"Fusion of Projects"
Tohoku Help with the support of everyone’s prayers has been able to successfully implement a number of projects, many of which are still ongoing.
Originally Tohoku Help was founded to implement the “Grand House Project”. This project was established with a focus on providing support bases within temporary housing communities for the purpose of collecting information upon which the launching of new and sustainable projects would be based.
We achieved our goal of establishing these bases within all targeted temporary housing communities in September last year. Since then, at the same time as providing ongoing support to the communities in which they were established, Tohoku Help has been constantly asking itself “What are the true needs of these people?”
Support is not provided for the benefit of “Those persons who provide that support” – While this would appear to be an obvious proposition, in actuality it is a far more difficult issue. Every supporting individual, group or organization has their own “Individual philosophy” on what constitutes sustainable support.
Without such an “Individual philosophy” any support however well intentioned may be misguided. If any “Individual philosophy” does not embrace the true needs and desires of those receiving support, it may be seen as “Intrusive, aggressive and unneeded.” Regrettably this type of friction between the support groups and recipients has on occasion been observed.
Accordingly Tohoku Help decided to place the highest priority on listening to the opinions, concerns and issues raised by those in the disaster affected communities, and committed itself to the challenge of satisfying the true needs and desires of those affected by these disasters. Although some may say that a particular “Project is a dream, impossible or too large,” we are firmly committed to continuing to promote and implement all such projects and believe in the power of prayer to make these possible.
Tohoku Help has already commenced three major projects as outlined below.
(1) The Centers to Measure Radiation Levels in Foodstuffs
This project is one that we as Christians must undertake. It is not intended as a platform for “Anti-Nuclear Protest” but rather is committed to “Sharing in and Alleviating Uncertainty”, by providing support to those persons worried about the effects of radioactive fallout and seeks to ease their pain and suffering through our thoughts and prayers. In tangible terms Tohoku Help decided to set up radioactivity measuring centers. Having received permission to work in concert with the members of Iwaki Christ Church Association and in close cooperation with NCCJ, the first measurement center was established in Sendai and has commenced trial operations. Presently we are working in close cooperation with the manufacturer of the measurement equipment to increase the accuracy of readings, by each week conducting thorough and repetitive tests on a number of samples. This testing indicates that we are close to the desired accuracy level. A report by the person in charge is due to be released in the near future.
(2) The Non-Japanese Disaster Victims Support Project
This project aims to support all non-Japanese (including those with roots overseas) who are facing difficulties in the disaster affected areas.
Unfortunately it has become apparent that some elements within our society consider there to be “Weaker Ties” between Japanese nationals and non-Japanese residents than those between those of Japanese nationality. Tohoku Help believes that Japan should be a society that embraces all of its residents whether they are born within Japan or come from abroad. However, plainly speaking, a culture of “Weaker Ties” or in other words an “Us or Them” mentality regrettably still exists. This makes it easier to in times of crisis ignore or overlook those persons with who we Japanese consider to have “Weaker Ties.” Tohoku Help is committed to supporting all people regardless of nationality and embracing a philosophy under which all of Japan’s residents are equally and without prejudice considered to have “Equal Ties”. From a purely practical viewpoint a “Japan where non-Japanese residents may live comfortably is also a more comfortable society for Japanese nationals.” Accordingly within the communities affected by these disasters, which are still too many to count, and in line with the above philosophy, Tohoku Help has commenced surveys of those non-Japanese residents to establish their present living and working conditions. With the generous understanding and support from overseas organizations we expect to be able to establish the “Non-Japanese Disaster Victims Support Center” this April.
(3) The “Mental Care” Project
This project, established with the aim of having pastoral leaders provide “Mental Care”, is being conducted in cooperation with Tohoku University. Within the disaster affected areas there is an ongoing and pressing need for “Mental Care.” However at present there are no lay persons able to fulfill the role of “Mental Care” providers. Of course there are a large number of counselors and therapists now working in the disaster affected areas, however these persons are involved in “Medical Treatment.” “Medical Treatment” by its own definition focuses on curing disease and illness. It is an indisputable fact that a large number of people within the disaster affected areas are surrounded by a sense of great “Uncertainty” and overwhelming “Grief.” While “Uncertainty and Grief” in and of themselves is not an illness or disease, without the proper care and support they can result in physiological symptoms or illness such as “Insomnia” and “Depression.” Accordingly it is vital to provide “Mental Care” for “Grief” and “Uncertainty” before they lead to illness. For example in Taiwan there are Buddhist priests who as “Chaplains” in the true sense of its meaning provide “Mental Care.” Similarly in the West there is a group of trained professionals mainly pastors, priests and clergy also known as “Chaplains” who also provide such “Mental Care.” However in Japan, with the exception of those in a few hospices, there are no persons performing this role and of course none operating within the disaster affected communities themselves. What we need to ask ourselves is why this is the case. One possible answer is that within Japan “Religion” is considered to be a private matter whereas “Medical Treatment” is of course seen as a public service to be provided to all. Therefore it is accepted that therapists and counselors from within the medical profession will provide the majority of “Mental Care.” Nevertheless as Christians we believe that despite “Religion” being a private matter it is still able to fulfill a public role in the disaster affected areas. While there is a distinct contrast between the roles that “Religion” and “Medical Treatment” play in the provision of “Mental Care”, we believe that through a synergy between the two that “Mental Care” can be drastically improved. However, regrettably as this concept is yet to be grasped not just within the disaster affected areas themselves but in Japan as a whole, severe shortcomings in the provision of “Mental Care” exist. When it reaches the “Illness stage” medical professionals take care of “Mental Care.” However in the “Pre-illness stage” within the public sector no such care providers exist. Tohoku Help believes that were pastoral leaders able to provide “Mental Care” at the “Pre-illness stage” this would be able to prevent the onset of related physiological symptoms and illness. However at present this care cannot be provided within Japan. The reason being that while “Medical Treatment” is accepted as a public service “Religion” is still perceived to be a personal matter of faith --- With a desire to resolve this issue, since last April discussions involving medical professionals, religious scholars, Buddhists, Christians, Shintoists and those from more recently accepted faiths have been held specifically aimed at identifying and tackling the numerous issues that those living in the disaster affected areas are facing. Based on these discussions it was decided at the end of last year that the planned “Study of Religion in Practice” course that embraces the same philosophy as “Medical Science” in “Medical Treatment” should as a matter of urgency be introduced as a subsidized course at Tohoku University. Tohoku Help is truly grateful to those who have supported this project and appreciates their continued prayers, thoughts and support. With the plan now firmly established, steady progress towards implementation of this project is being made. From a long-term perspective, Tohoku Help believes that the successful implementation of this project will pave the way for ongoing cooperation between medical professionals and pastoral leaders in the provision of “Mental Care”.
