Accelerating Spiritual Renewal and Church Multiplication Movements – John and Elaine Mehn

Archive for the 'Quake Relief' Category

Did the Tsunami Change the Church?

June 2nd, 2014 by John

“How Did the Biggest Disaster in the History of Japan Change the Church?”
Reflecting on my limited observations of one JEA denomination, several local churches, and local churches in the disaster area we know.
1) I don’t think for many churches that have changed at all. Yes, they prayed, gave, even some volunteered but for most nothing has really changed. Not unlike the Kobe quake but maybe more involvement this time.
2) Also some churches did not change but were forced to change by passions, missional nature of some people, and their proximity to the disaster area. Many did not want to be involved but were forced to. Some decided not to engage.
3) Yes, I think many churches have changed who have been engaged. They will never be the same again. Several lessons people have learned.
a. When it comes to disaster relief you cannot do this alone. The enormity of the problems are far beyond the scope of one church or even a group of churches.
b. You must partner with others, churches, parachurch groups, relief agencies. Every partner brings certain gifts, strengths and roles to the relationship.
c. And these partners but be in close proximity to the disaster victims. Many churches were not but they could align with ones that were and be a support.
d. Churches and groups are learning that attraction evangelism is not enough, we must be sending churches. Those that learned those lessons continue to change.

So barriers between churches have come down, barriers between the church and communities have come down as well.

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March 10th, 2014 by John

1. Thank you for your prayers for the CPI Gospel Renewal Seminars with the Bancrofts which just completed. All of them were full of blessings and so much was accomplished in developing systems to help more people (update next month).
2. Vision team from Converge Worldwide churches in the US arrives this week. Pray they may find key Japanese partners to work with.
3. John’s training for small group leaders at the Nerima church ends on March 30th. Pray that many of those trained may lead a small group in the near future.
4. Pray for our entire Japan mission as we prepare for our Spring Field Council April 2-4.

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March 10th, 2014 by John

• Ask God to sustain the over 300,000 who lost their homes and are still living in temporary housing. The Ishinomaki house of prayer is addressing the needs of 40 families. There are many other Christian ministries doing the same.
• With over 20,000 dead or missing there is still a lot of loss and grief. Loved ones, friends, classmates, neighbors. Pray that they may be comforted by the listening ear and words of Christians.
• 86 communities are still rebuilding their lives, families, and neighborhoods. Pray for Christian witness to continue to expand in the months ahead.
• Many churches and agencies have sent missionaries and pastors and Christian workers. Pray for their strength and creativity as they continue ministry.
• Pray for Dean & Linda Bengtson, Mr. Hajime Abe and the Ishinomaki House of Prayer that they may see the church planted in the Shintate and Urayashiki neighborhoods of Ishinomaki.

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Disaster – Three Years After

March 10th, 2014 by John

March 11, 2011 is memorialized all over Japan. The triple disaster of earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear accident are still very fresh in people’s minds. Just last week we received a flyer for a memorial meeting in Machida to remember those who lost so much three years ago. Machida had two deaths due to the earthquake. This month will mark 3 years after the disaster.

Japan Disaster Response – Early on, with the cooperation of North American churches, Converge Worldwide distributed supplies, helped clean up neighborhoods, was on site to listen to many hurting people, and helped rebuild homes in conjunction with ministry partners. Converge Worldwide sent timely funds and sponsored over 250 volunteers on over 20 teams to assist in responding to this disaster. For us that ministry has ended but continues through the lives of our ministry partners.

Ministry in Word and Deed – Elaine and John were in Tohoku in February, first visiting ministry friends in Iwaki City Fukushima and then working in Ishinomaki with our ministry partners. Ministry began with the biggest snowfall in the city in 91 years. Due to the difficulty of driving, we had to cancel John preaching at the Ishinomaki House of Prayer. Instead, we noticed the whole neighborhood shoveling in front of their houses as the city has no plows or equipment for removing snow from the street. This allowed us and Dean & Linda Bengtson to connect with neighbors by helping them shovel out. This was a great connection for the concert to be held the following weekend.

