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Archive for October, 2011

Welcome, Rebecca Brago Agyare!

Friday, October 28th, 2011

こんばんは!! Good evening!!

How is everyone doing? I hope everyone is doing well wherever you are.

This morning at church, we had a very, very special person in the house with us. Little Rebecca Brago Agyare is the newest baby in the church. She is SUCH a cutie!! Anyway, so today at church (23 Oct 2011) we had a baby dedication for baby Rebecca.

But before we started the service, we had someone else there who testified. Brother Akihiro Ohara was with us again this morning at church.

Next up: Papa!!

Brother Daniel and Rebecca.

Here’s the majority of the Agyare family. Steven, Harrison, and Paul were still in their seats.

Priscilla isn’t the only girl anymore and Dixon has lost his place as the baby of the family.

Total cuteness!!

She was hungry this morning so she was crying a bit. But she’s still so cute when she’s crying.

In Japanese Rebecca’s name (and Rebekah’s) is spelled/written in Hiragana like this りべか.

This girl is even smaller than I was. I was a bag of sugar, which is 5 pounds 13 ounces and Rebecca was 2,600 grams (around that) which is around 5 pounds 7 ounces.

Brother Daniel was holding Rebecca so Sister Charity got to hold both bouquets of flowers.

Here are some pictures of Rebecca from last Sunday (16 Oct 2011).

She was peacefully sleeping…I guess the right analogy would be that she was sleeping like a baby. Yes, pun intended! :-D

 

We all four got to hold Rebecca, who was about 1 1/2 weeks by this point.

We are in baby heaven at Haijima. So many babies all around and more coming!

Well, that’s all the pictures of the newest Haijima princess. Brother Daniel and Sister Charity, and the rest of the Agyare family, congratulations on the birth of Rebecca!

Okay, that’s all I have for now.

Much love,

~Rachel

3/11 Reflections

Sunday, October 23rd, 2011

 

 Good evening everyone.

  

I wanted to share some things with you. During the Northern Japan camp meeting a couple of weeks ago (8-10 Oct), we had someone there that I had briefly met in March of this year, Brother Akihiro Ohara.  After one of the services, I spoke to him for about 20 minutes or so. We were mostly speaking about the 11 March catastrophe. What started out as a major earthquake, which led to a major tsunami, which then led to a problem at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant (pictured below), caused from water getting into the reactors, or something along those lines. I’m not too savvy on things like that.

We also spoke about how he and his parents were doing. He also showed us some pictures from the actual tsunami as it came in, and some pictures from Fukushima that he had taken sometime before camp meeting.

While talking to Brother Ohara, I myself started thinking about what happened on that afternoon of 11 March. My mom, dad, and I were in the car, almost to the house, where Rebekah had stayed. While sitting at a red light, we started feeling a shaking, or maybe rocking is a better word. To me it felt like we were in a small boat. My dad thought I was bouncing my leg in the back. Then we looked and saw that street lights and stop lights were waving back and forth. We saw people leaving buildings. Then we realized, “This is an earthquake!” My mom called Rebekah to make sure she was okay, which she was, and then the phones died. Cell phones weren’t working and sometimes the home phone would work but not consistently. We went to Aeon mall for a bit. We went to get something to eat, but that plan was changed because since there was an earthquake, all the shops had to shut down until the gas lines were checked for leaks. So we went back home and all of us got on our computers. My mom emailed some family and friends to tell them that we were okay before they heard/saw it on the news. That’s when the rest of us saw it on foxnews.com, and cnn.com, and bbc.co.uk/news.

That’s when we saw how bad it really was. We had several different live feeds going on. I had BBC up, one of us had CNN up, and one of us had Fox News up. We were all amazed at what was happening to Japan. Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites, were overloaded because, since the phone lines were down, the Internet was the main way to communicate. We were in contact with the Datsomor family (Lynda and Dennis) through Twitter to see if they were all okay, and we found out that Sister Datsomor hadn’t been contacted yet. They only spoke to her at 10 pm that night (I think that’s right). It had taken her several hours longer to get home because the trains had shut down and she had to take a taxi, and there was traffic galore, so it took everyone much longer to get home.