Tohoku Help to provide support within the disaster affected areas is committed to the above described “New and Sustainable Projects.” In actuality there are also four more projects under consideration. While I personally recognize that the proposed projects may appear to be overly grandiose or unrealistic, when compared to the sheer size of the disaster affected area, the scale of damage and the number of people affected this support is like a drop in the ocean. It is in times such as these that our faith is called into question and as result we must answer that question.
I would now like to talk about the achievements made last week in which a fusion between three of the above projects was achieved.
Through conducting the “Non-Japanese Disaster Victims Support” surveys, the survey takers had the opportunity to actually meet those in need of support. One of their major concerns and request for support was regarding concerns related to internal radiation exposure. Last Tuesday, medical professionals, spiritual care providers, pastors and other clergy, former welfare professionals and experts in the field of radiation and its effects gathered at the office of Tohoku Help to create a comprehensive care strategy. (To protect the privacy of all individuals, Tohoku Help is unable to provide more specific information at this time.)
According to the Holy Scriptures when you stand close to the Holy Spirit this creates a Spiritual flame that cannot be extinguished. We are taught that prayer and a true belief in the Holy Spirit empowers us to overcome any of the limitless number of challenges that now confront us. The Spiritual flame which is found in the power of sincere prayer has the power to melt many things. For example, it is able to melt the barriers that are commonly experienced in our daily lives. It also allows us to melt rigid assumptions concerning what is “Assumed to be impossible.” It is born of and maintained through fervent prayers of gratitude and support. Over the past week I have also come to realize that the Spiritual flame has created a fusion between these separate projects.
In its original Latin meaning “Fusion” is defined as the “Melting into one or joining of various elements through the application of heat or flame.” I believe that now is the time where we will be able to see a real fusion through the Holy Spirit in the disaster affected areas. Through our prayers we have been able to witness truly miraculous events. Almost one year on with the majority of the disaster affected areas being blanketed by record snowfalls, we request everyone’s ongoing support and prayers which is now more than ever required.
(Feb.6, 2012. Naoya Kawakami)
“Mental Care / Spiritual Support”
Tohoku Help since its establishment has had as its primary ambition to at the very least provide care to those affected by these disasters.
Tohoku Help was established on March 18 last year being just seven days after the earthquake struck. Initially we were holding weekly “General Meetings.” At the second of these on March 25, it was proposed and agreed that Tohoku Help should start tackling its first major project.
Since its establishment Tohoku Help has been directly involved in the distribution of goods and supplies to the disaster affected communities. Through the Church working together with Temples and local welfare commissioners, we made every effort to provide truly needed supplies to those communities in need.
One week after we commenced these activities, at the meeting held on March 25, many attendees gave reports on the help able to be provided to “the survivors” of these disasters. While all of these reports brought us joy and lifted our spirits, it was also pointed out that there was a lack of care for and proper respect being paid to “the deceased.”
The tsunami washed away everything in its path without regard for human life resulting in many missing or dead. On March 18 in the tsunami affected areas, there were still an uncountable number of bodies out in the open or buried beneath the mud and debris that had yet to be properly cared for.
As a Christian group we only had in mind one basic philosophy which would guide our future activities. This was to place a priority on providing care to “Each and every person who has lost their voice.”
This applied most to those unfortunate souls who perished in these disasters and will “Never speak again.”
This point was raised at the General Meeting held on March 25 and resulted in a call to action to Tohoku Help. As a result we decided to provide “Care for those who passed” and our administrative office immediately began to implement concrete measures to care for and respect the deceased.
This resulted in two positive outcomes.
The first was to provide support for the holding of funeral services as described in detail on Tohoku Help’s website.
Secondly was the establishment of the “Counseling Room”. Through the participation of Tohoku Help, as a listening focused project supported by persons of all religions and faiths we launched our own radio program, telephone counseling service, and continues to host community café events. This project still continues to date. (For details, search “Sendai” and “Counseling Room”. This site includes recordings of past radio broadcasts as well as information on past, present and future activities.)
Presently within the disaster affected areas a pressing major issue is the provision of “Mental Care” and “Spiritual Support.” Although soon it will be one year since the disasters, the passing of time has only exacerbated the need for mental care and support. Tohoku Help is committed to facing this challenge head on.
At this time it is important to recognize the links between “Material” and “Mental” support. Providing “Items from the heart” is often the first step to “Mental Care.”
As an example of the above I would now like to talk about one of the support activities that Tohoku Help was fortunate enough to participate in. This was the “New Years Deluxe Boxed Meal Provision” project.
New Year Deluxe Boxed Meal (Makunouchi Bento) Home-Delivery
On January 3, with the support of “Wakabayashi Help” and their volunteers at three temporary housing communities, including the “Higashi-dori” temporary housing community, we were able to deliver free “Makunouchi Bento” to those living in these communities.
