The Organized Long-term Sending of Volunteers The West Tokyo District Approach

Over the past year, congregations and districts in the Kyodan, together with their members as individuals, have been searching for the best ways both to give and to organize aid to the stricken areas and churches of the East Japan disaster area. As a part of our continuing coverage of the disaster response, we want to report on the unique approach of West Tokyo District, as detailed in a talk given by Makabe Iwao, pastor of Soai Church and chairman of the West Tokyo District East Japan Disaster Relief Committee.

In the West Tokyo District, a proposal was made by its core leadership immediately after the earthquake and tsunami to form a disaster relief committee, and this was formally enacted at the April 4 meeting of the district’s Commission on Mission. In addition to forming the East Japan Disaster Relief Committee, the commission also approved the sending of volunteers and the collection of relief funds.

Makabe pointed out three main reasons for this quick action. The first was that immediately after the disaster, on March 21, at a workshop sponsored by West Tokyo District, a report was presented in words and photos by photographer Momoi Kazuma, the speaker, about his visit to the disaster area just one day before. In addition, Kyodan Executive Secretary on General Affairs Fujimori Yuki, who had been sent to inspect the aftermath of the disaster, gave his report. Both of these reports had a great impact on the congregations.

The second reason for the quick action was the result of the report from Noda Taku, director of the Student Christian Fellowship, located within the district, who had been sent as a district pastor to the Tohoku District Disaster Relief Center ten days after the earthquake. His report on the situation and relief activities already in progress formed the foundation for the district’s response.
The third reason was the experience of previous relief efforts organized by West Tokyo District following past disasters, such as the Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake (1995 in Kobe) and the Chuetsu Earthquake (2004 in Niigata). There were still some unused funds collected for those efforts, so these funds were available for immediate use in specific ways in this emergency.

The first team of district volunteers went on April 25, and three additional teams were later sent, so that by the end of November 2011, more than 200 persons served in various ways in the disaster area. The volunteers were comprised of a wide variety of people, including clergy and lay members, along with students from mission schools, and even some with no Christian connection whatever. The funds to send the volunteers were supplied from within the district, and all together more than five million yen has been contributed to this effort. We can say that this shows the consciousness and concern of each individual of the district.

The specific work is being directed by the Center for Disaster Victims of the Tohoku District of the Kyodan. The places of service are in the Arahama area in Wakabayashi Ward in Sendai City. In the beginning, the work was centered on mud removal but has changed with time, as volunteers are now also helping with projects like house repair.

At first, it was not easy to break through the local people’s preconceptions of the Christian faith, so they were slow to warm up to the volunteers. But together with Noda’s persistent dialog with the people and the volunteers not only providing physical labor but also helping the victims work through their emotions, trust was gradually won.
Finally, the main concern now is the long-term continuation of the relief effort. “Nothing is more important than a long-term continuation of the work,” says Makabe. (Tr. GM)
Summarized by Nishio Misao, member
Suginami Church, West Tokyo District and
KNL Editorial Committee member
Based on a Kyodan Shinpo (Kyodan Times) article

組織的・継続的なボランティア派遣

――――西東京教区の取り組み

東日本大震災の被害地域や教会支援のために諸教区・各教会・個人がなすべき役割を模索し、実行している。その中 で、極めて特徴的な働きをしている西東京教区の被災地支援の取り組みを、西東京教区東日本大震災支援委員会委員長の真壁巌(まかべ  いわお)牧師(相愛教会)の談話から紹介したい。

西東京教区では、震災直後に被災地支援委員会の設置が三役会で提案され、4月4日 に開催された宣教委員会で東日本大震災支援委員会が正式に設置された。同時に、被災地へのボランティア派遣と、募金開始を決定した。 このような、教区としての敏速な動きの背景には三つの大きな理由があると真壁牧師は指摘する。一つ目は、震災直後の3月21日に行われた西東京教区全体研修会で、講師の写真家桃井和馬(ももい かずま)氏が前日まで取材していた被災地の 様子を写真と共に報告、さらに、教団から派遣されて被災地を訪問していた藤盛勇紀(ふじもり ゆうき)総務幹事からも被害状況の報告 があり、参加者に大きなインパクトを与えたこと。二つ目は教区内にある、学生キリスト教友愛会(SCF)の野田沢(のだ たく)主事が西東京教区の教師 として震災十日後に東北教区被災地支援センターに派遣され、現地の情報や現地活動の基礎が教区にもたらされていたこと。三つ目は過去 の震災、すなわち阪神大震災や中越地震など、においてすでに西東京教区の救援の働きが組織的に行われており、献金などの余剰金も積み 立てられていたので、今回すぐに具体的な活動に取り組むことが出来たこと、である。

4月25日から4次にわたって派遣されたボランティアは11月末現在延べ200名 を超えており、被災地で様々な活動を行ってきた。メンバーは幅広く、教職、信徒、キリスト教主義学校の学生、全く教会を知らない人な ど西東京教区を中心として集まっている。派遣のための費用はすべて教区内で賄っているが、今回新たに捧げられた献金は500万円を超えており、教区内の一人ひとりの意識の高 さが表れていると言える。

具体的な活動は東北教区被災者センターからの指示により行われている。活動場所は仙台市内の若林区荒浜地区が中心 になっている。当初は泥出しが主であったが、時間の経過とともに多少変わってきて、現在は住宅の補修なども行っているようだ。当初現 地の人たちのキリスト教への警戒心や心を解きほぐすのは容易ではなかった。だが、野田SCF主事が現地の人たちとの粘り強い対話を重ねてきた ことや、ボランティアも力仕事だけではなく、被災者に寄り添い、気持ちを合わせて話をする中で、信頼を得るまでになったという。

最後に、これからの課題は何よりも継続であり、 この活動を息長く続けていくことが何よりも大切だと真壁牧師は語っている。(教団新報より要約)西尾操(KNL編集委員・杉並教会員)

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