 (Road in Naka, Iwake destroyed by the earthquake; found online

 

As the days went by, more and more kept happening. There were problems with the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power plant, which I think was caused from water getting into the reactors. So much has happened. But I will say kudos to the power plant employees, for staying there for as long as they did and doing what they did. They stayed there all the time just to try and help their country and their people. And for them to balance all three things together is amazing. Over the course of the past 7 months, so much has happened. Haijima church, along with several other members from different churches around Japan, has taken either 5 or 6 trips up to the Tohoku area, one of which my family and I were blessed to be able to go on. Although there is still a lot of work left to be done, there is a lot that has been done by the Japanese people.   Now, I started out this entry talking about Brother Ohara and now I’m going back to him. I first met Brother Ohara last March, right after the earthquake. He was going to stay with a family member, I think, for a while, and he was passing through this area so he came to church. His parents were still in Fukushima, where they live.  

 

 

  

 

(Brother Ohara from March 2011 as he was testifying)









(Brother Ohara from today (23 Oct 2011) as he was testifying)

 

 

Something that amazed me was that this Sunday in March, Brother Ohara came in and told my dad, “I’m sorry I’m dressed like this. I don’t have anything else to wear.” And when he got up to testify, one of the first things he said, if not the first thing, was “God is still so good!!”

  

   

(Brother Ohara and my dad March 2011)



So this time when I spoke to him, I was asking him about his parents, and he was showing us pictures from Fukushima and of the tsunami coming in, and several other things. While talking to him, I got his email address and then he sent some pictures of the tsunami coming in. He had taken a video and then took some frames from that. That wave looks so big!

 

 

 

 Do you see the brown in the background in the next picture? I’m not sure if that is muddy ocean water spray, or dust from houses being destroyed. I’m pretty sure that’s ocean water.



  

I told Brother Ohara, “I honestly don’t think I could have taken the video. I might have stood there, but it would probably have been because I was frozen with fear.”



 

 

 So, that is what Brother Ohara has sent me first. Amazing, right? Now, since camp meeting, I have emailed Brother Ohara a couple of times, and in one of those emails, I asked him if he would mind to tell me exactly what happened that day, and in the days following. I want to know how it felt. I know how we felt here, but to hear a personal testimony from someone has survived all three disasters, and personally saw the tsunami coming up, someone who was almost in the middle of it all. I wanted to know exactly what happened from his perspective. Not from a scientific view point, but from a personal view point of someone who saw it all happen. I also asked if he would mind if I put this on the blog. I have told several of you about Brother Ohara and what little bit I knew of his testimony, but I wanted you to hear it from him, so to speak. So here is the first email.

 

 Hello, Sister Rachel.

I just want to tell you first that I do not mind writing about 311. Actually I’ve been thinking that I should spend some time to reflect. So I appreciate you giving me the chance to actually remember and summarize what happened.  

It’s been a year since I left the U.S. and my English got sloppy in every way, so just tell me when you don’t understand what I mean. I won’t get offended.

To be honest with you, a lot of things happened, and I don’t really know what to write and how to write it. So let me just start with the first day, which is 3/11.

On 3/11, I was about to go for running training on the beach as usual, but I felt like going to buy biology books. So I drove to “Super center plant-4″ in 大熊, which is next to Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. I bought the books, and I thought that I should buy other stuff too, so I stayed longer than I planned. so I was at the store when the earthquake hit. I was about to go to the cashier to pay when it started shaking. I guess it took a second to realize that it was a big one. Everyone inside the store got out, and no one was injured as long as I can remember. But some ladies were crying. I went back inside the store, and it was really messed up. I could keep standing, but I remember I could not walk straight. Let me send you the picture of the parking lot I was at.

Someone was looking at his phone, and he shouted, “the intensity (shindo) is 7!!” That confirmed my feeling that this earthquake is something far big and strong. But at the same time, I kept thinking “Am I dreaming?” It felt like I was in a movie or something. It was real, but I thought it could be one of those dreams that feel like very real. Actually that feeling lasted for several months. Even a month after the earthquake, I did think like “did it really happen?” “Am I still dreaming?”

I don’t want to sound like I know better, but before 3/11, I was feeling something big was about to happen soon. That feeling and anticipation did help me adopt to the situation faster. I was sure that Tsunami would come. Actually I thought that the Tsunami would be so big that it didn’t matter where I go from that point. I thought that that whole area will be taken out. By the way, now I’m pretty sure that I’ be taken out by tsunami and maybe on the bottom of pacific ocean even now, never to be found if I went to beach for training that day.