This was a project planned by the Representative of Tohoku Help, Takashi Yoshida (The Reformed Church in Japan, Sendai Church, Pastor). As Tohoku Help considered “How it could help in even the smallest way those displaced by these disasters who were struggling to maintain a normal life?” together with Mr. Kurosu, the director of Wakabayashi Help and in cooperation with Plenus Co., Ltd. (Hotto Motto) a subsidized “Obento” boxed meal service was launched last October.
For Japanese the New Year’s meal is similar to a western family’s Christmas dinner. Tohoku Help was happy to be able to provide a deluxe boxed meal with a variety of traditional dishes that provided at least a little bit of cheer during the holiday season.
We selected the deluxe boxed meal with a retail price of 680 yen, and ordered 147. Those delivered included a New Years Greeting from “Everyone from The Sendai Christian Alliance Disaster Relief Network (Tohoku Help)”. In this way Tohoku Help was able to establish contact with the senior citizens living alone in the “Higashi-dori” and, “Shichigo Chuo Koen” temporary housing communities as well as the “JR Apartment Complex”. Many of those senior citizens rely on meal delivery services. Tohoku Help would like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to all those who delivered these New Year meals to the senior citizens living alone, the community association leaders and security guards working on that day to support those communities.
The community association’s chairperson Mr. Ohashi together with Mr. Kurosu handed out these meals to those living in the Higashi-dori temporary housing community. Mr. Ohashi said “Mr. Kurosu we are truly grateful for all of your efforts since these disasters happened.” Mr. Kurosu replied that “From the time these disasters occurred and we started relief work in the evacuation centers I consider myself to be lucky to have been able to build a number of new friendships based on mutual trust and respect. You are not only a friend but a person who has supported all the activities of Wakabayashi Help.”
While the regular “Subsidized Meal Service” was temporarily suspended over the New Year holiday period, (As previously advised on our website) it recommenced from January 5. This is a subsidized home delivery meal service for those in temporary housing or those otherwise eligible. Tohoku Help provides a subsidy of 100 yen per meal and Hotto Motto has discounted the regular price by 50 yen with the person ordering paying the remainder. Through this system we believe that we will be able to provide this service on a sustainable basis.
From the launch of the “Subsidized Meal Service” the number of persons receiving this service has risen from 200 to 500 persons per month. Tohoku Help hopes that as many as 1,000 persons will be able to enjoy this “Subsidized Meal Service” in the future. Tohoku Help is promoting this service through advertising in Sendai’s local magazine and other media with the hope of providing healthy, balanced and nutritious home-delivered meals to those “Truly in Need”.
In addition Tohoku Help as another part of its temporary housing community support activities, on January 26 at the Wakabayashi Bunka Hall will hold a free seminar “Mental Medicine” at which the curator of Aida Mitsuo Museum will be the keynote speaker. We have received a request from the media to attend this event which is almost fully booked out. Mr. Kurosu from Wakabayashi Help and a member of the board of directors of Tohoku Help also spoke to me and said “There are still many things we need to think about and a lot we want to do.”
I personally together with the Directors of Tohoku Help and all our supporters would like to thank everyone for their ongoing support and prayers.
(Jan. 16, 2012. Toeda, Kawakami)
Date Created November 14, 2011. Author Naoya Kawakami
November 15, 2011. Materials for Directors and Councilors Meeting
"Tohoku HELP" Action Plan
Launched on March 18, the "Sendai Christian Alliance Disaster Relief Network ("Tohoku HELP")", in October established the incorporated foundation "Tohoku Diakonia ("Tohoku Help Administrative Office")" for the purposes of strengthening administrative functionality and considering plans for future activities. The proposed plans and current activities are as outlined below.
０．Activities to Strengthen Office Functionality and Support Temporary Housing CommunitiesTohoku HELP has placed a priority on strengthening the functionality of the Tohoku HELP Administrative Office and implementing activities to support the temporary housing communities. In cooperation with the NGO "Wakabayashi Help", Tohoku HELP is undertaking the following activities to support the temporary housing communities.
Based upon the experience gained from the abovementioned support activities, the Tohoku HELP Administrative Office in real time is able to clearly identify the present needs of those affected by the disaster. Given the experience gained by Tohoku HELP as a result of the above activities TH has proposed the seven projects as outlined below.
１． Senior CitizensInitially those living evacuations centers were moved as a group to the same temporary housing complexes. However since that time as many of the younger people have subsequently moved to private housing, there is a high concentration of senior citizens living in temporary housing complexes. To ensure that the residents of the temporary housing complexes, particularly focusing on the senior citizens, are able to rebuild their communities, Tohoku HELP envisages a step-by-step plan as outlined below.
（０） Presently the local communities are discussing the possibility of relocating to a new neighborhood based upon a land swap agreement for their existing land. Tohoku HELP intends to keep a close watch on the progress of these discussions.
（１） In the event that it is decided to relocate to a new neighborhood, Tohoku HELP in discussions with those concerned will construct "Tsunagari Centers" to provide services related to elderly care, home nursing care and after-school day care.
（２） These centers will be staffed by volunteers sourced under the government's social security system and other NGOs to provide services to all those affected by the disaster.
（３） Through the above activities, Tohoku HELP together with the involved local communities will create a "New Public Welfare" model which it is hoped can be expanded into other disaster affected areas.
Presently while (0) above is still being considered by those concerned. Coordination activities towards step (1) above have already started.
２． ChildrenThere are many parents in the disaster areas raising children who have lost their jobs, houses, or both on March 11. In the future some of these parents will face many challenges concerning the raising of their children. Tohoku HELP believes that the responsibility for raising children rests not just on the shoulders of the parents but on society as a whole, and accordingly "Social Nurturing" in cooperation with parents is vital. Tohoku HELP hopes to act to support this need. Tohoku HELP hopes as part of the "Family Home Project" initiated by the Japanese and Miyagi Prefectural governments to: 1) purchase a home able to accommodate six foster children; and 2) hire a foster care professional to look after those children whose parents are unable to presently provide care for their family due to the disaster.
