Thousands of volunteers still filling the emotional cracks made by the Japan earthquake

By July 13, 2012

Japan (MNN) — The cleanup efforts for the Japan earthquake have cleared tons upon tons of debris. But the emotional pieces of the disaster remain scattered for many.

There are still 50,000 to 100,000 people in temporary housing 16 months after the Japan earthquake and tsunami, and the Japanese government is handling the physical care of these victims. Paul Nethercott, a missionary to Japan with The Evangelical Alliance Mission (TEAM), says the government has been "very fast and thorough" in their response to physical needs over the last several months.

Nonetheless, the need was so great that groups like TEAM affiliate CRASH Japan helped clean, cook meals, and deliver supplies for the first several months. Now that there's little need for that kind of immediate aid though, CRASH is focusing most of its attention to one area.

"CRASH Japan is focused on the areas the government is weak in," says Nethercott, who also does Public Relations for CRASH Japan. "The government has very little to offer in terms of meeting human needs–emotional, spiritual, psychological needs of people. This is the area where Christian volunteers have really made an impact."

Through CRASH Japan alone, over 3,000 volunteers have been mobilized to respond to emotional needs. A lot of the events that they host are designed to create an environment where people feel they can open up about their experiences. People are able to unload their burdens and, if they're open to it, hear about Christ.

"We're doing much softer things like concerts; we set up mobile cafés," explains Nethercott. "We've done a lot with various forms of the arts, including music, craft work, hula dance, talent shows."

The group performs Japanese tea ceremony to serve people and has even begun to offer free hand massages. Nethercott says it's not only a de-stressor for people, but it allows volunteers an opportunity to listen, ask questions, and just care for another individual in a practical but also spiritual way.

Through consistent, caring outreach, CRASH Japan has watched the church grow. More and more believers are willing to volunteer to share the love of Christ, churches are uniting, and hearts continue to open to the Lord.

"People know that these thousands of volunteers are Christians. There are people that are believing in Jesus Christ. There are many hearts that have been softened," notes Nethercott.

Prayer is vital for hearts to remain open. Prayer is also needed for funding because the urgency in Japan is no longer on the front page. CRASH Japan is trying to raise 1 million dollars by the two-year mark in March 2013. Click here to help.

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