherever we are or wherever we go, people seem more willing to talk about their weakness and fears. Pray for wisdom. Pray as we work together with our brothers and sisters in the RCJ [Reformed Church in Japan] and other churches here.
To our knowledge all the members in the Reformed Churches of Japan are safe. However, last night I learned six families from one Conservative Baptist church in Shiogama and Tagago have lost their homes. The CB pastor in Kesennuma lost his home and the church. However, he said we are going back. We want to claim Christ for Japan. He quoted from Zechariah 8 and reflected on the power of God to establish his kingdom. Pray for the people to the south of us near the contaminated area. They are becoming the forgotten people. As one of the young pastors that is working with the people in that area said, "It is in the danger zone, but the people without Christ are in an even more dangerous zone. I know where I am going if I die, but there are many in the danger area that need to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ."
Today we delivered the second load of goods from the OPC to individuals in need and churches that are reaching out into their communities in this time of great need. The first team of volunteers from among the RCJ is going to shelters and neighbors to share a cup of cold water in Jesus' name. As the death toll rises, our heart continues to cry out to the Lord to show mercy and grace. We have been devastated. It is our privilege to weep with those who weep and to bring the hope of Christ in the midst of chaos. From out of the depths we cry to you, O Lord. Hear our cry.
And from Craig and Ree Coulbourne, OPC affiliated missionaries laboring with the MTW team in Urayasu, we heard:
Thanks for your prayers for Japan and for the missionaries here. The devastation in the worst hit part of the country is tremendous.
We continue to be OK. We don't have water at the moment (it is expected to be restored by Thursday) and there are planned electrical outages to conserve energy, but all of that seems relatively minor compared to what people in other parts of the country have suffered. Please continue to pray for opportunities to build relationships with our neighbors in the wake of all that has happened.
We were excited to see three non-Christian husbands of church members at Sunday morning worship at Makuhari Church. One said that he came to worship because he felt that perhaps God was saying something to Japan and because he wanted to pray for those who are suffering so much from the earthquake and the tsunami. That's exactly the kind of response we are hoping to see. Please pray that God would open the hearts of many Japanese through these difficult circumstances, and that it would be more than a passing openness that fades when the crisis has passed.
The missionary team in Chiba was able to deliver a truckload of supplies to one of the hard-hit areas. They are working in cooperation with a church in that area, so that the relief is clearly being given in the name of Christ. They hope to make multiple runs to this location, and other Christian groups throughout Japan are seeking to show Christ's love through relief. Pray that such opportunities would speak clearly of God's existence and his love and that the Japanese would have ears to hear.
As you gather with your brothers and sisters in Christ this Lord's Day to worship the living and true God, please ask him, according to his will, to pour out his mercies upon northeastern Japan, and to use this display of his power to soften hearts and draw many to himself, that he might be glorified. Pray, too, for your missionaries, as, during this difficult days, they seek to minister the cup of cold water in Christ's name, together with the Word of life, to those who are suffering.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011, 2:30 p.m. EDT
Please keep the Lauers in your prayers, as they prepare to make another trip from Numazu up north with much needed supplies. Laurie Lauer writes:
Just a quick update before we sleep. Tonight, we received the request from Sendai missionaries to go north tomorrow. I am leaving at 4:30 am Thursday, Japan time, with two believers to rent trucks an hour west of here. (Since this is moving season in Japan, truck rental is at a premium.) We will drive back while Woody is seeking the permits from the police to go north. Then we will drive north to Yokohoma Costco to buy items and pack the trucks, next on to Tohoku. This time, our fifteen-year-old son Daniel, Mr. Oomizu (a church member), Rev. Tateishi (whose son is pastor of East Sendai church), and Rev. Hayashi (whose father is pastor of Watari church) will join Woody and me to drive north and deliver the goods. We are grateful that Mr. Watanabe and Mr. Kurihara, also believers, will travel with us to Costco to buy goods and pack the trucks (last time it took us five hours to complete). Please pray for our safety (trucks must be returned by Friday night), sweet fellowship with each other and the believers up north, and especially, that the Lord would prepare the hearts of the Japanese people to hear and believe the gospel as they receive supplies through the churches. Please convey our deepest gratitude to all our brothers in the OPC who are giving to our God on behalf of these people, that the love of the Lord would be poured out upon them. We are grateful for our Savior Jesus whose precious blood grants to us forgiveness of our sins and sweet fellowship with the only true and incomprehensible God.