Presently in addition to considering the abovementioned project, Tohoku HELP is also examining the possibility of social nurturing through other avenues.
３． RadiationTohoku HELP is examining two projects related to the possibility of exposure to radiation.
Tohoku HELP through this project hopes only to allay fears concerning radiation levels and does not wish to further polarize the community. Accordingly as a general rule, data concerning the measured radiation levels will only be disclosed to those persons who requested the measurements and the groups providing financial support for this project. Further in addition to the measurement technicians, counselors will be on hand to provide mental well-being care and those activities will be supervised by the local pastors.
Under this project the maximum number of people able to submit samples for testing will be approximately 5,000 per month.
At present the funding proposal has been submitted to NCCJ and based upon the outcome of their deliberations will be submitted to the concerned overseas organizations.
At the "Great East Japan Earthquake Church Network Conference" to be held in the next few days, Tohoku HELP plans to discuss this project with other church networks.
４． Disabled PersonsIn cooperation with all churches in Sendai, Tohoku HELP will establish a new NPO for the purpose of opening and operating convenience stores to support those people in disaster affected areas particularly in the areas where it is difficult to purchase food and other daily necessities. These stores will mainly be staffed by those with disabilities.
Presently Tohoku HELP is putting in place a framework under which the church is the controlling body of this NPO. Tohoku HELP is seeking the cooperation of the private sector regarding the establishment of these convenience stores.
５． Non-Japanese ResidentsWithin the disaster affected areas a large number of non-Japanese residents are women who moved to Japan as spouses of Japanese men (Non-Japanese wives). As a result it is difficult to grasp the present condition of many non-Japanese disaster victims. To assist in this Tohoku HELP will: 1) employ survey takers; 2) take surveys as to their present conditions and; 3) in collaboration with universities perform an academic study of survey results to achieve the purposes stated below. Tohoku HELP is on standby to provide concrete support as required.
It is believed that this survey into the present condition of non-Japanese disaster victims will also uncover many issues faced by all those persons, be they Japanese or non-Japanese, affected by the disaster. Accordingly this project will be a valuable tool for making proposals to draw up support policies for all those affected by the disaster.
Further Tohoku HELP through setting up a "Multi-Cultural Center" focused upon supporting non-Japanese disaster victims will establish a social network that cuts through ethnic and national barriers.
At present the funding application for this project has been submitted and given the outcome of deliberations by the NCCJ, funding applications are being made to the concerned Church organizations overseas.
６． Spiritual CareMany of those directly affected by the disaster have suffered deep mental wounds. While in Japan a great amount of attention has been paid to "Mental Care" in psychological and analytical terms little or no government attention has been given to the provision of "Spiritual Care" by Chaplains. One of the major mental health issues arising from this disaster is the "Constant and overwhelming grief". This is a condition unable to be treated by medical practitioners. Tohoku HELP, not just in cooperation with the ministers of the Christian church, but together with the pastors of all faiths, will establish a system to officially authorize pastors or leaders of all faiths to provide spiritual care in their local communities. To achieve this, Tohoku HELP will endow a university chair and establish a Chaplain fostering system such as those established in the U.S. and other countries.
Presently Tohoku HELP is preparing a funding application for Chaplain fostering as described above which is a pillar of this project and is acting as quickly as possible to identify universities where lectures can be held. Shortly after this disaster struck Tohoku HELP, in collaboration with groups from other faiths, began administering spiritual care which included hosting a radio program and opening a telephone counseling service.
７． Town RevitalizationTohoku HELP is supporting town revitalization through utilizing the latent cultural assets that exist within many communities affected by the disaster. An example is the "Korean Town" concept. In some of the communities in Miyagi devastated by the tsunami many residents have Korean roots. These residents have not to date publicly stated their ethnicity. However post March 11, it is believed they can play a vital role in community recovery. Accordingly by establishing "Korean Towns" in disaster affected areas in cooperation with the Church network and by inviting "Korean Celebrities", town developments similar to Ikuno-ku, Osaka are envisaged.
Presently Tohoku HELP has obtained cooperation for this project in one area (Shiogama city), appointed an administrative manager and commenced a feasibility study.
March 4th 2012 Tohoku HELP Secretariat ReportTouhoku HELP Secretary General: Naoya Kawakami
Praise the Lord.
As a report from Secretariat we have noted the following in each category.
“Circumstances/Purpose/Formation of Organization”, “Relief for Temporary Housing”,
“Foreigner Disaster Victim Relief”, “Radiation Related Relief” “Mind Care/Spiritual Care”,
“Agenda”. Since the details of report is categorized and described in the homepage (touhokuhelp.com),
only the outline would be briefly described here.
１．“Circumstances/Purpose/Formation of Organization”
“Touhoku HELP” was embarked on March 18th 2011. Its purpose is “Fund raising and accumulating information/organizing/delivering”.
Two Pastors, Kawakami (United Church of Christ in Japan) and Abe (United Church of Nazarene in Japan) undertook the task of secretariat.
The work expanded through many volunteers, and above all with the powerful help of YWCA. Then, the organization received request to establish
a full-fledged secretariat from overseas. Therefore in prayer, we accepted the request.
The secretariat became an incorporated foundation, and became the practical operation executing organization for “Touhoku HELP’s” each project.
Furthermore, “Touhoku HELP Secretariat” decided to undertake “Grand House Project”.
This project executes work in three stages. First of all, it comprehends the need through the relief of temporary housing.
Second, it organizes the needs, make project plans, and applies for funds overseas. Third, it executes project with the fund received from overseas.
“Relief for Temporary Housing” includes aiding the work of other groups other than Touhoku HELP.
In this way, information was obtained from places wide and far.
“Tohoku HELP Secretariat” acquired 12 full time office staff. Duties were divided concisely to each one, and the work is cooperatively handled.
