Unsung heroes in Japan: the fingerprints of God

By April 1, 2011

Japan (MNN) — Life goes on in the shadow of a disaster. 

Japan's earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear crisis have shaken confidence
in the surety of day-to-day life. However, survivors still need to eat, drink, and stay warm as they begin
to wrap their minds around the enormity of rebuilding.

Asian Access is walking alongside the people through their
network of churches, the unsung heroes of the catastrophe. They sent a First response team a week after
the disaster.

Another team followed on the heels of the First Responders. Jeffrey Sonnenberg was a member of the team that
wanted not only to figure out a more efficient resource plan, but also to share
the hope stories.

Thousands are still in evacuation shelters with no idea how
long it will be before they can go "home" again. On a positive note, the infrastructure is
showing signs of improvement. Water is flowing
again, and food is making its way into the damaged areas.

Moving out of the early days of the disaster, Sonnenberg
says, "People are looking more for clothes and for containers to put clothes
into as they're in the evacuation centers. So we're seeing it progress into a
different stage."

Local churches are standing in the gap for those too far
removed from the urban centers that are seeing the infrastructure
repaired. "They were going in to assess and have been
very involved in trying to bring relief aid goods to the evacuation centers,
especially some of the more isolated communities."

It will take years to restore the damaged communities. However, "We've seen some great examples of churches going out into their communities,
helping to deliver supplies to people who need them, helping people to clean
out their homes, to get the muck and the junk out of their homes. Pray for the
churches as they go out as the hands of Christ."  

Naturally, with nearly every headline about Japan talking
about the nuclear crisis, the question had to be asked: "Is the radiation
affecting the team? Are they safe?" Sonnenberg responds, "Asian Access is very much aware of the radiation
issue. There is the ‘no-access' zone that we have not sent people into."   

Recent reports indicated that radiation was found in some vegetables
grown near the crippled nuclear site. That report set off a panic. Is
it becoming a concern for the churches involved with the food
distribution?  Not really, Sonnenberg
says. "Currently, the area we've been
working in–Sendai, the radiation is a non-issue there. We're monitoring it
very carefully."

While the Japanese have responded with great dignity to the
crisis surrounding them, the strain is taking its toll. Their church teams are in place to help. "People are still very much in a state of
shock. They're still really trying to grapple with the reality [of] what's
going on. People are beginning to question and [they're] wrestling with issues
of death and ‘what happens after I die.'"

Mortality questions could be the tool that gets past the
traditional resistance to the Gospel. "We
are seeing people being more open to hearing about Christ, but to be honest, a
lot of the effort, up until now, is just being able to get people the most
basic of needs. Now, we'll need to focus a lot more on the spiritual needs, as

The scope of the response in Japan is both taxing and
mind-boggling. And Asian Access is asking for
help.  They need prayer support for their
teams, as well as wisdom for how they will continue to move forward. They also need funds. Damage estimates are in the hundreds of
billions. Immediate survival
needs involve food, water, shelter and heat for hundreds of thousands. 

Asian Access received a $1,000,000 matching
gift pledge to help meet the spiritual and physical needs. Their team is made up of 400 pastors
and 1800 churches…and the potential for eternal impact is huge.  Effectively, for every gift sent to help A2
and their church teams, the impact is doubled.  

There's more detail on the matching gift fund here.

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