Japan (MNN) — Material and emotional cleanup are progressing slowly in post-quake Japan.
Nearly 140,000 people remain in shelters across the country from what has officially been named the "Great Eastern Japan Earthquake." One report marked the probable combined death toll at over 27,000. The numbers continue to rise.
Even those who have not been directly affected by the quake are suffering the consequences of the nation's disarray. "The Japanese society is a very ordered society, and this situation is very chaotic," says Scott Henson with The Evangelical Alliance Mission (TEAM). "I think that's been difficult for people on a personal level."
The church has been jumping in to help on that personal level and to do relief work, despite their relatively small size.
"[The quake has] given the Japanese church–which is quite small–a much bigger role in society by stepping up and giving support, relief, encouragement, hope, in particular to people who are asking those kinds of questions," says Henson.
TEAM has been collaborating with Christian Relief Assistance Support and Hope (CRASH) to do relief work. CRASH has been networking Japanese churches in Japan and around the world, so the church as a whole has been able to respond from many different areas.
CRASH has already delivered over 30 tons of relief supplies and mobilized 100 volunteers into disaster areas. They have also developed partnerships with over 50 ministries, denominations, missions and associations in and outside of Japan to help with relief.
Thus, believers have been able to respond in a real way to the many needs presented by the quake. Nevertheless, the church in Japan does not appear to be expecting or even shooting for mass conversions.
"I think the planting of the church and the sharing of faith in Japan has traditionally been a long-term endeavor in relationship building, and I don't really see this as being any different other than an opportunity for the church to live the message that its been preaching," observes Henson. "I tend to think it will be short-term meeting needs and sharing love, and long-term building relationships as it always has been in Japan."
Henson is a writer for TEAM's Horizons magazine. Henson and several other TEAM members will head to Japan in three weeks to further explore the personal stories of individuals who have been affected, and eventually feature an article in Horizons. Henson hopes to have a fuller picture then of the way the church has been influential on a personal level for those suffering.
TEAM is working slowly and efficiently. Pray for their ministry and for the endurance of the church in Japan.
Learn more about TEAM's efforts at their Web site.