These office staff executes project under the responsibility of “Touhoku HELP’s” director. “Touhoku HELP’s” director bears responsibility of
“Sendai Christian Alliance Facilitate Association”, and “Sendai Christian Alliance Facilitate Association” bears responsibility of
the “Entire Association”, which is the organizational structure.
2. “Relief for Temporary Housing”
For relief on temporary housing, district welfare commissioner Senji Kurosu who is also one of the “Touhoku HELP” director organized
a new NGO called “The Wakabayashi Help”. This “Wakabayashi Help” rented one house out of the temporary housing, and is performing
three relief work project as follows:
1. “Education Relief” by organizing university student volunteer.
2. Providing food, “A low price boxed lunch” by cooperating with the lunch supplier.
3. Other volunteer coordination.
Besides this “Wakabayashi Help” relief project, aid temporary housing supporter who executes relief work in various locations.
Insomuch that more than 1000 temporary housing have received relief.
3. “Foreigner Disaster Victim Relief”
“Touhoku HELP” have joint activities with “National Christian Liaison Committee embarking on Foreigner Registration Statutory Matters”
and “NPO Help to Smile (Human Rights of Foreigner and Issue Relief Organization by Miyagi Prefecture Residence)” and have started
“Foreigner Disaster Victim Relief” from September.
In the disaster stricken area, those people who have been the “Socially disadvantaged people” from before the disaster are reduced to
extremity first. Many “Foreigners”, especially in Japan, are “Socially disadvantaged people”. In the disaster stricken area, their difficulty is
burned to stubble, by not being reported, which is a very serious issue. Their conditions were investigated from September to March, and from December,
by receiving the fund from overseas, we have come to the stage in which we were able to start “Foreigner Disaster Victim Relief Center”.
4. “Radiation Related Relief”
There are two projects in “Tohoku HELP”. “Sister Church Project” and the “Donation Money Distribution Committee”.
Both are constructed by church network, and is a project which supports the conduct of churches. Within the limit of this project,
care for radiation injuries has been commenced. Specifically written below.
1. To start a “Food Stuff Radiation Measurement Station” in Iwaki City and Sendai City for those people who feel insecure of radiation.
2. Connecting the people who are in need of Evacuation/Migration/Short term medical treatment, and of the Institution/Churches/Organization,
who wish to receive these people. These two projects are expanding.
“Food Radiation Level Measurement Station” now utilizes three Measuring Machines and is carrying on test operations.
1. Measurement value analysis technique has already been verified.
2. Framework for “Spiritual Care” has been made.
3. Cooperation with other private measurement station has been pretty much perfected.
Receiving of general applicant was commenced during March, and is scheduled for actual operation.
“Evacuation/Migration/Short term medical treatment”, will be jointly aided by Aomori prefecture church network and Fukushima prefecture church network.
Obtaining full time worker now, final adjustment is being made. This is scheduled to start from April.
5. “Mind Care/ Spiritual Care”
Extraordinarily deep sorrow and insecurity is covering the whole disaster stricken area. Punctured economy is cornering the destitute.
Despair is silently and steadily spreading.
For those in despair through deep sorrow and insecurity, care is started by drawing near to their aching “Mind” and “Spirit”. For this “Tohoku HELP”
work together with Miyagi Prefecture Religious Corporation Liaison Committee, and Sendai Buddhist Society, by starting a “Counseling room for the heart”
through various religious cooperating group. This group has a medical affiliate as its general manager (representative), and has a religious scholar for
executive director, and Kawakami, as a religionist worker is an assistant general manager (vice president).
Having confidence and pride in a religion called Christianity, but also respecting other religion, this results in the gaining of respect from other religion,
and by showing understanding and working together, give hope and a promise of a new world to the disaster victim. This kind of work is expanding. Specifically,
by radio program (Able to hear it on the internet by searching two words “Counseling room for the heart” and “Sendai”) and dispatch listening cafe, and
through telephone, counseling is given by a Pastor, A Monk, and a Shinto Priest.
This kind of cooperation should be sustained, and through the cooperation of medical affiliate and government official, “Religious practice science”
has been decided to be established in Tohoku University’s contribution course, in order to create a framework for the religionist’s disaster relief work.
In the first year, verification will be done on previous chaplain training course, and in the second year, training course in order for religionists to work
together with medical affiliate and government official will be established, then the actual training starts. This arrangement is made in order to make
it possible for pastors and monks to receive accreditation to work for public welfare, after practicing in a temporary housing,
Foodstuff Radiation Measurement Station, or home hospice clinic.
“Touhoku HELP” is a Relief Group stationed in Sendai. At the same time, “Touhoku HELP” is a Relief Group supported and sustained by global network.
At the crossing point of these two matters, we think that there are some things which we can do, and which we should do. What is required now is “to think
globally, and in order to perform the task, stand firm in each places on our feet”.
On the oneness of Evangelical/NCC/Catholic/Pentecostal Churches, our conduct exists. This oneness leans on one thing, the power of prayer. “Touhoku Help”
which bears responsibility of “Sendai Christian Alliance Facilitate Association” is an organization organized to be one through prayer.
Therefore, our agenda is for everyone to pray. To be protected from various temptations, prayer is a must. For everyone to pray, release of information is
a necessity. Organizing information and releasing them is currently our agenda. We thank God that for this reason, he has provided us with this opportunity
of Easter. We again implore you to please pray for us. May the churches in the disaster stricken area, testify the Love of God to the ends of the earth.
We also pray for the overflowing blessings of our resurrected Lord on all of you.
A year in retrospect (Tohoku Help / Interview)
I had an interview as a secretary general, a while back.
The word interview originates from two words "inter & view". Just as it is, the word means "To enter in and view around". So it means that an interviewer is a person "whom we allow to enter in, and to view (look at) our work".
The interviewer this time was professor Takahashi who is a researcher of theology and Jung psychology.