And Kaz Yaegashi sent the following report to the missions committee of his presbytery (Kaz is an ordained minister in the PCA, a member of the PCA's Mississippi Valley Presbytery, and an associate missionary of the OPC Japan Mission):
Greetings in the precious Name of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. Together with the Psalmist, I pray and confess, "I will lift up my eyes to the hills. From whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.... God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble" (Ps. 121:1, 46:1).
God spared the Yaegashis and the gospel work of the Yamagata Reformed Church. Our house and the church building are still in good shape (at least we think so) at present. The devastation of the Pacific coastal towns and cities has already come into your hearing and viewing through TV and internet. In Miyagai Prefecture alone, where two OPC families, the Cummingses and the Uomotos, labor whose houses providentially in God's gracious plan were spared, it has been reported that the number of deaths will reach over 15,000 people. In the midst of the disaster, these two missionaries who live in Sendai, the prefectural capital, have been daily laboring in bringing relief to those staying at various evacuation centers near Sendai and who lost everything.
Their relief activities became possible just a day or two after the earthquake thanks to Luke Cummings', the youngest son of the Cummings family, involvement in a volunteer group which had gotten a permit to drive on the expressway to bring food and hygienic goods from Tokyo to Sendai and then to those evacuation centers in the Sendai area. Then, as soon as the Diaconal Committee of the OPC made a speedy decision to give financial aid through its Japan Mission for the disaster relief, the Rev. Woody Lauer, another OPC missionary working in Numazu, about 600 km south of Sendai, also obtained a permit to drive on the expressway. He then transported a few trucks full of food and necessary daily items to Sendai from Numazu. Woody's son David and his wife joined in this transport of relief goods. Thus the OPC relief work has been in action since last week.
In Yamagata, where the earthquake did not do much noticeable damage, we were able to meet on the first Sunday after the great earthquake and we offered prayers and began thinking how we could be of help to those who are in desperate need. While unlike the other three missionaries I cannot participate in vigorous relief effort due to the shortage of gas and my limited strength, I was able to pull together the willingness of my church members and seekers to help the evacuees who fled to our city. About four thousand people have evacuated here from Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures. People from Fukushima are those who were afraid of contamination of radiation because of the break-down of the four nuclear reactors in Fukushima. Before the worship service this Sunday, March 20th, I met with the members of the steering committee of the church and decided to do two things: begin collecting donations for relief funds and ask members and seekers to bring items that are urgently needed for those who are at the evacuation center, sheltering more than one thousand people, in Yamagata City.
Thus we too began a relief mission this week. Because of the shortage of gas our people bring goods to the church every Sunday and I transport them to the evacuation center. I was able to take about $500 worth of items to the evacuation center this week. Please pray that I can continue going out there since it is pretty hard to get gas even in Yamagata. We get just three gallons or so after waiting in a long line for two hours. Lots of gasoline stations in Yamagata are closed indefinitely. As you can imagine if this is how it is here in Yamagata, the places of disaster are much worse in terms of transporting food and medical supplies. Today's paper shows that at 33 evacuation centers located within the disaster area of the Northeastern District of Japan's main island, on average, the need for food (three meals a day) is met only 20%, medical supply 60%, doctors' presence 70%, and daily necessary items (toilet paper, diapers, soap, detergent, etc.) 50%. We need your continuous help and prayers. While there was no serious damage to the houses and roads in Yamagata, since the Earthquake, life in general has become difficult materially and to some degree mentally/spiritually for people here. There is definitely a mission waiting for us to help people rebuild their lives not just materially but spiritually. Our prayers certainly are that people will find their true meaning of life in their one and only Creator and Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ.
Then we have Christian brothers and sisters with whom we have worked for a long time who are now suffering from the disaster. There are at least two RCJ churches in the Sendai area that were damaged badly. One in particular is Ishinomaki Church, which was flooded and had structural damage. Pastor Shiratsu and his wife are staying at an evacuation center and they certainly need Christian care. There are also members who are still missing and others who had their houses damaged.
Under such strenuous circumstances, Katie and I have decided to ask the Mississippi Valley Presbytery's MTW that our scheduled short furlough from the May 23rd till June 15th ... be postponed indefinitely. I have consulted some on this matter with Mr. Mark Bube when he called .... The reasons for indefinite postponement of our furlough are:
- Need of pastoral care of our own people in this difficult time;
- Need of our church's continuous diaconal ministry for those who are suffering in this great disaster;
- Need to stand by with our brethren in the Northeastern Presbytery of the RCJ to help the churches and people who are suffering from the disaster;
- The whole nation's economy is getting chilled and it is affecting our life as my tent-making job for March and April is decreasing; in such circumstances it is difficult for us to plan a big overseas trip.
