On Monday (May 9, 2011) a three-member team from the California-Nevada Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church will travel to Japan to assess needs in the wake of the early March earthquakes and tsunami.
The Rev. Motoe Yamada, senior pastor of Japanese UMC in Sacramento and a World Council of Churches Central Committee member, will head the team. Accompanying her will be Phil Bandy, interim director of the United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM) program for the Conference, and Norm Harden, Conference Disaster Response Coordinator. They will be joined in Japan by Roxanne Bucaria, a member of Florin UMC, who currently lives in Tokyo where she works as a translator.
"The group from California-Nevada travels to Japan to renew relationships with Church partners and establish new relationships in mission," Bandy says. "The group strives to learn how best to prepare our volunteers for future service in Japan to serve the priority needs of the Church there."
Bandy adds the hope is that the presence of the team will convey a feeling of solidarity with Japanese brothers and sisters in Christ, and encourage those who already are working in disaster relief in that country.
"We appreciate people's support and prayer," adds Yamada.
The May 9-20 trip will begin with meetings with various leaders in Tokyo, with the Cal-Nevada group staying at the newly built Methodist Center, called Wesley Center.
From Thursday, May 12 to Sunday, May 15 the team will visit the Asian Rural Institute (ARI) in northern Japan, an international training ground for grassroots rural leaders (such as Cal-Nev's own Katherine Parker, a GBGM missionary serving in Cambodia).
The team will wrap up the trip by camping out at the Emmaus Center in hard-hit Sendai from Sunday, May 15 to Thursday, May 19.
(If websites appear in Japanese and that is not a language you read, use the Google Translate option to convert pages to your preferred language.)
The assessment trip is only the first step in the Conference's hands-on involvement in disaster relief and recovery work in Japan – and is part of a cooperative venture involving the General Church.
"Our group experience in this visit will be combined with parallel efforts by the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and other faith partners," Bandy says, "to craft a long-term plan for sustained and appropriate partnership for the presence of the Church in the future recovery efforts in Japan."