2012 Updates

M3R201208 05

Our 2012 Tsunami Ministry Updates

Focus: Onagawa Megumi Project

December 2012

The Onagawa Project of missionary colleagues serving with ReachGlobal will most likely become our primary tsunami recovery ministry partnership starting in 2013. We will be applying much of our EFCCM Disaster Relief funds toward the initial set up costs of the Onagawa Project. This ReachGlobal Project will develop a handicraft enterprise in Onagawa that will serve as a place for gospel networking. 

Onagawa Town in Miyagi Prefecture had a population of about 11,000 before the tsunami of March 11, 2011. But 10% of the town perished on that day. The entire main business district, located on the waterfront, was wiped out. Over 40 percent of the people in Onagawa still live in temporary housing.

Our tsunami ministry updates will therefore now be carreid under the ONAGAWA MEGUMI PROJECT menu item at the top.

13OnagawaCho01 FB

Onagawa Town, July 2012 (The green part of that building is its roof.)

Ministry Opportunities

May 18, 2012


Developing a few specific tsunami recovery ministry opportunities in the southern part of Miyagi prefecture (near or in Sendai city) is taking longer than expected. We are trying to focus on the south side of Sendai city and even further south toward Fukushima prefecture.

So far, it looks like our ministries could include the following:

  • starting a quilting circle on May 23 in the apartment of a tsunami displaced family living nearby a temporary housing center in Wakabayashi-ku, Sendai
  • holding mother and young children meetings once or twice a month in another temporary housing center also in Wakabayashi-ku, Sendai
  • leading sewing classes in a few other temporary housing centers
  • helping farmers in Iwanuma-shi (south of Sendai, near the Sendai airport) cleanse their fields of seawater salt, test their fields and vegetables for radiation levels, and construct a distribution facility for their produce.
Dale Wheelbarrow

We are hoping that a few of these kinds of ministries might provide opportunities for short term missionaries to join us in sewing/quilting projects or in construction.

Our focus remains on developing opportunities for sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ and for linking our tsunami recovery ministry with church planting.

Sendai Apartment Found!

February 4, 2012


On Feb 4 we made the arrangements to rent an apartment in Sendai. The search process has been intense and at times we were doubtful that we would be able to find a suitable apartment. But much to our delight, this relatively large apartment became available, our Japanese legal guarantor was accepted, and the landlord gave permission for us (a foreign couple no less!) to move in. The realtor told us the rental process would require 1-2 weeks. But it only took 4 days! Thank you for praying!

We pick up the apartment keys on Feb 6, return to Tokyo soon after to load up a rental truck with our stored belongings, and move our stuff in by Feb 11.

Sendai Apartment Hunting

February 2, 2012

After days of visiting realtors looking for a suitable apartment to rent, we finally found an available one. Apartments in Sendai are scarce because so many tsunami displaced people are looking for them. The one we have selected is a little bit older and closer to the city of Sendai, making it less attractive. For us, however, it seems to be just about right.

But in order to move into an apartment, a two step process must be followed. First the Japanese friend we selected to be our legal guarantor (a foreigner will not do) has to be approved by the guarantor company (lots of middle men in this rental process!). And then the owner will decide whether to rent to us. It is possible that because we are foreigners, our application for renting this apartment might be turned down. We hope to know one way or the other by about Feb 8-10.

Our Tsunami Ministry Vehicle

January 22, 2012


On Jan 21, 2012, we personally purchased this used vehicle for our life and tsunami recovery ministry in northern Japan for the next year. It is a 1997 Toyota Hiace Regius 4WD, 2700 cc gasoline, 92000 km (57000 mi), 8 seater, or 5 seater with lots of luggage space.

We plan to drive north to Sendai city on Jan 26 and will begin looking for a rental apartment as soon as we get there.

Gift from Hong Kong EFC!

January 19, 2012

The Evangelical Free Church of China -- Hong Kong -- Overseas Missions Board has given us a love offering to cover our rental housing costs for one year in Sendai city, where we will be based for our tsunami recovery ministry. This generous and unexpected gift comes close to covering our anticipated 2012 lacking support!

