Japan lashed by deadly Typhoon Wipha.

By October 17, 2013
(Screengrab courtesy of Accuweather.com)

(Screengrab courtesy of Accuweather.com)

Japan (MNN) – When Typhoon Wipha took aim at Japan’s Fukushima region, people worried.

No one has forgotten that the area suffered severe damage in the 2011 quake/tsunami/nuclear disaster. Meteorologists branded the monster storm as a ‘once in a decade event’.

Today, there’s a collective sigh of relief. The storm sideswiped the crippled area and lashed the eastern coast. Asian Access Vice President to Japan, Mary Jo Wilson says, “The damage primarily was mudslides in the Izu Oshima the island that is off of the Kanto area, and then there was some also in the Kanto region, mudslides again.”

Heavy rains created flooding and landslides. Houses collapsed, and people were buried in mud. The death toll stands at 17, but 50 are still unaccounted for. But, by Wednesday evening, Wipha was downgraded to a tropical storm Wednesday evening. While relieved, Wilson says that doesn’t mean there isn’t work to do, especially in this ‘new normal’ since March 2011.

In fact, she says, it is anything but ‘business as usual’. “The typhoon has come and gone and the crisis continues. It’s an ongoing process., in terms of responding to the needs after the disaster in the Tohoku region.”

It’s been more than two years since the devastation of Japan, and the emotional burden is still revealing itself. “There’s obviously been quite a bit that’s been cleaned up and some rebuilding going on. But still, tens of thousands of people who are in temporary housing. There are just a lot of people who are struggling to rebuild their lives.”

Asian Access began seeing places for ministries like the Nozomi Project. Nozomi, which means ‘hope’ in Japanese, is a social enterprise bringing sustainable income, community, dignity and hope to the women in Ishinomaki, Japan and the surrounding region by training women to craft unique jewelry products.

One third of these women are single mothers and grandmothers; most of these women and their family members lost their livelihood when the tsunami crashed through half of their city in 2011.

An Asian Access church partner also works in Fukushima. Its members are helping clean up the environmental impact of the nuclear accident.

Members of A2s teams gathered in the disaster zone to create a church network called Be One. Through Be One, a team was sent into Ishinomaki to help with disaster relief in 2011.

Wilson says what they learned through the tsunami of 2011 was a different way of responding and connecting with the community in terms of leader development and church planting. “It’s been a game-changer, not just in the Tohoku region, but there are alliances of churches that have been responding from outside the area that it impacted as well.”

Typhoon Wipha added a little extra boost to A2. Though it was a near miss, it served as a reminder that the development of church leaders and communities is critical to being ready when disaster strikes. To that end, growth is necessary, and growth takes money.

Enter: The Maclellan Foundation, Inc. Right now, there’s a matching challenge for church multiplication and leadership development in Japan up to December 31, 2013. “That will all go toward developing leaders and planting churches. Folks who give to Asian Access toward that, their gift will be matched up to $200,000”, explains Wilson.

The funds will give Asian Access the resources to start eight new networks by 2014. That will bring the networks to one-third of the 2020 Vision goal of 100.

The grant will also recruit, train and place six new missionaries to Japan, redeploy five seasoned church planting missionaries to work strategically alongside existing church multiplication networks with the highest potential for growth, and create new training formats designed to reach a new generation of pastors in their 20’s and 30’s with training in church multiplication.

Want to do more than give? How about praying? Wilson says, “A key prayer is for open hearts and continuing that God would send us to the right people and open up those doors into communities.”

Click here for details on the Matching Grant.

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