Anyway, maybe several minutes or so, I decided to drive back home. I tried to go through Route 6 as I always do, but I was told that the road is totally messed up and can’t go through. So I turned off into the lane and headed toward Namie, my home town. I ended up driving on the road where I saw tsunami. I never drove on that road. It was next to seashore and beautiful. So actually I parked my car on the way a couple of times and looked at the ocean, saying to myself “this might be my last time to see this beautiful ocean and scenery, let’s enjoy this moment…”

I don’t remember if I was stopping the car and trying to call my father or driving slowly when I saw tsunami coming. (the road was also damaged by the earthquake and some places are totally fallen apart). It took a moment to understand that it is tsunami when I saw it because it looked a lot smaller than I expected. But It was big and strong enough to take out everything on its way. My honest feeling when I saw the tsunami was… it felt like thousands of soldiers, whose only purpose is to kill and destroy, were coming so fast without mercy. I knew and felt I’d be dead if I stayed there, but I spend several seconds to take a video clip (the video clip is really sloppy, so I made several frames from the video clip to show to other people). I knew I was in middle of major disaster, and I thought I should leave as many records and information as possible.

I could drive away in time even though I used several seconds to take the video clip. Fortunately, there was a road on my left side (the tsunami was coming from my right side), so stepped on the gas, used kick down, and actually drifted a little, and turned left and kept driving straight without looking back. 

I finally made it home. I don’t remember how long it took just to get home. What I saw when I got home was actually worse than I expected and shocking. There is a stone-built house, which we use when many guests gather. The stone house was completely collapsed, and the big stones were scattered, even on the public road and blocking half of it. The path between our property and the neighbor was completely blocked by the stones and other stuff. I parked there, and I was looking at that mess trying to think of what to do, but there was nothing I could do about it then.

Sister Rachel, I feel like I wrote too much, and it’s not even half of the day 3/11. Let me finish right here this time. I’ll continue and send you more if you want me to.

I’m sorry that it’s not well-organized. It may be difficult to read and understand. I hope you can.

God Bless,

Hiro Ohara 

That was the first email that he sent. That is the only email where I’m using the whole thing. But I do have some excerpts from a few other emails that I’d like to share with you. These are from the second email.

“…I’m sorry that I wrote too much trivial details last time, and actually I forgot to tell you something important. I told you that I didn’t die because I didn’t go to beach. But actually even if I was home, I could have been injured somehow, if not dead. I can say this because inside the house was pretty messed up.

Anyway, the thing is, God also spared the car. If I was home when the earthquake hit, the car would have been parked on the drive way, which has been blocked by fallen stones and blocks and other stuff. The road was also destroyed. So, the car could’ve been still there, stuck in the driveway being useless to us if I didn’t drive to the store then. Of course we are using the car now, but the car was especially real necessity and helpful on 3/11 and days after. 

I hope you can understand what I wrote. My point here is that I feel that I was at right place, or should I say perfect place, when the earthquake hit. God is really good, and he protected me. I didn’t get injured or sick. It’s not because my body is strong, but it’s because of God’s mercy. All the situations, stress, limited food, cold nights, several dose of radiation, and other factors could have made me physically and mentally seriously sick… but because of God’s blessing and brothers’ and sisters’ prayer, I’m still fine….”

“…This whole thing – earthquake, tsunami, radiation, some other impossible situations – was learning experience to me. I think we can learn from experiences, and I also think there are things that we can only learn from experience. I did learn a lot even though I cannot really explain what I learned. I’m still learning…” 

Here are some more excerpts from the third email telling what all happened.

“…Actually I don’t know how much radiation I’ve absorbed. I haven’t even checked. I just know that I stayed in the area which had high doses of radiation for several days. My brother lives in Sendai, and my sister lives in Tokyo, so only my parents and I were living in Namie, which is about 7 km from the nuclear power plant.

So, after the earthquake, I guess around 5 or 6 pm, I met my father near our home. We got some stuff and went to the elementary school he’s in charge of. We stayed in his office that night. There was only my father and I in the school that night. Next morning we received a call that said that the school was designated for emergency refugee shelter. We ended up having about 1,200 people in the school. People stayed in all the classrooms and in the gymnasium. The school is about 18-19 km away from the nuclear power plant, so it was really intense and extreme situation when we saw the nuclear power plant’s explosion on the TV as it was happening (the school had several TVs). 

Those who had cars, places to go to, and family or friends to rely on started to leave gradually. I didn’t wanna leave as long as there was something I can do for people staying. There were a lot of old people who needed help. I didn’t want to leave my father also. He is the principle of the school, so he was in charge to the end. I stayed there, I guess 2 or 3 more nights. Finally my father told me to leave and go to my grandfather’s house in Fukushima city, which is about 50-60 km away from the nuclear plant. I could barely hold my tears when my father said, “this could be our last good-by” as I was about to leave.”