Building Relationships
• Elaine had 4 greeting card classes in which she shared the love of Christ. Nine ladies attended and shared their struggles as they try to emotionally recover.
• John and Elaine were able to meet several families we have helped over the last several years sharing the gospel with them and praying for them.
• John and Dean visited some other families, one man was studying the Bible and we were able to share the gospel story with him. Pray for all these people as they continue to be followed up by local Christians.
• John met with two families that have been helped by Converge Worldwide funds to rebuild their homes. One family hopes to be back in their home in March.
• Our Converge Worldwide Japan mission has been helping a temporary housing center with supplies for the last 3 years. John and Elaine were able to meet with several of the families as they distributed supplies. We were encouraged that after this winter season everyone will be on their feet enough where this will not be needed next year. John was asked to present a short message to them where he shared from John 3:16. Mrs. Abe said that message was more meaningful than I could have shared on Sunday in church.

Planting Churches – From the beginning the ministry of our partners, Dean & Linda Bengtson and Mr. Hajime Abe has been targeted to plant churches in the Shintake and Urayashiki neighborhoods; neighborhoods which never had a church. Well things are moving to the next stage for church planting. One home will be rented later this year to be used as a community center, for housing volunteers, and holding Bible studies and worship services. Our mission has helped get that home ready for occupancy. For video on this next step http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OCFcy6wgcvg

From Disaster to the Kingdom of God – Rengo churches and Converge Worldwide teams worked in Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima prefectures. Many churches have established ministries in the area and also many missionaries have relocated to the area. In Ishinomaki alone, a city of 150,000 before the massive tsunami, there were only 7 churches which averaged about 10 per church. Today there are over 12 churches and numbers have swelled in many of them. One house church has on average 50 people coming weekly! There have been many who have been baptized. Like the rest of Japan, this area is still hard work with the gospel but the days are encouraging for churches throughout Japan.

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February 4th, 2014 by John

Elaine and John will visit Iwaki city and Pastor Mori and his family then head to Ishinomaki. We will be working with Dean and Linda Bengston. Elaine will teach craft classes and John will visit many victims families. Also on Sunday John will preach at Ishinomaki House of Prayer, and we will visit the temporary housing facility where we have been helping with supplies. Pray for safe travel during this winter season, opportunities to listen, build relationships, and share Christ.

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Summer Video Update

August 19th, 2013 by John

This summer we visited 3 churches and gave live brief (3:40) updates. This video includes the PowerPoint slides as well as the audio. Great for your small groups or worship meeting.(Recorded at Faith Church, Grayslake IL). http://youtu.be/0tQv0AHnF5o

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Mr. Abe – My Hero

August 5th, 2013 by John

What would you do if 40 homeless families arrived in your neighborhood? What would your church do in a major national disaster? How would you meet the needs of so many who lost their loved ones? This was the challenge for Mr. Hajime Abe the chairman of the Ishinomaki House of Prayer church. He quickly got involved with ministry partners like Dean Bengtson in addressing the distress in his community. Here are just two very tragic but similar stories about his involvement.

One woman lost her son in the record tsunami and her house was badly damaged. The city was without water so the church distributed bottled water in her neighborhood. She was very distraught at the loss of her son, her home, and her future. She was contemplating means to commit suicide. But then a voice entered her mind, “The church people helped you with water, maybe they can help now too.” She went to the church where she is hearing about the Savior and also healing emotionally from the disaster. Every time I visited the church, there she was. She seems emotionally stronger each time.

Another woman, Mrs. Abe lost her daughter in the tsunami. After the disaster, the church gave her rare gasoline so she could see her body and make funeral arrangements. Now she is leading tea groups and quilt groups in the local temporary housing facility where she meets with people just like her who lost loved ones. She shares with them the hope in Christ.

Mr. Hajime Abe is a retired school teacher who just had his 73rd birthday. He is a big-hearted, compassionate man who had a plan for a Christ bridge to his community in the wake of the disaster. The church has established some ongoing ministries to assist the traumatized 40 families in the nearby Temporary Housing Facility. Each week they have tea time, Pastor Hirata of SOLA ministry comes weekly to minister to the children, they have a bimonthly quilt class taught by Mrs. Abe of the church. There is also a monthly Bible reading class, and a music appreciation class. Our Converge Worldwide Japan Mission has channeled some of our World Relief Funds through his church to assist people directly in his neighborhood. We have distributed supplies and last winter we helped them with heating oil.

