A Culmination of Ou District Churches’ Reconstruction: Dedication Ceremony of Esashi Church, the last church to receive support from the Kyodan East Japan Disaster Relief Projects Headquarters
by Ohara Muneo, moderator Ou District
Nearly six years have passed since that earthquake. March 11, 2011, 2:46 p.m. was the time when disaster-stricken churches started to become restrained toward one another. The earthquake gave rise to a tsunami, which caused tremendous damage to churches along the coast. News of these events was reported in various media. Due to the magnitude of damage along the coast, some other areas were overlooked. They were not forgotten, but churches in the inland areas of Ou District could not raise their voices, even though many had suffered severe damage. As district moderator, I traveled directly to the disaster areas in an effort to gain a detailed understanding of the earthquake damage and to listen to the voices of church members. Immediately after the earthquake, we formed an Emergency Support Committee under the Standing Committee and began relief and support activities.
Miyako Church and Shinsei Kamaishi Church were both hit by the tsunami. The most heavily damaged of the inland churches (Senyama Ichinoseki, and Esashi), would receive long-term support from the Emergency Support Committee. We determined that the Kitakami, Tono, Sannohe and Shunan Churches, which were also damaged, could be handled by support from within the district. Based on these assessments, we immediately provided financial aid to start short-term support work. Ofunato Church had no structural damage but experienced human suffering, so we also provided support to individuals at this and other churches in the names of the Kyodan and Ou District.
Repairs and reconstruction of churches and ministers’ homes moved ahead, based on the decisions made by disaster-stricken churches.
•Senmaya Church acquired land, relocated, and rebuilt, and celebrated dedication of the new sanctuary on Aug. 30, 2013.
•Shinsei Kamaishi Church held a thanksgiving service on Aug. 27, 2014, for the completion of repairs.
•Ichinoseki Church performed extensive repair work on its church building, and this was completed on April 25, 2015.
•Miyako Church, which also acquired land, relocated, and rebuilt, held its dedication service on March 11, 2016, the fifth anniversary of the earthquake.
•Esashi Church purchased an adjacent property and house and then made renovations to create a manse. Its dedication service was held on Nov. 3, 2016.
This dedication service marked completion of the last project to receive support through the all-Kyodan relief program for churches impacted by the East Japan Disaster. Throughout this period, the prayers and gifts from within the Kyodan as well as from overseas churches have supported us. We thank you from the bottom our hearts.
Churches suffering relatively light damage have completed all repairs and restoration work with aid from within Ou District and through self-help projects. Among the churches suffering major damage, Shinsei Kamaishi Church was able to complete payments by using its own available funds (including the earthquake offering) and relief funds from the district and therefore borrowed no funds.
The following churches started their rebuilding projects with their own funds and district relief funds as well as with relief grants and loans from the Kyodan East Japan Disaster Relief Headquarters.
•Senmaya Church used 25 million yen in grants and ¥25 M yen in loans from the Disaster Relief Headquarters, and repaid the ¥25M loan in two years.
•Ichinoseki Church, which similarly required repairs, received through the headquarters ¥3.9M in grants and ¥3.9M in loans.
•Miyako Church, which erected a new building, used ¥40M in grants and ¥40M in loans from the headquarters, a ¥20M loan from the district, and an additional ¥70M in commercial bank loans.
•Esashi Church also received ¥33.5M in grants and ¥33.5M in loans from the headquarters.
All of these churches celebrated the completion of their reconstruction work with gratitude, but naturally the burden of loan repayments weighs heavily. In particular, the two churches with small membership, Miyako and Esashi, must make repayments over the next 20 years, so every church member is redoubling their efforts. Ou District must maintain a support framework to continue assistance for these churches. Please remember them in your prayers.
I take this opportunity to express our gratitude to the countless churches and believers in districts all across Japan whose support has made it possible to continue assistance until now, with special recognition of the Korean Christian Church in Japan’s Kanto District, the Presbyterian Church of Korea, Child Fund Japan, and the Kyodan’s Hokkai District and Tokyo District’s North Subdistrict.
Additional Comment by Executive Secretary Kato Makoto
I have heard many people say that Iwate Prefecture is as big as Shikoku Island. To use another comparison, the time required to drive from Esashi Church, where Ou District Moderator Ohara lives, to Ofunato Church is about the same as from Brussels, Belgium to Cologne, Germany. From Esashi Church to Miyako Church might be about the same as from Brussels to Paris.
In the 16 months after the March 2011 disaster, while I served as executive secretary of the Kyodan East Japan Disaster Response Headquarters, I traveled to the Tohoku disaster region over 100 times. Each time I visited Esashi Church, I was shown how the cracks in its sanctuary were growing. Leaving his own church to the last, Pastor Ohara literally dashed around Iwate Prefecture, attending to the needs of each church and flock. It is hard to imagine the degree of his toil without knowing the size of Iwate. I pray for God’s continued blessings upon the restored churches, as well as upon Pastor Ohara. (Tr. DM)
あれから６年、被災教会は今 これから返済 がはじまる
≪奥羽教区会堂再建の総括 教団東日本大震災救援対策本部の最後の支援教会 江刺教会の 献堂≫
補足(注？)Comment from Kato Makoto, Executive secretary