... I do not know how the Lord is going to use Katie and me during this time of trial for my country. But we know by faith God has a plan through these trials for His kingdom to be built here in Japan, for which the Lord has called us to join His army to reach that end. I remind myself of the truth taught by our Lord in Matthew 25:35-40, in James 2:14-17, and again in Matthew 16:26. And finally, our help comes from the Lord who created heaven and earth!
May the Lord grant us all to see his sovereign power and grace be sufficiently shown to the people of Japan who have not yet known their Savior. And through you and us working together with the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, may we demonstrate the fruit of love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, especially in a time of hardship like this.
Please continue to surround our missionaries' labors with your prayers. We also received an updated report on conditions facing the various RCJ churches and chapels from the RCJ's Diaconal Action Committee.
Monday, March 21, 2011, 2:00 p.m. EDT
Thank you all for your prayers on behalf of our missionaries in Japan. The Lauers made it back to Numazu from their trip to take supplies up to Sendai safe, but tired. Earlier today, Cal Cummings posted the following from Sendai:
Thank you so much for your prayers. My dear wife Edie has wonderfully kept you all up on some of the many things that are going on here. I am due to head out with my sons Luke and Caleb to check out some of the cities and towns up north along the coast where the tsunami devastated may towns, so will not be able to write a long update here, but I do so want to be in touch with you all.
Saturday we worked with the Lauers and Uomotos to unload the four 2-ton trucks that the Lauers and a friend, Mr Iida, brought up from Yokohama loaded with goods and clothes. What a blessing it was to be able to share with two missionary families who had lost their homes and establish distribution centers from various churches—Megumi, Kita Nakayama, East Sendai, Sendai—and Pastor Ogata's and another member's home from which we can share the Gospel in deed and word. The Lauers went on to Watari where they connected with Pastor Hayashi and were able to deliver much needed clothes and food to the shelter across from his house.
Nearly every day has been filled with innumerable opportunities to share the Gospel of hope in Christ in the midst of this disaster. As the shelters are being supplied the neighborhoods are now becoming a focus of need as people are not able to get out due to age, sickness, or no gas. Plus no supermarkets are open or selling goods as yet, so those who had been saying we are fine are now realizing their vulnerability and are accepting our gifts with deep gratitude.
Yesterday I went to Sendai Church and heard a wonderful message by Pastor Yoshida on Psalm 23. … From there I went to East Sendai and delivered some liquid gold in the form of gasoline so the pastor could get around to the needy in his church and neighborhood. They had already delivered much of what we had put in His church to the local school and were actively inviting people to share in another load that we delivered Saturday. While I was there I was able to share with a neighbor the fact that these goods were a gift from God. She thanked me for those words and then we were able to add that there is even a greater gift that God gives us through His Son Jesus. Then she said, O yes I remember the Uomotos. I came to Sunday school here. Pastor Tateishi extended further invitation to come and visit her and to welcome her to the church as well. Everywhere we go we are able to share this same message of the Bread of Life, The Good Shepherd, The Living Water. Pray that the Lord will bless the testimony of His grace to these lives that have been devastated.
Please pray for wisdom as there are many decisions that have to be made quickly. Pray too that the water would subside and the tremors become fewer (we are still getting 10 or more a day). Samaritan's Purse has delivered 90 tons of goods that is to be distributed through the churches. Pray for wisdom to be good stewards in the name of Christ to bring the Gospel in deed and Word.
I will be meeting with the RCJ diaconal committee and area RCJ pastors this evening as the nationwide RCJ is coming together to send volunteers and other assistance. We are here in the name of Christ in these difficult times….
Please remember Cal and his sons in your prayers, as they head north to survey the damage, asking our Lord to open many doors for them to testify to the hope that is the present possession of those who belong to Christ.
Friday, March 18, 2011, 4:15 p.m. EDT
Earlier today, OPC missionaries Woody and Laurie Lauer headed up north with supplies. Their son, Stephen, writes:
I just spoke with my parents, OPC missionaries Woody and Laurie Lauer (in Numazu, Japan, southwest of Tokyo). They asked me to write on their behalf asking for your prayers. They have been able to borrow and rent four large trucks and obtain the necessary permits in order to drive them North to the Sendai area which was affected by the earthquake and tsunami. Along with Woody and Laurie, David and Noriko Lauer (son and daughter-in-law of the Lauers) and a member of the Numazu church (where Woody serves as pastor) have stopped in Tokyo and purchased enough food and supplies to fill the trucks. Food is getting very scarce in some areas of the Northeast. They now hope to start driving North, and will probably be driving through the night. They are not able to bring any more help along with them due to the nature of the permits, as the government is trying to keep the number of people going into the disaster area to a minimum (i.e. every person is another mouth to feed, etc., if they get stuck up North). As they head out please keep the following points in your prayers:
- Please pray for safety during the drive, in particular as they were only able to get five drivers for four large trucks.