This interview was the cause for his visiting of disaster afflicted area for the first time. He kept his eyes on the disaster afflicted area with seriousness and paid deep attention to its current condition. This interview later became the heartfelt article of professor Takahashi, and was published in "73rd International Religion Research Institute Newsletter" from page 14 ~ 19 on January 25th 2012.
Creativity is produced, "when someone else enters in and gives a different point of view". We can only view the world as we ourselves see. We also remember the things we ourselves speak, in a way we want to remember. But those things we say, is remembered in the interviewer minds, seen from a different point of view. This in fact spreads an unexpected world for us, and also helps us to recall the old past.
Thinking of these things, and appreciating those person concerned, who permitted us to quote from the article, I'd like to introduce the interview article below. Also, I appreciate much, of the support we again received from a comment given us from a different point of view.
(April 8th 2012 Easter by Kawakami)
Hearing from religious people
Concerning spiritual care by cooperating with religious people of Tohoku Disaster Relief Work -Tohoku HELP secretary general Rev. Naoya Kawakami-
On January 28th 2012, I spoke with professor Naoya Kawakami, (Senior pastor at the church for Sendai citizen) who works as a secretary director at Sendai Christian Alliance Disaster Relief Network (Informal name: Tohoku HELP), working to aid the disaster victim, on our way to disaster afflicted area in Ishinomaki.
---Please tell us about yourself, how and why did you become a pastor?
Kawakami : I am a so called pastor's kid. My dad was a "super-fundamentalist" who graduated theological school, and who did not accept any culture beside Christianity. So if we had sports day at school on Sundays, he would never let us go saying, "No way, parents have the responsibility of deciding compulsory education". In the Baptist community, where people esteem the will of individuals, it is of no problem. But back then we were in Gunma prefecture, and my teacher then use to hate and pick on me. Removing aside my wish of becoming a theologian, I was conscious that I was a Christian because of all these situations. From when I was a boy, I use to say that I wanted to become a theological scholar (which I don't remember), and my parents had pride on how much I read through the whole Bible. To become a theological scholar, I proceeded to Rikkyo College graduate school, and was assigned the task of administrating of the dormitory in theological college. I was very busy with the task, and my wife seeing the state in which I was, with my research stopped said, "Since you are the one who will rescue Japan, what would become of it if you don't become a theologian?" This is the heartwarming story of my wife. (lol) So from then my wife worked instead of me, and I devoted myself to doctoral thesis.
My wife took exams of becoming a teacher at youth institution of reformatory, and since she was assigned in Sendai, I moved to Sendai with my whole family. We became fond of the "Church for Sendai Citizen" which we happened to visit, and after taking the examination of becoming a pastor, I succeeded as pastor instead of deceased Yoshiaki Toeda.
Kawakami : Yes. I was feeling ill, and was resting at home on the day of the earthquake. I'm a househusband, but my wife had a day off of work, and since my children were home, all the family members were in the house which is quite rare. I felt the quake and woke up to go to where my wife and children was, and knew that the quake had been quite big, because my wife and my children were hiding under the table and was crying. I found shelter with my children in a car, but since my wife is a teacher at youth institution of reformatory, she had to go check them at once. I had a few leisurely days with my children, and my children were happy, because it was fun to bring along food and to share with others for the first three days, but as a pastor I felt ashamed of not being able to do anything at all. My wife was released from her work on the third day, and I was finally able to start working. Since this third day was Sunday, I went to the church and there was an old man there in the church, so we had Sunday service as usual.
We received information about the earthquake from the radio, but the children were afraid listening to NHK, because it kept on broadcasting only about the earthquake. Sendai FM was very good, they were trying their best to broadcast the messages of encouragement sent from all over Japan, and the song they were broadcasting was also great. We had a heart-touching time.
---Please tell us about the work of Disaster Relief Network and the Counseling Room for the heart
Kawakami : Disaster Relief Network (Tohoku HELP) is a detached movement of Sendai Christian Alliance.
Sendai Christian Alliance is a group who has been on the move of adding other pastors to the meetings of pastors in United Church of Christ in Japan since 1973, but on the opportunity of Showa emperor's demise, it started working for public interest, to issue a statement concerning the coronation banquet (a festival to celebrate the succession of an emperor). Disaster Relief Network was established on March 18th, by those who gathered, knowing something should be done to aid those who were afflicted by the earthquake. The content of this activity was to become the receiver of raised funds and volunteers sent to us from all over the world, and to release the information and the funds to those in need. On the next Thursday, there was a proposal from those who gathered, that our main objective should be to nestle up to the hearts of those who had become weak and faint-heart. Those people stated that the release of the materials and information sent to us is to aid those who are alive, but the dead who had been buried under the debris were the ones who were the most small and weak, and they wished to at the least cover them with sheets. Another context was of Reverend Tomoshi Okuda of Japan Baptist Convention, who had been working for the aid of homeless people. He had a friend in the cabinet office who worked for the aiding in order to reduce suicide, named Yasuyuki Shimizu. This man Shimizu, gave us the idea that the disaster victim would need plentiful care, in order not to feel guilty of not being able to hold a funeral for their family members, and planning their own suicide to be with those who already perished by this earthquake. He consulted us thinking that the one who were able to take care of the decedent, would be those who are religious.
Since the Sendai Buddhist Federation had already started working on this issue, we joined together with them, but later started a counseling room for the heart together with Sendai City as a project of Liaison Committee which 2075 religious corporation in Sendai out of 2126 (investigated on April 1st 2010) are members, because we were not able to count how many religious group there may be, who could help with this project.
Miyagi Prefecture Religious Corporation Liaison Committee is a group started by prefectual office who took the lead. Its purpose was for the representative of each religion to go to the head temple or office of other religion (even as far Vatican City), to study the method of other religious services. So the foundation for lateral connection had been prepared from before this earthquake.
---How was it, when you first stepped in to the tsunami stricken area?