The donation from Hong Kong is due to our strategy of working closely with Larry/Bella Mori (ReachGlobal -- EFC of America) over the next year in their church planting ministry at Sendai Izumi EFC. Bella is originally from Hong Kong and the Moris receive significant encouragement from the EFC churches in Hong Kong.

These funds were successfully deposited into our Japanese bank account on Jan 19.

We will begin apartment hunting as soon as we move to Sendai on Jan 26.

The Lord has richly blessed us through the EFC of China Hong Kong, Overseas Missions Board!

Littles’ Return to Japan Date

December 12, 2011

Return to Japan date for Dale and Ann

Dale and Ann were hoping to return to Japan in late November. But our lower than expected donor income did not provide enough of a cushion for our life and ministry in Japan. So in consultation with our Area Director we postponed our return date. We are now returning to Japan on January 1, 2012. We trust that the Lord will provide adequate donor income for our salary, housing, and ministry expenses in Japan.

Go to this page of our website to learn how to donate to our support account.

Personal Reflections (Dale)

November 5, 2011



It was 1:30 AM on March 11, 2011, on the east coast of the US when we were awakened by a phone call from our daughter on the west coast. Understanding her Dad’s penchant for tracking earthqukes, especially in Japan, she knew we would want to be informed if there had been a big one in Japan, even if it meant waking us up in the middle of the night. A few years earlier we as a family had experienced a 7.2 magnitude quake at almost the same location in northeastern Japan this one hit. But this quake on March 11 was a whopping 9.0 magnitude, the fourth largest recorded quake in history and the biggest one to ever hit earthquake prone Japan.

As soon as we learned the size and location of the 3/11 biggie, we immediately feared the worst from tsunami waves. For the next 36 hours Dale worked email, skype, Japanese TV on the internet, Western TV sources, FaceBook, etc., to gather the information about the quake and the ensuing horrific tsunami waves, and to offer support for our colleauges and acquaintances in Japan. It did not take long to realize that Western media was fixating on the tsunami disabled nuclear power plant in Fukushima rather than on the most obvious unfolding tragedy: the tsunami waves.

2011 07OnagawaCho01

Out at sea the highest tsunami was measured at about 10 meters (33 ft). But due to the funnel effect of tsunami waves when they enter topographically confining inlets and ports, the highest was actually measured at 40 meters (130 ft). These measurements were taken from markings left on buidlings such as a hospital perched high on a hill. Tsunami of this size are practically inescapable. Nobody fleeing a tsunami would think that the safety zone was above 40 meters. Most fled to hills and buildings only about 10 meters above sea level (4 storey buildings).

The angry tsunami waves swallowed most towns along a 350 mile stretch of Pacific Ocean coastline in northeastern Japan, sometimes extending 5 miles inland. And then on its reluctant retreat to the ocean, the tsunami ground up the debris it had already inhaled. The tsunami waves had reduced most coastal communities to rubble. Within 45 minutes of the quake, over 250,000 people were made homeless and 23,000 died.

Four months after the quake and tsunami, we stood in Shichigahama town we knew well. It was one of the places we call home in Japan. Dale spent most of his childhood summer vacations in this town just to the east of Sendai city. Similarly, as our own children grew up in Japan we built family vacation memories on the Pacific Ocean beaches of Shichigahama. (The name of the town means “seven ports.”) Missionaries move around a lot. But this town was one place we would always come back to. It was our geographic reference point, full of good family memories. It was probably our favorite location in Japan.

As we drove into Shichigahama in July, four months after 3/11, we were talking, laughing, and enjoying the familiar sights, sounds, and smells of the ocean from the windows of our car. And then driving around one last curve coming into Shichigahama, we saw for the first time the destruction left by the 3/11 tsunami waves. We became awkardly quiet. Nobody spoke. Nobody made a sound. It was as if someone had smothered us. We stared in disbelief at what should have been a town but was instead something like a bombed out war zone. We parked our car in what was left of a little graveyard and walked through the rubble. Out of hundreds of buildings, only a few awkward (There’s that word again!) parts of one gas station remained. On closer inspection, we saw that the gas stand was actually back in business. We wished we had not filled our car with gas 30 minutes earlier so that we could have instead given our business to that skeleton of a gas station.