Mr. Abe’s philosophy and strategy has always been to holistically impact his community in the Name of Christ. They are well connected and influencing their community. If the church disappeared there would be a gaping hole. Mr. Abe and his church are a good example of “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).

Actually there are many heroes working in Japan and many in the disaster area. Mr. Abe is transforming his community through word and deed ministry. I just wanted you to get to know one close to my heart.

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July 3rd, 2013 by John

Last month was bittersweet as John led the last Japan Disaster Response team to Ishinomaki City. The team was 7 volunteers from Grace Baptist Church in Santa Maria CA and one from Bethlehem Baptist Minneapolis. Elaine later joined the team for focused women’s meetings coordinated by Linda Bengtson. The team setup for a gospel concert attended by over 60 Japanese, discussed with many victims, cleaned several properties, and prepared for the July 13th concert venue. Please check out our video about the last stages of Converge Worldwide work in the disaster area: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P5L7QWDo-U4&feature=youtu.be. Again thank you for your prayers, generosity, and involvement in recovery ministries from the triple disaster. Our ministry partners carry on loving people practically and building Christ’s church in this unchurched area.

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July 3rd, 2013 by John

In one of the women’s meetings Elaine heard many ghost stories from the women. Because over 400 people had died in that neighborhood alone, many survivors are concerned for the wandering spirits (yurei) who died in the disaster. This has resulted in difficulties sleeping and fear of the locations where many have died especially at nighttime.

For many the image of Japan is an advanced modern nation; yet Japan continues to have a worldview of animism and the spiritual world. We have heard many of these stories over the years and according to surveys about 20% of Japanese have reported seeing a ghost. 10% have known the presence of an evil power. To fight evil, amulets (ofuda) are still widely seen from children’s backpacks to car bumper stickers. This continuing concern for the spirit world is one reason why Japan continues to be more resistant to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We feel that this is a weapon that Satan utilizes to enslave this entire society.

We are Biblical Christians so we believe in the reality of God himself, angels, demons and an unseen spiritual world. To many Japanese this is very real every day. The good News is Jesus is victorious and more powerful over all “gods” and spirits. Pray for us and our ministry partners that we may be true heralds of the victorious Jesus, courageous in all circumstances that we may help people be delivered from their fear.

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July 3rd, 2013 by John

1. Praise God for the awesome open conversation about the Bible and Christ with Elaine’s Bible study group last month. Many talked about their highlights from studying the Book of Mark together. They had many questions about how relevant the Bible is to our daily life and our future. They are learning well. One learned not to be like a Pharisee, another liked the Parable of the Soils. One said everything is so new every time. Pray that someone would place their trust in Christ as their savior as they continue in Mark.
2. PTL there is answered prayer for a CPI director of the Children’s Ministry Program for the November conference. Dozens of children’s workers are being recruited, if you are interested in coming in November to volunteer please just let us know. This is a great chance to be involved. Visit the ministry team at their Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/JapanCPIUSTeam.
3. John last week met with Pastor Yukikazu Otomo who plans to plant over 1,000 house churches throughout Miyagi Prefecture in the wake of the disaster. Pastor Otomo will be sharing his story at the CPI National Conference along with other leaders with visions for church planting. Thank God many have bigger visions for the church, especially after the triple disaster, and they are eager to share that vision with others.
4. We are both very thankful to attend last month’s wedding of a ministry friend of John. And we both celebrated our 34th wedding anniversary at a church in Ishinomaki Tohoku on June 23rd.
5. We are off to the US from 7/17 to 8/7, for visiting family (esp. grandkids!), family business and doing some ministry. We would appreciate your prayers for rest, family time, and essential business to be completed. We will be visiting our partnering church Faith Church (Grayslake) on 7/21 and later possibly others in the Quad Cities area.

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