Wow…That last line that he wrote “I could barely hold my tears when my father said, ‘this could be our last good-by’ as I was about to leave“. I can’t imagine what must have been going through the minds of each and every person that day and the days following.

I also have some more pictures that I’d like to share that Brother Ohara sent to me.

Do you remember Brother Ohara talking about being at the “Super center plant-4″ in 大熊(Ookuma). This is at that parking lot there.





I think that this was on his way home from the store.



I zoomed in a bit so you could get a real good look at the road there.



At this point, everything looks nice…right? Take note of the green house things in the far left side of the picture, near the trees.



Did you see the green houses in the picture above? I’m about 99.99% sure that the green houses below are the same. Notice the wave in the background right there in-between where the clouds and the ocean “meet”, so to speak?



Yes, that is the tsunami.



Here’s a closer view of the left side of the picture.



I told Brother Ohara a couple times that I don’t know how he was able to take those pictures. Wow….

Brother Ohara, thank you so very, very much for allowing me to use all of this. To everyone else, Brother Ohara has shared with us something that is very, very special to him. This is just how special it is to him, “Those pictures would be my only legacy when I die, so I entrust them to you:)“.I feel very honored that Brother Ohara felt comfortable enough to share this with me, and comfortable enough to allow me to share this on the blog with all of you. Brother Ohara, I hope this is okay. Thank you so very much!

I know all of you have seen the pictures, probably hundreds of times, but since talking to Brother Ohara, I’ve really been thinking about the past 7 months. I found the following 3 pictures online.







Although it’s not in the news much anymore, there is still much to be done in Japan, not only physically, but emotionally and spiritually. Thousands of lives were lost on March 11, 2011, and millions were affected. People were put out of their homes, they lost jobs, and they had to start their lives over again. Many people were emotionally disturbed, having nightmares months after that day, seeing the faces of their friends, family, and acquaintances.

One thing that sticks out to me from Brother Ohara’s email is when he is talking about first seeing the tsunami coming in. It seemed so much smaller than what was expected but there was such a great forces behind it. As Brother Ohara said, “But It was big and strong enough to take out everything on its way. My honest feeling when I saw the tsunami was… it felt like thousands of soldiers, whose only purpose is to kill and destroy, were coming so fast without mercy. I knew and felt I’d be dead if I stayed there…” I honestly don’t know what I would have felt had I been standing there. I will never know until I am in a situation like that. I hope I’m not, but Japan was also not expecting a situation like what happened to actually happen.

One more thing I’d like to share. This goes out to the country of Japan, all of the Japanese people wherever you live in the world, and to all the people that do live in Japan. Remember this always! Many, many, many people love this country and everyone that is either from here or that live here. People ARE praying for this nation!! We love Japan so, so, so very much!!

 





 

Northern Japan Camp Meeting

Sunday, October 16th, 2011

Hello again everyone!!

I’m sorry it’s been so long since I’ve done a long(er) blog entry with pictures and everything. But anyway, now I’m going to work on some pictures from Camp meeting last weekend. But I only have a few pictures because my technology got the best of me and I ended up losing about 400+ pictures. So there are only less than 100 pictures that I have from the first day. So sorry!! Gomen nasai!! I’m going to have to try and learn my electronics so they can’t get the best of me again. Believe me, I was SOOOO upset when I saw that I lost 470+ pictures. I’m still upset about it, but it’s looking like I can’t do anything about it. If I am able to recover all the pictures, then I will complete the blog entries about it. Once again, I’m so sorry!!

So anyway, here are the pictures from the 2011 Northern Japan Camp meeting. It was SO much fun!! We got to see many people that we have seen before and that we know, and we also got to meet many other new(er) people that we’ve not seen before or that we have just recently met. I had a blast all three days of camp meeting.

So first off, Brother Yokoyama got up to speak and had Brother Kwasi translating for him.

This is Brother Kamura, who I just found out, has been helping Brother Yokoyama out with the Japanese congregation.

We also have (had rather) a very special person in Japan with us. Brother Lucas had come to Japan for about 2-3 weeks time to go on a trip up to the Tohoku area with Brother Lyndon Shalm and Brother Majors from CSI (Compassion Services International) to kind of evaluate the situation a bit. Anyway, Brother Lucas stayed in Japan until last evening of camp meeting, which was Monday evening, then he went back to the States.

It was so cool to see everyone there that was there.

