By Stan Friedman
FARMINGTON HILLS, MI (August 2, 2013) – Ten youth and their four chaperones from Fukushima, Japan, site of the 2011 nuclear plant disaster, are getting a chance to enjoy fresh air and numerous activities during a two-week trip spearheaded by Japan Covenant Church missionaries Pastor Shunichi and Masako Miyamoto, whose ministry works closely with Faith Covenant Church and Community Covenant Church (C3).
The students arrived July 22 and will return August 5. They spent the first week in western Michigan on the campus of Hope College and are staying this week with families who attend Faith Covenant.
The trip is designed to address the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the youth, most of whom are middle-school students. The children still spend less than half an hour outside each day due to fears of poisoned air, water, and soil, Masako says, adding that the experience exacts both a physical and emotional toll.
Forty-three percent of children living in the area have been found to have thyroid lumps believed to be caused by radiation leakage from the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, Masako says.
Just a short trip to Michigan will have long-term health benefits, Masako says. She explains that studies conducted with more than 60,000 children following the Chernobyl, Russia, nuclear accident found that a temporary relocation for the radiation-affected victims to a safer and healthier environment for even two or three weeks, can contribute to significant improvement in immune systems and to general physical and mental health.
The trip is a project of Michigan Hope, a coalition of Christians, individuals and organizations in the disaster area and in Michigan that are working together to try to bring youth to the state. They have garnered funding to sponsor a two-week trip for three years.
The students’ itinerary has included sightseeing, swimming, horseback riding, and canoeing. On Wednesday, the group watched the Detroit Tigers trounce the Washington Nationals at Comerica Park.
“So literally, we are giving them a ‘breath of fresh air,’ while sharing God’s love with them,” says Dennis Carlson, associate pastor of Faith Covenant.
Organizers hope the trip will minister to the students’ spiritual needs. The youth all have been connected with church outreaches in Japan, although only three of them are Christians, Masako says.
While in the United States, the group is attending several worship services. Lodging with families from Faith Covenant is an integral part of the experience.
“We know from our own experience how important this can be,” Masako says.
Before she and Shunichi were married, she had become a Christian while staying in the home of a family in Minnesota and he had done the same while staying with a family in California.
“We want them to return with hope, with hope of the gospel,” Masako says.
The Miyamotos lead the North American Japanese Outreach, which was formed primarily through C3 in Novi and other representatives of Detroit area churches.
For a previous story on the Miyamotos, click here.