First Sunday in Lent
Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16
The Asian Rural Institute (ARI) in Nishinasuno, Japan was deeply affected by the nuclear disaster, which followed the tsunami of 2011. The radiation levels in the air are high and some volunteer organizations have decided not to send groups to ARI’s work camps. Global Ministries missionary Jeffrey Mensendiek remains in Japan and visited ARI with a group of youth volunteers for a four-day work camp. The group took precautions by wearing masks when working on the farm and found that ARI staff have studied the dangers and are taking steps to protect and educate themselves and international participants. “ARI is now a part of the Nasu Fortress Movement which is made up of scientists, local citizens’ groups and farmers. They aim to face the severe crisis by learning and deepening their awareness of the realities of nuclear contamination,” Mensendiek shares. “I was made to reflect about how rooted rural communities are. For us city-folk it is easy to think about evacuating, because our roots do not go as deep as the rural farmers. For the farming community, leaving the land is unthinkable.” How ironic, Mensendiek adds, that it is the city-borne nuclear business that has threatened soil-friendly and land-dependent rural communities of the Nasu area. “ARI has decided to set down its roots in the Nasu area and fight with the farmers,” Mensendiek said. Sadly, the fight is over for the Odaka Church and its pastor Reverend Ohshimo. The church has been off limits for the past year due to its proximity to the nuclear center and must now close. “Rev. Ohshimo scheduled a reunion for all the children and their families who used to be connected to the Odaka Kindergarten. Fourteen families gathered. They shared their hope that one-day they will be able to return to beautiful Odaka town. But for now they are scattered, like the diaspora,” Mensendiek said. “Rev. Ohshimo said that he learned through this experience of how what matters most is not the church building itself, but the ties that bind us together. He dreams of the way God will work in and through these children to tie them to one another, and to the home of their childhood.”
God of deliverance and freedom, you taught the people of Israel to acknowledge that all things come from your bountiful hand. Deepen our faith so that we may resist temptation and, in the midst of trial, proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord, now and for ever. Amen.