Simon and Alison North are missionaries with OMF Japan. They live in Chiba with sons Sam, 10, and Isaac, 7, who attend the local Japanese school. Simon is OMF’s Finance Manager and Alison leads evangelistic programmes out of the Jesus Christ Family Church. This includes Japan’s first (and only) mainly music progarmme.
2011 was a year that shook Japan. The 8.9 magnitude earthquake and tsunami devastated the north-eastern coastline, leaving more than 15,000 dead and many bodies still unaccounted for. Large sections of many towns and villages were wiped out and tens of thousands are still homeless. The multiple meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant depopulated nearby towns and spread a shadow of fear over the entire Tokyo region. The region is home to 35 million, of whom only a tiny fraction know Christ as Saviour.
2011 was also a huge year for OMF Japan. In March and April we went from being a church planting agency to being a church planting and disaster relief agency. Within a few days of the earthquake we had missionaries doing reconnaissance and commencing relief work in Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures.
The fact that the region where the tsunami hit was one of the least churched areas in Japan made this a difficult task. Over the following months we continued to send teams to help clean up, distribute supplies, hold mobile cafes and kitchens, talk and, more importantly, listen to the survivors.
As summer arrived and most people settled into kasetsu jutaku (temporary housing), the immediate relief phase gave way to a focus on recovery. This meant building community and giving encouragement as people adjusted to their new lives.
OMF chose to establish a base in the city of Miyako in Iwate Prefecture. From here we sought to provide assistance and simply be Christ to those in the area.
Meanwhile, missionaries have continued to visit and work in other towns in whatever ways the Lord has led them. For some this meant building furniture for people living in school gymnasiums, for others it meant holding cello concerts at kasetsu jutaku.
2011 was a massive year for me. As the Finance Manager for OMF Japan, I found myself managing a multi-million dollar earthquake relief fund. Doing all the accounting for a multi-national mission organisation with 120 members from ten different countries was busy enough – this was a real challenge.
The other day I closed the 2011 accounts. As I did so, I paused briefly to reflect on how this year would be different to last. It was unlikely that I would be spending $20,000 on electric blankets, or $15,000 on rice, or buying quite so many cars. However, I will be sending funds for construction materials and buildings and people and many, many cups of coffee so that we can continue to bless those still living in the area of devastation.
And, in doing this, I’ll help plant the seeds of the Gospel. Please keep on praying to the Lord of the Harvest that these will take root in this broken ground.