BEAVERTON — Three members of Beaverton Christian Church recently returned from a 10-day mission trip to Japan where they encouraged local Christians and viewed the progress that has been made since a devastating earthquake and tsunami hit the country’s northeast coast in 2011.
In Tokyo, Executive Pastor Dan Ferguson, his wife Terrie, and Janell Struckmeier, director of the children’s ministry, were joined by Pastor Takeshi Aida of the Sayama Church of Christ, a longstanding ministry partner with the Beaverton church.
The massive 9.0 earthquake on March 11, 2011 — one of the strongest in recorded history — set off a tsunami that killed at least 16,000 people, left another 2,600 missing, and triggered meltdowns at a nuclear power plant. Today, official records show more than 300,000 people still in temporary housing.
Help from around the world poured into Japan following the tsunami, including financial assistance from the Beaverton church. When the tsunami hit, the Sayama church mobilized what resources it had and headed north to the affected areas. Over the next six months, Pastor Aida made the 800- mile round trip a dozen times, bringing practical aid to survivors of the tsunami. Last summer, a team of construction workers from the Beaverton church joined ,with Samaritans’ Purse to help reconstruct homes in the tsunami area.
It’s been two years since the massive earthquake and tsunami rocked Japan, and Pastor Ferguson still can hardly believe the sight.
“Even though I had seen pictures of the initial destruction of the tsunami, I was unprepared for the magnitude of how many towns and cities had been affected by the disaster,” he said. “What was most startling was seeing town after town simply left with nothing but leveled foundations of buildings destroyed by the 50-foot wall of water that inundated the area that March afternoon. While the mass of rubble has been cleaned up, little has been done to re-build in areas impacted by the tsunami.”
While the relief efforts have been successful in bringing some sense of order to life, government officials remain uncertain how to proceed.
“Apparently some people want to rebuild where they once lived and worked, but the cost of providing the necessary seawalls or other protective barriers are prohibitive. Some people simply don’t believe another tsunami of this magnitude will happen for hundreds of years and are willing to move back without any precautions taken. Some, on the other hand, have moved well inland, or even to other parts of the country to avoid ever being in such imminent danger again,” Ferguson said.
“I think for many of those who survived the disaster, there remains memories which will haunt them for the rest of the lives,” he added.
The Beaverton missionaries also hosted an outreach rally to the local community, shared the gospel, ministered to youth groups and encouraged the believers in their faith.
Beaverton Christian Church has sent a children’s ministry team to the Sayama church the past 11 years to offer an English-speaking children’s program with fast-paced action music, crafts, snacks, games and Bible stories.
“We have established a strong relationship with the church, encouraging them and partnering in serving their community,” said Struckmeier. “The program appeals to the Japanese community to hear native speakers of English. The church families participate in all aspects of the program, establishing relationships with the families that attend.”
According to Ferguson, there are more than 127 million people living in Japan. The two major religions there are Shinto and Buddhism.
“While Japan is a very advanced nation in many ways, it is a spiritual needy country. We believe now is the time for the Gospel to be declared in that nation. As the Lord continues to lead us, we will be taking other trips to reach the Japanese people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”