- Pray for good weather as it has been snowing.
- Pray for the local churches. They hope that some of the supplies can be given to the local churches to be passed out in the neighborhoods around the churches.
- Pray for the spread of the Gospel as it is shared along with the supplies and food. They are also bringing Bibles and Gospel tracts to pass out.
- Pray for wisdom and guidance from above. They don't know how long the trip will take until they get up there, and there is much that they will need to find out when they actually arrive and can better assess the situation. Pray that the food and supplies would be distributed where they are most needed. The Japanese government has been very slow in providing accurate information and organization for the relief effort.
- Pray that they will have enough gasoline. They are taking tanks of gas with them, and plan on taking enough, but gas is scarce up North in the disaster zone.
Abraham's story is the Lauers' story, which is also ours. His promises are their promises, which are also ours: "By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God." We are pilgrims, even foreigners (whether in Japan or the USA), who by faith lay hold of the eternal city, which "He has prepared... for them" (Heb. 11). While in this world, Christ calls us to feed, clothe, and quench the thirst of even the least of our brethren (Matt. 25). Their lives and our lives are bound up in Christ's life! By serving our brothers and sisters in Japan, we serve Christ.
And just a little while ago, we heard from Murray Uomoto:
Praise the Lord for water! Warm greetings from a crisp Sendai nighttime. I hasten to write a line or two. I don't know Facebook tech, so I hope this will fit. We need to get a few winks in before OPC missionary … Woody Lauer, rolls in with a convoy of four 2-ton flatbed trucks loaded up at the Yokohama Costco and in Tokyo at a food shelter run by an Evangelical org. We already have a young Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) friend attending Megumi Chapel, Monica from the Seattle/Kirkland area, staying with us. Woody's group has 5 people including Woody's wife, Laurie, their eldest son David and wife Noriko, and a Mr. Iida recently baptized. One or part of a truck will unload here in our cramped Japanese one story house. So Sunday, when I lead the service and speak from John 12 about Isaiah seeing the glory of Christ in his famous vision of Isaiah 6, depending on how much of the foodstuffs and goods we are able to distribute by then—we may be holding service amidst boxes and crates. We are praying for the most evangelistic way to distribute the supplies and pray we can get the goods in the hands of believers, pastors, seekers, and needy neighborhood folk with which we have or will have ongoing relationships. Some of the trucks may be unloading at shelters, etc.
Izumi-ku (ward) is inland mostly so our area was not hardest hit. But people have had block walls topple, parts of inside walls, too, and many have lost lots of dishes and glassware. The Reformed churches have had some damage. Kita Nakayama Chapel, which was built by our own hands in 1989, has serious cracks apparently in the concrete step area leading to the front door which will not close so folk had to enter by the back door.
The Ishinomaki Chapel founded around 1960 by my father and OPC missionary Heber McIlwaine, sounds like it received structural damage by the tsunami being, only a little ways from the coast, like maybe about a km. They also had about half a meter of water on the first floor. Pastor Shiratsu and wife and maybe son are staying at nearby Hebita Elem. School for the time being. Their shelter had only enough rations for about one rice ball plus a small bowl of soup per person per day. Their younger daughter Kieko, a social studies teacher at Shokei Gakuin HS (Baptist run) frantically alerted friend Hiroko living maybe in NJ on Facebook who alerted Tsuruko who alerted OPC missionary Cal Cummings who was able to send visiting 4th and youngest son Luke with a vanload of goods to the rescue which was much appreciated by the Shiratsus and those with them there
Lines, lines, lines. I waited 2 hrs, Wed. morning in line, with Monica-san just ahead of me. We had to wait only 2 hrs in slightly snowing weather and were within about the first 20 at the local small Winmart suupaa (supermarket). They allowed each to fill a shopping basket which was wonderful. The gent in line right behind me told of waiting hours at Yamaya food store and being allowed to buy one pack of ramen noodles, the other day. He waited 5 hrs at Winmart from 8 to 1 the previous morn. What we all need is gasoline and kerosene. A lad passing by Fri. morn said he waited 6 hrs in Shiogama City on coast and still did not get any gasoline. But we hear of Idemitsu tanker ships now docked in Shiogama and tank lorries being sent from around the country.
