by Deacon Steve Lengkeek, OPC Short-Term Missions Disaster Response team leader (November 2012)
With the close of the 4th week of the OPC Ishinomaki, Japan Project, Team #2 is now traveling home to those loved ones they cherish the most in this life. The team left Narita, Japan on Friday morning as Tim and John boarded a plane to Chicago; at the same time Dave and Steve boarded their plane for Dulles, Brian has now boarded a plane for San Francisco and Derek will be heading back to New Zealand later in the day. We left Jeff and Daniel at the Sendai airport as they intend to spend several days touring the country of Japan. Jimmy will remain in Japan and will be the transition man from Team #2 to Team #3. He will be quite busy waiting for Team #3 as he helps the staff at the Nozomi Center provide a Thanksgiving dinner to the local residents and conduct a bazaar to benefit those in the community. We are so thankful for our very good friends and brothers/sisters in the Lord, Cal and Edie Cummings, Elder Kasua Sasaki and his wife Jinko, and friend Mr. Hoshi for coming to the airport to bid us farewell. We are thankful for Cal, his devotions and his tender heart as he gave thanks to our Lord for our safety, for the accomplishments that the Lord allowed us, and for the reunion with our relatives. We joyfully sang ‘To God be the Glory’ in our farewell as we then thrust ourselves into the hectic activities of passing security and boarding our planes.
Now as we travel east watching the hours of November 16th fade, we are able to look out the window of the airplane thousands of feet above the northern Pacific Ocean and view the sun setting amongst the clouds. As one breathes in this beauty of light and darkness, clouds and voids, and the water somewhere below, one cannot help be reminded of God’s great and awesome creation. God is so great!! One can only feel so small, so insignificant in this vast expanse of time and space. Yet those of us on Team #2 have felt that the Lord has indeed deemed it His will for us to spend 14, 24, or 28 days away from our loved ones to help a community of believers reconstruct a physical building to serve as a church where God’s word can be proclaimed and His children brought to a knowledge of saving faith. We know full well that all of this has been and will be by God’s Infinite grace in the lives of His children in Ishinomaki, Japan. We pray and wish the best for the progress of Team #3 as they too undergo the challenges of demonstrating their love for Christ as they build their own relationships, perform their tasks of construction, and witness to the neighborhood as well as to our brothers and sisters in Japan.
Team #2 rose to the occasion and met the challenges of construction manager John Voss. The team was able to complete the installation of all the exterior siding and trim even with several rainy days. This task took the better part of 6 days to complete and was quite a challenge to all. Even with the gray primed surface, the building looks wonderful. We hope that the Lord provides a few mild days so that a white coat of paint can be applied to the exterior and then a brown coat of paint to the trim and battens. It certainly will be a bright spot in that community and the team looks forward to seeing pictures. On the interior the team was able to finish all the sub flooring; complete all rough carpentry work including making the necessary preparations for 3 pocket doors and enlarging the common bathroom; complete the installation of insulation in all the exterior walls and ceilings; and making ever attempt to organize the materials and tools for team #3. There was even some drywall installed. 95% of all the electrical work was completed. We were expecting the trash folks to visit the job site on Friday morning, November 16th removing all the construction waste. If this happened, it will be a nice gift to the neighborhood and to Team #3.
This past week has passed very quickly, not only because of the demands of the job, but because we were able to spend time off the job as a team. On Tuesday night the team had a delightful meal at the Hummingbird Hut in Ishinomaki. We had pizza and pasta, a wonderful treat after much rice. Then on Wednesday the Sendai church members again provided us with a wonderful meal. Unlike before, they sat and ate with us. Elder Kanemitsu Sasaki and his wife Kyoko, (our good friends) Mitsunobu Hoshi and Mayumi Endo, and Pastor Akira Tateishi of the East Sendai Church provided us with good fellowship. Noriko Lauer interviewed each of us and then translated into Japanese and English. On Thursday the team worked one half day. We returned to the Sakura House for lunch, showers, and packing. We then drove into Sendai to browse the mall, do some shopping, people watching, and then a delicious Japanese meal at a fine restaurant in the Mall. Cal, Edie, Elder Kasua Saski joined us. Later, construction consultant Phub Tenzin joined us. From Sendai, we journeyed to the Nozomi Center to spend the night. We were blessed with Yui’s hospitality both in the evening and morning. She is such a joy and it is only the Lord that can place a Japanese student from Hope College, (Michigan) in the Nozomi (Hope) center in Yamamoto, Japan. The team will not forget the wonderful acts of kindness, joy, and concern demonstrated to and for us by Noriko and Yui.
God has been very good to Team #2. He has blessed us in so many ways and with many wonderful memories. He has kept us safe and returned us home safely. We have faced the challenges of moving batteries and drills through security. We have managed to keep the weight of our luggage within the minimum. We have also managed for a week to use a semi dysfunctional van. The plastic tape over the passenger’s window has held up well even in the rain, and the Japanese duck tape has securely held the passenger door firmly closed. Climbing into the passenger seat from the rear compartment was getting old, but it sure beats walking. The other calamity we experienced was on the final day we lost our directional signals. We had to do a considerable amount of traveling without them however at times we were able to rely on Brian standing up through the sun roof sending signals to vehicles that were following. It was especially notable to have Edie Cummings drive this dysfunctional van downtown Sendai relying on Brian Murphy’s vision from above the van. Fortunately, even during rush hour, no Japanese police observed these American tactics.
Team #2 is thankful to God for his graciousness in our journey. The Lord continues to weave each of our own personal stories for His own purposes here on this earth. We thank our loved ones who allowed us to participate in this effort, for their prayers as well as God’s loving care for them in our absence. We thank our old and new friends in Japan and pray that the Lord will work mighty things through their efforts and prayers. May they not only be God’s voice in this hurting culture, but His hands and feet helping those who experience the affects of the Tsunami 3-11-11. We leave Japan knowing that it has been our joy and our privilege to be those hands and feet. We now rest knowing the truth as it is written in Ecclesiastes 3:22 “So I saw that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for that is his lot. Who can bring him to see what will be after him.”