Conference UMVIM Teams Plan Return to Japan

May 26, 2011

By Phil Bandy
Interim Director, CA-NV UMVIM

As a result of recent planning meetings in Japan, future United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM) team leaders from the California-Nevada Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church are making plans to return to Japan for disaster response. A small planning and assessment team traveled to Japan May 9-20, 2011 and met with various people involved in the Church's disaster response after the early March earthquakes and tsunami. 
UMVIM recovery teams will be performing recovery work of various types, depending on the priority needs of the community and the sponsoring churches. Project planning is in preliminary stages but one site, the Asian Rural Institute, is ready to schedule teams now. Other sites will be ready to start scheduling teams later this summer, as a long-term recovery plan and dedicated recovery program staff positions are put in place. Currently, most Church-related recovery efforts in Japan are being directed by staff temporarily assigned from their regular jobs in the churches in Japan. 
If you are interested in leading or joining a recovery team to Japan, please contact me and start your planning and fundraising now. All teams must be scheduled through the Conference UMVIM Office to assure that appropriate protocol is followed with the churches and government agencies in Japan. 
The highlights of the Cal-Nev team included connecting with a number of Methodist missionaries; visiting scores of Japan church officials; participation in the dedication of the new farm building at ARI; attending the grand opening of the 2011 ARI training year; joining various disaster response teams from the Emmaus Center in Sendai, Japan, to clear tsunami mud and debris from homes in Ishinomaki; and visiting numerous damaged towns along the affected coast of Japan. 
The recovery efforts in Japan are progressing quickly and numerous responses by the church are underway, including ministry to vulnerable rural communities and to displaced congregations with destroyed churches; youth volunteer cleanup teams; ministry with vulnerable displaced people in shelters; and clergy staff support. The Church plans other responses to the Japan disasters, including the quake damage, tsunami damage, radiation damage, the salt water invasion on farms, and displaced populations.
The Cal-Nev team consisted of the Rev. Motoe Yamada, senior pastor of Japanese United Methodist Church (leader); Phil Bandy, Interim Director of the California-Nevada Annual Conference Office of United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM); Norm Harden, CA-NV Conference Disaster Response Coordinator; and Roxanne Bucaria, a member of Florin UMC.