PTL, we have water as of Fri. morn. Hallelujah! Seeker Mr. Ohyama says that Yamanotera 3 chome (district) still does not have water. What a great feeling to finally be able to wash dishes instead of covering plates with Saran wrap before putting food on them—so we need not wash them—and to be able to flush the toilet freely instead of melting snow in buckets and in the microwave which takes tons of time I found out. Coworker, Pastor Ogata, has so thoughtfully been hauling water from his son Shinya's home north 7 km. to our home in containers and in disposable garbage bags. We hear rumors that city gas may take from 1 to 3 months to come on. But we have health, food, shelter, and Internet connections...
Pastor Yoshioka's (Sendai Canaan Church in SW Sendai) wife and 2 small kids have evacuated to his wife's hometown of Kobe, I believe, and Pastor Yoshida's (Sendai Church) wife and 3 kids have evacuated to elsewhere, probably due to concerns over radiation, now. Sendai is probably about 120 km (about 80 mi.) from the thermo-nuclear plant that is melting down in parts, in the Iwaki area of Fukushima on the coast. March is the end of the school year time which made it convenient for kids to be evacuated for a while.
Please continue to pray that our Lord would be pleased to use both the ministries of Word and deed to draw many unto himself.
Thursday, March 17, 2011, 2:00 p.m. EDT
Late Tuesday evening, the Lauers passed on the following update:
We are ever grateful for the prayers of the saints. Murray and Tsuruko now have internet and phone service, no water yet. We were able to deliver cell phones for the Cummings and Uomotos in Sendai via Luke's friend who is taking supplies there. We just spoke with the Cummings for the first time now on the phone. They finally have electricity and water, though no internet. Heating is normally room heaters using kerosene and that must be conserved because of the shortage of supply. Gas is rationed. Cummings are not heating their home due to the shortage though it is snowing outside. Aftershocks continue to come and their sleep is often interrupted. Basically no food in the stores in the northeast region where the large quake. Edie and Cal have been sharing what they have with neighbors, and she is currently baking bread to give away. Pray for the Uomotos, Cummings, and the churches there as they share the gospel with their neighbors.
Sorry to be so brief, but we are trying to make other preparations to help them. We also need to visit elderly in our area since some basic food is scarce here as well. Thankfully, the quake which hit here last night did no severe damage though it was a 6.4 magnitude. Please pray for the spread of the gospel as the aid is distributed. Thanks be to God for his many mercies!
This morning we heard from Laurie Lauer:
Thank you for your prayers. Yesterday, we searched for gas tanks to take up north and they were all sold out. We also visited a few homes and had the opportunity to read the Scripture and pray with those who need to know the Lord and reassure them that God promises to care for those who belong to him. One unbeliever who has attended church on occasion asked me, "Why not return to the U.S. where you will be safe?" It was good to be able to say that we need to stay because the people of Japan need to know God and to hear the promise of the gospel.
Today, we are trying to arrange for Woody and me with some kids to take a truck and possibly a carload of supplies to Sendai. Reports are horrific. A mayor in one city in Fukushima said that the situation there is dire. Hospitals are running out of medicines, food, and water. No government aid is being offered there. One home for the elderly in that city said they have 2 days of food and water left and no transportation available to evacuate the patients. They are only giving people a little food as it is. This is probably not an isolated case. The central government is overloaded. Food is running out everywhere up north. Even down here rice, bread, and other supplies are disappearing (although we are in no sense worried for ourselves) from store shelves. Temperatures in Tohoku are freezing; little or no heat. Pastor Shiratsu reports that he and his wife receive 1 rice ball a day at the shelter where they are. It is hard to understand in this land of abundance why it is that food and supplies are not pouring in from all over the country. We have been trying to help a rescue team get into Japan for 4 days and no avenue thus far has panned out. Pray that God will work miraculously through churches, etc. to bring aide and the gospel. Please pray we can make the arrangements quickly: rental of the truck plus obtaining supplies. Please pray also that the nuclear plant problem will not become worse.
And this afternoon, Woody Lauer wrote:
In the morning we held our usual ladies' meeting . Before and after we worked at arranging for trucks and pursued a rumor that there were lots of supplies at a U.S. base in the Tokyo area available to take to Sendai. By late afternoon one of our members, Mr. Iida (baptized a couple of years ago) offered to drive his own 2 ton truck and secured another, borrowed from his friend. I will probably be the driver. David (my oldest) and Noriko (his wife) offered to drive two more rental trucks that we managed to find down in Hamamatsu, on the far side of Shizuoka prefecture—toward Nagoya. After David, Noriko and Laurie pick them up, 5 drivers with 4 trucks, along with my #4 son, Jonathan, will drive to Costco in Yokohama to begin 'filling up', then head into Tokyo to a homeless shelter to complete our food acquisition. Then we travel north to the Sendai area to unload at Megumi and Watari Churches, and probably at one or two others as well.
