Shiogama Trip Report

Thanks for praying for my trip to Shiogama (a small port city by Sendai hit hard by the tsunami.)  My family lived there when I was in elementary school as my dad planted the church that now called and asked for missionary volunteers to come help with relief work.

My brother Bruce flew from the U.S. to join us, (big boost to me) and we accompanied three good missionary friends.   We lived there for the week without running water, bringing all our own food and drinking water and digging a toilet pit. Still, with electricity and gas and a roof over our heads, it could hardly be called roughing it.

We took 3 vans and packed them so full that as we got further north, the damaged roads necessitated our driving slower to keep from bottoming out with our heavy loads. We mainly took Japanese school backpacks (not the light canvas types used in North America but leather ones used specifically for schooling) for the children who had lost everything in the tsunami, and fruit and dry goods for people in shelters.  Gasoline was a challenge and it’s limited availability determined much of what we did.  In the disaster areas  there were long lines; people would put their cars in line overnight, lock them, leave, and then go back in the morning when the gas station was to open.

In Shiogama we worked as teams from the church, going house to house asking if there was heavy work we could assist with. People were very open to the help. You would walk into a house with everything trashed. The water had poured in bringing all sorts of dirt with it, torn things apart and left a huge muddy mess.  Once word got around that we could haul the heavy stuff, we had plenty of work to do. There were heavy pieces (pianos, frigs, washing machines, barber chairs) that were totally useless, water soaked and totally filthy. They needed to be taken out of the houses and shops so people could begin the cleaning and repair process.

One family, after we were done cleaning, asked what group we were with.  When I said “the Shiogama Church”  she said her child had gone to school with the pastor’s son many years ago.  I then was able to tell her that it was that son who was now in charge of the project directing all the volunteers.

We were thankful to also make contact with Deaf tsunami victims living in shelters after losing their houses. Pray for us as we work to learn how we can best use our resources to help them get back on their feet.

Our part was just a piece of a long process. Other volunteers continue what we continued from those before us.  Back in Tokyo at the week’s end,  we went shopping for a generator (unavailable up north, and almost not to be had here either except for God’s putting us in the right place at the right time). Bruce loaded it up along with 400 liters of bottled water and headed back to Shiogama, where he will be for another two weeks.

Thanks so much for praying for us and the Japanese church at this time.

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About Mark and Mary Esther Penner

Mark works as an adviser and resource to a Japanese Sign Language Bible translation project that plays a key role in the worldwide sign language Bible translation movement. Mary Esther founded a non-profit organization that partners with local communities and organizations to collect, refurbish and send wheelchairs throughout Asia.
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