Disaster Recovery Team from Sacramento Japanese UMC Returns to Japan

February 16, 2012

The Sacramento Japanese United Methodist Church (SJUMC) is sending a six-member Volunteers in Mission (VIM) team to Japan this month, to assist with the earthquake- and tsunami-relief effort.

The Tohoku Disaster Center in Japan sent a formal request to SJUMC and the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) for mission volunteers to go to Japan early in 2012. SJUMC's team of both English- and Japanese-speaking volunteers will depart Sacramento on Feb. 26 for a 13-day trip. They are due to return on March 9, 2012.
"The team is greatly honored, since the Tohoku Disaster Center does not accept requests from every team that wishes to go to Japan, and has rarely sent out requests for teams outside of Japan," according to the church's pastor, the Rev. Motoe Yamada. "Although the weather will be very cold and the team expects the work to be both physically hard and mentally challenging, everyone is looking forward to the trip and is excited about serving at this important juncture in the relief efforts," she says.
The trip comes at the one-year anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami that devastated the northeast area of Japan.
SJUMC plans to send additional teams to Japan in coming years, also, as part of its continuing commitment to the Japan relief efforts.
SJUMC, formed in 1969 after the merger of two other Christian churches, welcomes and serves all people regardless of race, but long has had special ties with both the Japanese and Japanese-American communities in the Sacramento area. 
Letter from Yuri Kimura, Team Leader:
As the team leader for the Japan Earthquake Recovery Volunteers in Mission (VIM) trip, and as a new face to SJUMC, I would like to introduce myself to you and tell you a little bit about our upcoming journey.
It is through an invitation from Mary Nakamura to attend a benefit concert and worship that I began attending SJUMC in the fall. When I attended my first worship service here, I was struck by the friendliness of the people I encountered. Everyone greeted me with smiles and I genuinely felt welcomed at the church.
A few months after I began coming to SJUMC, Mary and Rev. Motoe mentioned to me that the church was looking for a bilingual team leader for a mission trip to Japan. I offered to lead a trip around the time that I was already scheduled to be there to visit my parents.
In many ways, I feel that God has led me to this church at this time and prepared me to lead this mission trip. My educational and professional background in social work and experiential education, combined with my bilingual/bicultural upbringing, provide me with the skills to lead groups effectively. In addition, I carry with me a faith in Jesus Christ, and a desire to serve as He did to better the lives of others.
The members of the Japan Earthquake Recovery VIM team are busy preparing for our trip. All of us are excited that we will be able to assist in the recovery of the Tohoku region one year following the disasters in Japan.
Along the way, we will stay at the Wesley Center in Tokyo as well as the Asian Rural Institute, and will be conducting six days of volunteer service through the Tohoku Disaster Center.
We appreciate your commitment in the fundraising efforts thus far, and welcome your continued support. We also ask for your prayers of strength and safety as we embark on this journey.
Letter from Mary Nakamura:
Many of you have been asking us what we might be doing when we are in Sendai/Ishinomaki. Examples of what's going on there now include: continuing the cleanup from the tsunami – in particular, cleaning mud off the floor of a building. They are also painting a series of cottages, and helping a bread store move their business.
Please circle Sunday, March 11 on your calendar. We will be holding a special event in the Sanctuary, called "Sharing Hope: Japan One Year Later." Doors will open at 12:30 p.m. and the program will begin at 1 p.m.
Members of the Japan Earthquake Recovery Team will be sharing stories and photos of our mission trip. Mark McLean will be playing guitar before the event and the Sakura Chorus will be singing two numbers during the program. The Japanese Consulate has been invited.
This event will be open to the public, so please share this information with anyone who is interested in learning more about the work being done in Japan.
For team information and to read the team's blog, go to http://sacjumcjapanumvim.shutterfly.com/
To donate, visit SJUMC's Japan relief website at http://www.sacjumc.com/japanrelief.html or send checks, payable to "SJUMC," to Sacramento Japanese UMC, 6929 Franklin Boulevard, Sacramento, CA 95823. SJUMC is a qualified Section 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and will provide tax-deductible receipts for all donations.
Find out more: Listen to "Radio Spot" interview on Joint One Radio, Feb. 11, 2012:
Contact Mary Nakamura at JapanRelief@sacjumc.com or 916.421.1017, or visit the SJUMC website at www.sacjumc.com, if you have questions.