We had hoped that rumors the US bases could provide large amounts of food and other supplies for those going north would be true. Despite great cooperation from our stateside chaplains, it turned out what was available had been children's clothing only, and because the evacuation of non-military persons from the base, that, too, was no longer available.
In the evening we filled plastic jugs with gasoline (in very short supply in Sendai) and I secured permits from the Police for the first two trucks to ride on the (otherwise closed) expressway leading north to Tohoku and Sendai. Also during the course of the day several members and seekers brought over very significant contributions to our relief supplies.
We will also take 250 New Testaments and about 1,000 Ayako Miura tracts for those distributing food to give out with it. May the Lord Jesus be glorified in our words and deeds.
We also received a report from the Diaconal Action Committee of the Reformed Church in Japan (RCJ) updating us on the various RCJ churches and chapels (for which information is available), and a letter from the pastor of Sendai Reformed Church (who is also, in God's providence, currently the moderator of the General Assembly of the RCJ).
Finally, since Fukushima is presently so much in the news, we thought you might like to see some of our Fukushima brothers and sisters in Christ who gathered on November 23, 2010, to thank the Lord for fifty years of His grace to the Fukushima Chapel.
Please continue to remember all these dear ones in your prayers.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011, 3:30 p.m. EDT
Earlier today, Woody Lauer reported (from Numazu):
I just bought cell phones for Murray and Cal; getting in touch with them has been quite difficult. Luke Cummings is planning to drive a truck from Tokyo to Sendai tomorrow, so Laurie and I will drive the phones to him tonight, and give him some diaconal funds to use for buying supplies for the future for Cal and Murray to use or distribute as they see fit.
And within the past couple of hours, Woody followed up with:
We just got back at about 2 am from the trip to Tokyo. Why? While we were away and our 13 and 16 year old boys were minding the church/manse, an earthquake of 6.4 struck (10:30 pm), centered two towns over from Numazu, in Fujinomiya. (Our son Jonathan, 18, was at a retreat for university students below Nagoya). There is no internal evidence of structural damage, though of course our shelves did dump enough contents to make a mess. Thankfully, our kids had labored all afternoon to pack away breakables, especially the valuable ones. We will have to wait for dawn to examine the outside of the building for damage.
As is routine after a medium or large earthquake, the expressway was closed, forcing us and all of the other night time traffic from the major artery between Tokyo and Nagoya onto a 2-lane highway on which one can in theory travel 35 mph. Last night it was stop and go for much of the way. At any rate, we are deeply thankful that the Lord took care of us and our brood. …
One other report that gave great joy to our hearts: Mr. Omizu, whom I baptized about a year after arriving here, is native to Iwate prefecture, just above Miyagi. His roots are in a small seaside town that was pretty well wiped out, we have heard. We had been joining him in praying for his older sister (60) and her husband who live(d) on the family homestead. As the days had passed and he had heard nothing, he was obviously suffering, but continued to resort to prayer. He called me before we left for Tokyo to tell me that his sister had called from a shelter; they made it out in time!!! PTL
Last night, we also heard from Craig Coulbourne (in Urayasu):
We continue to be OK. We don't have water at the moment (expected to be restored by Thursday) and there are planned electrical outages to conserve energy, but all of that seems relatively minor compared to what people in other parts of the country have suffered. Please continue to pray for opportunities to build relationships with our neighbors in the wake of all that has happened.
We were excited to see three non-Christian husbands of church members at Sunday morning worship at Makuhari Church. One said that he came to worship because he felt that perhaps God was saying something to Japan and because he wanted to pray for those who suffering so much from the earthquake and the tsunami. That's exactly the kind of response we are hoping to see. Please pray that God would open the hearts of many Japanese through these difficult circumstances, and that it would be more than a passing openness that fades when the crisis has passed.
The missionary team in Chiba was able to deliver a truckload of supplies to one of the hard-hit areas. They are working in cooperation wTsunami in Japanith a church in that area so that the relief is clearly being given in the name of Christ. They hope to make multiple runs to this location, and other Christian groups throughout Japan are seeking to show Christ's love through relief. Pray that such opportunities would speak clearly of God's existence and His love and that the Japanese would have ears to hear.
Please continue to pray for the missionaries laboring in Japan, especially that it would please our Lord to open the hearts of many to the saving grace of Christ.