Tak Rod4

Knowing what the town used to look like, we were shocked by being able to see the ocean from where we stood. There were no longer any buildings and trees blocking the view of the ocean. It did not seem right to be able to see for a mile out to the ocean over the jagged and twisted remains of house foundations. We felt as if we had been violated, somehow victimized by the ocean. If we felt that way, we pondered how much more painful and intense must be the feelings of the survivors who used to live there.

We walked through the remains of the devastated port town that was now a ghost town. We traipsed along the beach that had been a place of fun, relaxation, and happiness, but was now littered with stray 40 foot containers washed ashore from the nearby port. It was surreal to walk on a beach that was missing most of its sand. (Is a beach still a beach if it has very little sand?) The tsunami had swept much of the sandy beach inland to who knows where.


We walked together in silence. And we sometimes walked alone. There was nothing meaningful or appropriate to be said. Each of us was lost in private thoughts and feelings. Periodically one of us would sigh or say something like, “Oh no, look at that!”

Yet the sky was blue and the ocean inviting. There was a haunting beauty hovering over this place of desolation. The mild ocean waves lapped at what remained of the tsunami ravished beach. We dared not wade out into the inviting ocean for fear of debris that might be under the surface. Our senses tried to take in the contradictory, simultaneous beauty and ugliness of one of our home towns. Awkward. (There’s that word again.)

We finally walked to the house we called home in Shichigahama. Takayama by the sea, as we fondly call it, is built on a 25 meter (80 ft) high cliff overlooking the beach, and had sustained no visible damage. The tsunami waves at this point had only reached about 10 meters (33 ft). We were reassured to know that to a certain degree our home was still intact. Hope had not yet perished. However, our hearts went out to the thousands of survivors who used to live down in the town but now had no house, no communtiy, and perhaps no family or friends. They had been robbed of their hopes by the tsunami.

The next day we drove north along the coast for 90 miles. We saw many destroyed towns like Shichigahama. Hardly a single town along that coast escaped tsunami devastation. We drove through one rubble strewn ghost town after another. Turning 360 degrees in these towns brought no relief from the destruction. We found ourselves becoming numb, not really wanting to see any more. Enough is enough.


And now it is November. We have completed our one year home assignment in Canada and the US, and are eager to get back to Sendai to pitch in and help bring the love and hope of Jesus Christ to tsunami devastated northeastern Japan for one year. We hope to give tsunami displaced Japanese people the opportunity to share their experiences and grow toward emotional healing.


We plan to do this through serving at the temporary housing units set up by the government along the northeastern coast of Japan. Ann will offer quilting opportunities for the ladies. Dale will serve coffee. And who knows what else we might end up doing in order to personally connect with tsunami displaced people of Japan. We just want to be there with them, helping as culturally appropriate.

But most importantly we will be pointing the residents of the temporary housing units to Jesus and toward his community, the church–through which God desires to reveal his glory to Japan and in which God showcases his love. Jesus is who Japan really needs. He is the true hope for Japan. So we will be linking our tsunami recovery ministry closely with church planting ministry that is already in full swing.


We now have our new three year Japanese religious activities visas in hand. But before we fly to Japan on December 31, we need an additional $15,000. Will you help us out by partnering with us financially? Your donations will be used to enable us to serve in tsunami ministry for the next year.

Visas Received For Japan

November 3, 2011

On Nov 1, Dale and Ann picked up their new three year religious activities visas for Japan at the Japanese Consulate in Vancouver, BC, Canada.

This means they now have the legal status to return to Japan at the end of December to begin leading the EFC of Canada Mission tsunami recovery ministry in January 2012.

News Video Clip (CNN)

September 6, 2011

I (Dale) don't usually post links to media coverage of Japan tsunami related news items, but this short video from CNN quite accurately captures the reality that lies behind the focus of our tsunami recovery ministry.

Click here to link to the 3 min CNN news video clip. Hey, if the video does not work for you, the text of the article might still be readable.

japanquake.ca (dale little)