Rebuilding homes and hearts will take long-term efforts post-tsunami

By June 9, 2011

Japan (MNN) — It's been nearly three months since an earthquake and tsunami pair turned the lives of thousands of Japanese upside down. Cleanup remains slow going.

"There's been a lot of government efforts to do debris removal. But the devastation: it's more than 250 miles of coastline with community after community that have had waves as high as 60 or 80 feet. Just immense devastation," says Mark Lewis with the Crisis Response portion of the Evangelical Free Church of America's compassion ministry, TouchGlobal.

"So even though there's been progress made in some places, it looks like nothing's really happened."

Communities are in desperate need of renovation, but it will take time. It's an accurate reflection of the conditions of the hearts of tsunami survivors as well.

"This is such an unprecedented time of openness, and there is an urgency for the Gospel to be presented in a really tangible way," says Lewis.

People know that their homes need to be rebuilt, but it seems they sense the very core of their beings needs to be rebuilt also. Like the ongoing long-term relief efforts though, Lewis says hearts opening to and grasping the Gospel will take time.

Believers are walking into opportunities with care. For one thing, Japan is one of the most unreached places in the world. "The area, particularly where the tsunami hit, probably is the most unreached place," expresses Lewis. "There just is no church presence in many of the cities."

There's little understanding of Jesus Christ; plus, Lewis says many of these communities have been hostile to any foreigner's presence in the past. Although they appear willing to let people in now, Lewis suspects it will take time for many to cling to outsiders and to the Gospel fully.

Essentially, the best way for believers to have effective ministry will be to make ongoing commitments to support and care for victims. Lewis says, "It's really those continued relational acts of service and connection that are going to make the difference for long-term here."

Acts as simple as providing a meal or helping remove debris place the first stones of bridges to relationships that could eventually pave the way for more serious relationships with Christ. But just as reconstruction will take time, building trust enough to nudge people toward the Truth will take long-term efforts.

Thus, the biggest need in the country right now is for personnel.

"There's a continued need for resources and supplies, but there's really also a need for people to come and serve," says Lewis. Japanese believers have done an exceptional job dropping what they can to serve victims. But not only is the church there small, but believers can only afford to take so much time off. Lewis says the career environment is strict on time, and people must get back to work to keep their jobs.

TouchGlobal could use your help in Japan. "[We need] both national workers from Japan, and then short- and long-term missionaries literally from around the world, to come and be part of what I perceive–and I think what the national pastors here also perceive–as a time of unprecedented openness for the Gospel."

Japan is at a critical point in history. If you want to learn more about joining in the efforts to catapult the nation toward Christ, click here to view all the ways you can get involved.

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