Monday, March 14, 2011, 9:30 a.m. EDT
This morning, Woody Lauer (who lives in Numazu, south of Tokyo) sent the following update on the missionaries living in the Tohoku region (the northern part of Honshu, the "main" island of Japan):
After three days of trying, we finally got Murray and Tsuruko Uomotos' phone to ring today. After calling it repeatedly and letting it ring many times, we finally connected with them about 3 hours ago. Electricity had just been restored for them for the first time about 5 p.m. Here in Numazu and around the nation unaffected areas are having 3-hour scheduled power shutoffs daily (starting today) so as to be able to send power north where nuclear reactors have been shut down and insufficient electricity is available, even once power lines are restored. Gas and water, however, are still unavailable.
Murray and Tsuruko are still without water service, but Pastor Ogata, the Japanese minister who works as a cooperating evangelist with our mission at Megumi Chapel along with Cal and Murray, has begun bringing bottles of water to the Uomotos from further north where his son lives, and where there is running water. He reported that gasoline is hard to find and limited to 5 liters when available. Murray said that their facilities (church-manse combined) sustained minimal damage; they have only noticed cracks in the concrete and stucco having fallen off the side of the rental unit next door where a church member lives. He thinks their house/church may now be slightly tilted.
As we talked, Murray was attempting to restart their DSL modem—without success. For the time being they have no E-mail. (The Yaegashis, on the other hand who live in Yamagata, about an hour away over the mountain, now have both power and internet service restored.) Murray asks for prayer for the Newtons, another missionary family who lived in Fukushima prefecture, south of Sendai. Their house and car were washed away in the tsunami, though they themselves escaped unharmed. As I previously reported, Pastor and Mrs. Shiratsu of the Ishinomaki RCJ on a peninsula, just up the coast from Sendai, also escaped before the tsunami, but their church building and manse were severely damaged
Murray also reported that Luke Cummings, the youngest son of Cal and Edie, was able to get permits needed to deliver a car full of supplies to Cal and Edie, no small feat given the unavailability of gasoline in much of the Tohoku region. We still have not been able to reach the Cummings personally.
We give thanks that the OPC Diaconal Committee has offered assistance to our missionaries and RCJ brethren who have suffered loss or injury in this disaster. It is the mission's intent to use any offerings given for immediate relief emergency needs and to save the rest until a thorough evaluation of losses among Tohoku brethren can be assessed. It appears though at this point that at minimum, the Ishinomaki building will be a total loss.
Thank you all for your prayers and join us in thanking God for sparing the lives of so many of his people.
Please continue to keep our brothers and sisters in Christ in Japan in your prayers.
Saturday, March 12, 2011, 1:00 pm EST
We are grateful to our Lord for the news that OPC affiliated missionaries Craig and Ree Coulbourne, who are laboring with the MTW mission team near Tokyo, are also safe. They write:
Thanks to many who have called or sent e-mail to express your concern for us after the major earthquake on Friday, March 11. It was by far the worst we have experienced. We are all OK. When the earthquake hit, we had just assembled for our first Urayasu Church Plant planning meeting, which was soon transformed to an under-the-table prayer meeting. Hannah and Mary were at school a little more than an hour away. Relatively speaking, damage in our area was fairly minor—buckled streets and sidewalks, broken water pipes, fallen fences, lots of mud that has come up from underground. Other parts of the country have experienced much more terrible damage. I (Craig) just returned from standing in line for 2.5 hours to get a few containers of drinking water (we still have no running water). Ree is standing in a long line at the supermarket. Hannah and Mary have not yet been able to return from school (as of Saturday afternoon), but were able to stay with friends near the school. In God's providence, this terrible tragedy has provided opportunities for us to meet new people in our community and to take another step in relationships with new neighbors we have already met. Please pray that God would use even these circumstances to open Japanese hearts and to further His kingdom.
As we gather this coming Lord's Day to worship him, we again find that we have so much for which to be thankful. Please continue to pray for our brothers and sisters in Japan and for our missionaries who labor there to bring the good news of repentance and forgiveness of sin in Christ's name, that it might please our Lord to use the earthquake and the tsunami to open doors for us to show the compassion of Jesus and to proclaim the Word of life.
Saturday, March 12, 2011,, 10:05 a.m. EST
We now have confirmation that the Uomotos are safe. They were the last of the OPC personnel to be heard from.
Murray writes: "We are OK. Tremors continue. No water, utilities, internet yet. ... Thank you for your prayers."
Please continue in prayer for the people of Japan and especially for our sister churches there. Many difficult days are ahead.
Friday, March 11, 2011,, 11:30 p.m. EST
Please join with us in thanking our Lord for news that, in addition to the Lauer family, about whom we heard earlier, the Cummingses and the Yaegashis are also safe.