Kawakami : At first, we weren't able to step in to the tsunami stricken area. When we fist gathered on March 18th, the representatives of each church and International NGO and others had already gathered. So many people had been gathered, as had never been seen in the past since the beginning of Christian Alliance.
We were told that they wanted us to start moving, since the jumbo jet had already taken flight toward us, and that the overland freight had been commenced, and we answered that we would be on the move from next morning. When we reached the place which we were assigned to go, the trailers were already there, and the commodities were in high heaps inside a big warehouse, with volunteers from all over Japan and overseas working hard all over the place.
The thing that was most impressive was of bread. Bread for 1500 mouths twice a day was sent from "International Hunger Countermeasure Organization of Japan". This organization is very talented in making a route to procure commodities. We decided to take the important role in becoming the local agent to unload and distributing the goods, which they feared that it would not be possible for them alone to hand it to those who would be beneficiary. The information was spread to the chairman of neighborhood association, through the colleague of my wife in Youth Institute of Reformatory, and we took the commodities to where they asked us to. Whatever was left was then taken to Rokugo Junior High School. We found a very well formed community in the gym shelter there. They had 1/4 of the gym as a warehouse, where they heaped commodities, and were giving messages to mass media. In doing this, more commodities were sent to this place, and from hence they were transmitting the goods to small shelters all around. And this they were doing by producing time out of their own daily life. Since we notified them that another batch of bread to feed 1500 mouths were to be sent on Tuesday, they made butter using their precious whole day by warming the milk which expired shelf life, in order to consume the left over bread. And this was their enjoyment. The next day, not ship biscuit but soft new bread was delivered to them as promised. They really thanked us saying, "This is the first time we had new soft bread, and this bread not only is today's joy for us, but also had been a thing to be joyful of from the day before. Thank you for keeping the promise." From then on till even now, we still have connection with them.
---When did it turn from the aiding of commodities to the aiding of the heart?
Kawakami : You've got that wrong. Commodities aiding is also the aid for the heart. The fact that they've received the commodities aid, sustains the heart of disaster afflicted people. One or the other appears at the surface, but commodities aid and aid for the heart is actually united. Even though a year has already passed, they have to live and move around. When they feel lonely, they need someone to stay by their side. So for that reason, we move around a lot. And we always hand them a kilogram of rice to use it as a tool for communication. We bring it to them as a small gift, but rice actually is very helpful for them. But they are unable to say, "Please give us some rice". That rice which we bring to them as a gift has many meanings.
"The reason I'm here is to see you, if you're not in need." "I brought something that would be helpful for you." This kind of meaning is hidden in this rice. For the care of their heart, these things are necessary. As a theologian I say, that a human soul is a mixture of spirit and flesh, and since heart is a function for the soul, we need to reach out to the flesh, in order to care for the heart.
Kawakami : I have at many times felt just as you've said. One time has been when I was in a place called Watanoha in Ishinomaki City. Since vast part of Ishonomaki City was stricken by the disaster, there are many insufficient shelter prepared. Many people who had the first floor of their houses washed away come back, and they somehow live in the second floor, and these are the people who do not want to go to the insufficient shelter. These kinds of houses are sensibly "Not a place to live in", so the professional NGO thinks that there is no meaning in aiding them, since they would be held responsible for repairing the houses or to aid the people, who would be kicked out of the area for reconstruction anyway.
But Christians are "fools", so when they find anyone living there, and meet them, they think that this encounter is from God, and consent to their thoughts, (their yearning to keep living there) and they try to serve them. The people who had relations with those living in Watanoha were Christians. They used all the money which was gathered and sent from Tokyo, for the people that were living in Watanoha, and they are unconcerned what might happen later. In this way, Christians exceed the logical computation. But the result ended, with these people allowed to keep living there. Even the government changed their standard saying, if anyone wants to keep on living there, there would be no choice but to leave it up to them.
---Are those who receive aid aware that those were Christians? Kawakami : Yes. They clearly state that they come from a Christian group. This is a distinguishing characteristic of this times relief work. No one tried to hide their identity. On the other hand, they also did not give bread with their right hand, and the Bible with their left hand because of the experience acquired in Hanshin Earthquake, and also they had a long experience, that in Tohoku, Christians do not multiply whatever method Christians may take. There were few people who did not understand these issues, but eventually they stop aiding, because they cannot gain respect from their co-workers, and are also not appreciated by the people who need aid. We have not come to do business, nor have come here thinking of enlarging the member. We have come to help those in want and troubled. I'm sure if Jesus would have been here, he would be here to server them. We felt that these things went well this time.
--How do Christians have service in the disaster stricken area?
Kawakami : In the area where the church had been complete washed away, the people build a cross in the plot, and start service there. Then even though we do not invite any of them, all of the neighbors come, since people of Tohoku have a very deep debt of gratitude. Since not all of them have time to spare, some people go back sooner, but they freely come and go. It is easier for them to come, because there are no walls to keep them out. Some say, "How nice it is to have a service without any walls!" It is foolish to have the wall of church thick and high, as if to say that we only have a God in our bosom. When God takes away the wall, everything belongs to everyone. God is on the side of people who are weak, and to make this again as public goods, I think is one of the achievements this time.
The churches which did not receive damage by the tsunami are split clearly in two. On one side there are splendid churches which climb over and gets across the wall of churches themselves. Even the churches who could not participate in aiding because of the majority being old people, they open their churches to receive volunteers. There are some churches, which fill their churches with the commodities for aid, using their chapel as a warehouse, and have no place to have services on Sunday. They say that it's not a problem, and they can have services somewhere in a cramped place. On the other hand, there are some unfortunate churches, which avert their eyes away from helping them. But what's important is that those churches who are doing their best, should not blame these kinds of churches. In Hanshin earthquake, it was those kinds of things that ruined everything. The church should not blame, but should pray, that those people should have courage to stand up, or if they can do nothing, to tell them that even a little prayer of theirs would help those who work hard. Then those people might brighten up some day and may come to help us. It is okay as it is, but if we become carried away and have displeasure toward them, everyone breaks apart.
