After Deadly Flooding in Japan, Response Team Helps Churches Mobilize Volunteers

July 30, 2018 • Japan

Samaritan's Purse staff members are bolstering Japanese churches and Christian organizations as they bring relief in the wake of terrible floods.

Samaritan’s Purse has a disaster assistance response team (DART) in western Japan responding to the deadly floods. We are coming alongside local churches to help them as they assist hurting homeowners.

Several of our staff have long-term experience in Japan, working with Samaritan’s Purse since the Asian nation was devastated by a terrible earthquake and resulting tsunami in 2011.

Some of the Samaritan's Purse team with homeowner Yumiko Hironishi.

Some of the Samaritan’s Purse team stand with homeowner Rumiko Hironishi (center). Volunteers from the Christ Church Kure Volunteer Center helped mud-out one room on her first floor.

Our DART is coordinating with Japanese churches and Christian organizations during this response. We will assist them as they mobilize and coordinate volunteers who will share the love of Jesus Christ while helping people clean up and move back home.

In Hiroshima Prefecture, the DART is working with the Christ Church Kure Volunteer Center, encouraging churches to recruit volunteers to help clear out flooded homes and clean up debris. The work has started, with volunteers fanning out across the prefecture, showing and sharing the compassion of Jesus Christ with affected homeowners. They have already completed a number of mud-outs. Volunteers will continue to work for weeks to come.

We’re doing similar work in Okayama Prefecture, which is just north of Hiroshima. This area was especially hit hard by massive flooding. We will concentrate a good deal of time in the Mabi neighborhood, where 70 percent of the some 11,000 damaged households are located. We are providing equipment, tools, and other materials to the disaster relief networks so that volunteers can complete mud-outs and clean up—not only for homeowners but also at a local children’s center.

In Okayama, local pastors are coming together for a weekly prayer meeting on Tuesday nights, which Samaritan’s Purse staff have joined. Among other things, they are praying for the establishment of a permanent church presence in Mabi.

This July 20 photo shows destruction along the Odagawa River in Okayama Prefecture.

This July 20 photo shows destruction along the Odagawa River in Okayama Prefecture.

Team leader Matt Swenson notes that churches are “incredibly thankful” for the presence of Samaritan’s Purse. “They’re very positive that we’re here,” he said.

In early July, remnants of Typhoon Prapiroon combined with seasonal rainy weather to produce a record-setting deluge. Floods triggered landslides, killing more than 200 people. Homes and businesses were damaged, destroyed, or swept away. Thousands of homeowners in Hiroshima, Okayama, and Ehime Prefectures have been displaced to community centers and gymnasiums.

Prolonged blazing heat—topping 100 degrees—is now the biggest challenge for the ongoing recovery efforts. Temperature records are falling and dozens have died. Volunteers must limit their work to avoid exhaustion or even more serious health issues.

“As we’ve visited and talked with people, they don’t feel helpless; and yet while they may feel anxious, they’re hopeful,” says one of our staff members. “They just want to get back home.”

Both Samaritan’s Purse President Franklin Graham and his oldest son, Will Graham, have held evangelistic outreaches in Japan since 2011, and many volunteers from those events are heading toward the flood-affected areas to help families recover.

Please pray for our DART members as they encourage and strengthen Japanese churches—most of them small congregations. Pray that many homeowners will be saved as churches mobilize their members to serve in Jesus’ Name and present the Gospel.

Note: This story was originally published on July 20 and has been updated through July 30. The video was added Aug. 1.