Late this afternoon (EST), Cal and Edie Cummings' son, Luke, posted the following:
Mom and Dad are alive!!!! I'm talking to them on the phone right now. Their house is still standing. They have no electricity, gas or water so they can't contact anyone. Somehow my call went through after a million tries.
And later this evening (EST), we received the following update from Woody Lauer on the Yaegashis:
I spoke with Kaz Yaegashi by phone about an hour ago ...
Praise God that he and Katie are both fine, physically, and have confirmed that Morris, too, is OK. Morris was in Sendai when the quake struck (perhaps 30–40 miles east toward the coast, where quake and wave damage were severe). Their house is OK, too, though his bookshelves and other shelves have "dumped" their contents all over the floors. They are without electric power, hence unable also to use their gas heaters; a kind neighbor has lent them an old style kerosene heater that does not require AC current, so they can keep a room warm.... The gas stations are all closed since they have no power to pump gas. He cannot therefore travel much by car. (He was to preach in Fukushima for the Lord's Day service tomorrow morning.) He has been unable to contact the members and seekers of the chapel; the phones are jammed or otherwise unusable in his area (which is why it took me so long to reach him). Please pray that he will be able to do so.
Please join us in giving thanks that the Lord has spared the Yaegashi and Cummings families; pray for members of the various Reformed churches in Tohoku, especially Yamagata, Fukushima, Watari, Sendai, Ishinomaki, and Morioka All of those areas have experienced significant damage and much loss of life. Pray that we may soon be able to communicate with OPC missionary family, Murray and Tsuruko Uomoto.
May the Lord bring blessing and salvation in Christ out of this disaster.
Please continue to remember your missionaries when you take your burdens to your heavenly Father in prayer.
Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is at the right hand of God interceding for us. This is Mark Bube, reporting for Telenews from the Committee on Foreign Missions of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.
By now many of you have heard of the major earthquake and tsunami that struck northern Japan today, and are wondering about how our missionaries and our brothers and sisters in Christ there are doing. Shortly after 11:30 p.m. on Friday evening in Japan (9:30 a.m., EST), missionary Woody Lauer was able to contact us in the home office. He reported that the Lauer family members living in Japan are all fine following Friday afternoon's devastating earthquake and tsunami. The earthquake's epicenter was located near the city of Sendai, where the Cummings and Uomoto families live. We also received two e-mail communications from Woody, one updating events shortly after the earthquake struck:
We are fine, though I heard that Narita (Tokyo's airport) is closed and Laurie is to land in about 10 minutes. Delta will probably have to divert to Nagoya, I imagine. I have not yet gotten through to Cal Cummings, Kaz Yaegashi or Murray Uomoto, though once Murray's phone rang about 30 times. We left the house for about 1/2 an hour when the Tsunami was expected, even though here in Numazu they were only predicting 50 cm. We are back, now, but the warnings are up again, so we are going to leave again. We will keep trying the Tohoku missionaries from our cell phone. That's all for now. Woody
Several hours later, Woody wrote:
By now you may know that at Japan Standard Time, 2:46 p.m. today (Friday; 12:46 a.m. EST), there was a massive earthquake off the coast of Sendai, followed by a Tsunami that peaked at about 10 m or roughly 35 ft. A number of seaside villages were devastated; Sendai airport was inundated. We are sad to have to report that after hours of trying on the phone, we have been unable to reach either of the Sendai OPC mission families, the Cummings or the Uomotos. Sendai was among the hardest hit communities, both by the quake and the Tsunami that followed. I did get their telephones to ring once or twice each after dozens and dozens of tries (I am continuing to try, even as I write). Alas, there was no answer on either. The Japanese TV reports that power is out throughout Sendai. It was snowing there this evening. Given that most heaters nowadays rely on AC power, it would be likely they might go to a shelter, even if their homes were still otherwise livable. Please pray earnestly for these two families and the many members of the Reformed churches throughout Sendai and Tohoku. We have no information about them at this time, either.
I have heard indirectly that the Yaegashis in Yamagata and their son, Morris (in Sendai), are OK, but I have been unable to confirm that report. Yamagata is well inland from the coast and up in the mountains. Sendai is roughly 200 miles up the coast from Tokyo. The David Lauers (our eldest and his family) live outside of Yokohama, just below Tokyo. (David was actually in Kobe far away at the time.) We, the Woody Lauers, live another 80 miles or so down the coast farther. The Lauers are all fine. Laurie is now in Hokkaido. She was almost to Tokyo, flying fro