---On January 18th 2012, there was an article in Sankei Newspaper, about the disaster afflicted people who were troubled with "seeing ghosts and wraiths", and religious people have been responding to their troubles.
Kawakami : I think the problems in which we should focus from now on is "insecurity". Though "Insecurity" cannot be separated from "distress", distress is about the past, and insecurity is about the future. For distress, medication and psychological function could be used through spiritual care, but for insecurity,
neither one works. There are no medicines to cure insecurity in a person, neither does it vanish because it is shared to others. We think that there is a necessity of other methods for this matter.
This is a problem of cosmology. We need to change their way of seeing the world, of those who feel insecure. "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was dark and void. And God said, "Let there be light!" " might sound like a myth, but when this myth like story is told to those who are as if deported to Babylon, it gives them a new point of view which becomes for them a medical prescription. This is the subject of a religious person, when on phone consultation.
As we feel that our words are insufficient, and start explaining what Christianity is, those who are listening have nothing else to say except "Thank you", because they feel that the world suddenly widened in front of them, and they cannot stop wondering what for and why they were feeling so troubled. The cause of this new insecurity is because of radiation. It is easy to not operate nuclear power station. But to face the insecurity in this modernized world, is a matter of cosmology. The religion which had been accumulated for these 7000 years of human history is finally being put to the test.
---What would you answer to those who say that they see a ghost of the loved ones?
Kawakami : The patriarch of the Anglican-Episcopal Church of Japan gave a sermon at Sendai in June. The beliefs of Christians are now questioned, if they could clearly say "It's okay. Your loved ones are now with God, and in peace", to the bereaved who knew not about church, nor have any Christian friends. The one who's beliefs are questioned is us. Is God really a God of love?
---Did the sermon of yours at church, or how you understand the Bible change after the earthquake?
Kawakami : I learned a theology of deliverance. In the theology of deliverance, we do not read the bible only from Bible text, but from the whole context. As for me, the Bible was read in a completely different way after the earthquake. I wondered why I hadn't noticed some things until now. There is a word called "Cognitive privilege to a person who is oppressed", this is a view that God appears to those who are placed in weakness. These things are written in "Exodus". God is omnipresent, and will stay omnipresent. The Gospel is preached in this way from God, and the Bible exists to resonate it, and when the Bible is read at the disaster stricken area, we start seeing its effectiveness. I never thought I would have this opportunity to do it practically, but as a theologian, I feel that this is a very special thing.
---Did the opportunity increase to talk with people who are Non-Christians?
Kawakami : When we work together with other Buddhist priest in Cafe de Monk20, it is definitely as you say. When those who are afflicted with disaster want to hear a sermon, they also ask me to talk about what I know. Though the content of the sermon be different from theirs, as the Buddhist priest and pastors, each respecting others gives sermon, it has an effect. When religious people listen to what others have to say among themselves, this fact in my perspective this is a gospel to those who are afflicted by disaster.
---May I hear some things concerning cooperation with other countries?
Kawakami : This is the strength of Christianity. We could become family just by proclaiming that we are Christians. For those of other religions, this is not easy. In fact, since Japanese Buddhism is particularly special, it is hard for others to understand them. But Japan's churches have had direct connections with other countries, since their Christian history is very shallow. Our office received 50,000,000 yen support from Germany and Korea, and for "Foreigner Disaster Victim Relief", Switzerland, Australia, and U.S. have collected about 20,000,000 yen. To begin with, Act Alliance held an international conference twice at Soul in April and May for disaster relief. The whole world is aiding Tohoku with a united effort. This is the strength of Christianity. It has been this way from before. We have been aided when Super Typhoon Vera hit Japan in 1959, and also received aid after 1933 Sanriku Earthquake, and when Great Kanto Earthquake brought disaster in 1923. Christians in other countries have been entering in Japan with great force from before. They do not hesitate to fly into Japan.
Some of them believed that Japan was accursed because though they preach Christianity in Japan, the Christian percentage never crossed the 1% wall. As when troubled by these instances, an earthquake hits Japan, and many missionaries again fly in without studying about Japan and with faltering Japanese. Some of them did cause trouble, but we cannot deny the fact that we were helped a lot. Though some did not have their love returned, or often misunderstood, and thought of it as a stalker, there are many who really love Japan. If we take good care of them, I think that Disaster Relief work would be successfully connect with the whole world.
---May I have a word or a message to the religious world, if you have any?
Kawakami : Of course! What I've learned is never to despise the routine work and preterit property. I especially would like to notify those who think that we are just lost in the routine work now. Miyagi Prefecture Religious Corporation Liaison Committee had been despised and was said that it was a place for a gossip meeting over a cup of tea, but we have learned that to have tea together is very important. People from every denomination and sect gather, so it definitely is not a place to decide something. But if we make friends there, quarrel does not occur later. We have been making the basic atmosphere. Sendai Christian Alliance had been holding a prayer meeting 4 times a year for 20~30 years, but didn't do anything else. It did work a little at the time of coronation banquet (a festival to celebrate the succession of an emperor) but later on, they just decided to pray. They were many who were getting bored of it, but we came to know how much this prayer was important. Slow but steady wins the race, and how much valuable is the property handed down to us.
---So you think that the network and organization which had been thought of as a mere shell, which became a matter of formality, was of much use this time?
Kawakami : Though it might seem that these were just a mere empty shell, it had been formed by our progenitor for a reason, and I think that it is the duty of younger generation to investigate and solve the mystery. If these are put in good order, it definitely would come in good use in time of need, as it was this time.
---The last proposal became a very precious one for the International Religion Research Institute.
Thank you for taking time for us today.
(Responsible for wording : Gen Takahashi / Tokyo University Grad School Assistant Master)