We had pastors/ministers from many different churches all over Japan. Shown in this picture is Brother Lucas, Brother Yokoyama: pastor of Japanese congregation at Haijima and teacher of Bible studies in several different preaching points, Brother Matsui: pastor of the Saitama UPC, and Brother Doan, pastor of one of the churches in Okinawa.

I’m not exactly for sure the names of these two sisters, but I think they go to the Saitama church.

They called up different people to pray for different parts of Japan. Here are Brother and Sister Matsui.

At one point they called up all the ministers/pastors and their wives in Japan. Brother Lucas went around praying with each of the pastors and ministers.

The names of the pastors and ministers wives from left to right: Sister Matsui, Sister Pounders, Sister Datsomor, Sister Yokoyama, Sister Arai, Sister Victoria Amoabeng, and Sister Ishibashi.

Brother Ephriam Lotsu.

Brother Lucas praying for Brother Datsomor.

Brother Matsui on the right and Brother Kamura on the left with Brother Daniel Agyare in the middle background praying with Brother Arai (not seen).

Here you can see all the ministers/pastors and their wives.

This is Brother Fred Omorefe.

Brother Emmanuel Kwarteng.

During the course of the service Saturday evening, the people who had gone to Ishinomaki in August were asked to go up to the front. Many of the people that went were youth, but there were some adults that went. Also, Brother Kon and Sister Kon, the pastor and his wife from Sendai, were asked to go up.

This is Brother Lucas praying for one of the Japanese brothers from Sendai.

Also with us during camp meeting was Brother Ohara. Now, for those of you who don’t remember, he came to Haijima right after the March 11 earthquake/tsunami/nuclear reator catastrophe and he was back with us again. But I will tell you more about him later in another blog entry. Anyway, Brother Yokoyama called Brother Ohara up to pray for, if I remember correctly, Fukushima and the surrounding areas. As soon as Brother Ohara got to the front of the church, he got on his knees and bent over and stayed that way until everyone got done praying for/with him.

It was so good to have Brother Lucas with us! It made me have flash backs from 10 years ago, when we were in Japan the first time. Wow….

Pricilla is a doll!! Such a cutie!!

These are from Sunday morning. I didn’t think I had any of these but I must have over looked them.

There was so many people there, that we had about  9 – 10 chairs out, 8 or so in the back and one or two chairs on each side. There were about 8-10 people standing in the back. Now THAT’S what I’m talking about!!  Those of us in the back were pointing out empty seats, or what could be made into empty seats, to Brother Gaze and Brother Daniel.

Mack and Kay Lotsu are so cute. They were dancing to the music and clapping. It was SO cute!!

Here is a closer view of Brother Ohara.

There were even more people out in the hall.

The altar was packed at the end of the Sunday and Monday services.

These I took at the end of the Sunday morning service.

I think this baby is one of the cutest!!

And this is Brother Ohara (more on him in a later entry). I took this while he was talking to Brother Yokoyama. Sorry, Brother Ohara!

Okay, I’ll still try to work on the rest of the pictures. It may take me a bit but I am going to do everything in my power to get it. If I can’t get it, I will let you know but I am going to try to get them all back.

Much love to all!

Rachel

Prayer Requests

Monday, October 10th, 2011

I just wanted to ask everyone to pray for a couple of prayer requests.

The first one: We have recently found out, as most of you, that Brother Kenneth Haney has been recently diagnosed with in inoperable brain tumor. The doctors have given him 1 to 3 weeks left to live. But as Pastor Smith (ALC, Dayton, Ohio) said, “We know our God is a healer!” We need to pray for the Haney family, Brother Kenneth Haney’s wife, Sister Joy Haney, and his brother, Brother Nathaniel Haney.

The second request: We found out through some internet traffic that Sister Lucas’ father had a massive stroke. As a result, he didn’t make it through the night. Please remember the Lucas family. Brother Lucas is in Japan right now and isn’t able to make it home. The funeral was Tuesday, September 27th. Please pray for strength for the whole family for strength and encouragement. Although I don’t know what it is like to lose a parent, I do know what it is like to lose a close grandparent. I completely understand the feeling. But as Tim (the oldest Lucas son) said, “Even in the pain, I’m grateful for hope of the resurrection.” Sister Lucas, I wish I could be there to give you a hug, but since I can’t, I’ll just say that we all love and miss y’all. The churches in Japan are praying for y’all! We love the Lucas family!

Please continue to remember the Haney family and the Lucas family.

Thank you so much,

Much love,

Rachel