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September 03, 2011

Japan: Blessings From the Local Church

The Big Palette evacuee center is just ten minutes from Grace Garden Chapel, a local Assemblies of God church led by Pastors Yoshio and Toyomi Sanga. When Toyomi visited the center, she was struck with one question: “Where are the children?”

  • Local Church Steps Up

    Toyomi Sanga (right) from Grace Garden Chapel ministered to those people living in the Big Palette Evacuation Center, located just ten minutes from the church.

  • Helping With Necessities

    People at the evacuation center needed everything from basic supplies to appliances for temporary housing once they moved out of the center.

In the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami disaster on March 11, 2011, a permanent road to recovery was formed with the help of caring organizations and passionate young Japanese leaders. Part Five of our story details how one local church is helping those in need.

The Big Palette evacuee center is just ten minutes from Grace Garden Chapel, a local Assemblies of God church led by Pastors Yoshio and Toyomi Sanga. When Toyomi visited the center, she was struck with one question: “Where are the children?” Trying to inquire about how the children’s needs were being met, she was quickly brushed aside and ignored. Finally, she stepped outside of the center and prayed a simple prayer that God would lead her to someone who could help her. She walked back inside and approached a worker who led her to a designated children’s room called the Children’s Corner where there were about ten young kids playing with two high school aged kids. No one was responsible for arranging activities for these children. Toyomi knew that she could take this need back to her church, and that they could do something to help.

The youth of the church responded to the need and began making daily trips to the Children’s Corner in the evacuee center. Day one began with ten chil­dren, and by the fourth day, the number had grown to more than 30 kids. A look of relief was seen on the faces of the children’s parents, who would hang out in the room or look over the balcony down onto the children, as they watched their children laughing, singing, and playing.

Toyomi, trying to discern new ways to help the evacuees, would strike up conversations with strang­ers in an effort to see what else could be done. While walking through the complex one day, she offered to hold a baby so the mother could have a break. The mother began to cry and tell about how her arms had not had a break for two weeks, since the earth­quake. Not only was she working through the stress of raising her child in an evacuee center, but her hus­band had just received a letter notifying him that he was fired from his job. This couple was completely at the end of their rope, not knowing how they would provide for a move to any type of temporary housing outside of the center.

After that conversation, Toyomi began to inves­tigate if people had help in prepartion to leave the evacuee center. She found out that they were not allowed to take anything with them that was given to them while staying at the complex. She realized that people would not be able to set up a home in temporary housing without the basic appliances and supplies unless someone helped them acquire these things.

With money donated to Grace Garden Chapel from another Japanese church, Toyomi offered this family the basic supplies and appliances that they would need to get set up in a temporary home. This was the beginning of a program created through a partnership with CRASH and Grace Garden Chapel to supply families with home supplies as they transi­tion from the evacuation centers. This program has expanded to many families, and Grace Community Service (GCS), a service-oriented branch of Grace Garden Chapel, uses this opportunity to not only meet the needs of those in their community, but also to build a one-on-one relationship with families receiving the assistance. GCS created two types of kits to provide to families. The "Basic Life Needs" kit provides up to $615 (US) of everyday kitch­enware and bathroom necessities items. The Home Starter Kit provides up to $2,500 (US) of major appliances, tables, and even bicycles.

Since starting this program, Toyomi has had the opportunity to speak with many city officials, in­cluding mayors, about how the Life Starter Kit pro­gram can benefit the people in the Koriyama city area who need to transition to temporary housing. She never dreamed that God would take a simple desire to help people and open such a large door to minister to those in need.

-Written by Robert Johnson
-Photography by Robert Johnson

[Originally published in TEAMHorizons, Septermber 2011]

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