Friday, March 25, 2011

March 2011 Nagano News

Blessings Dear Loved Ones & Prayer Partners!

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. Never since World War II has this country needed more comfort. Since March 11th when the 5th largest earthquake in world history took place we have had the largest Tsunami EVER and then an additional 757 other quakes since the BIG ONE! The country is continually shaking. Just today we have already had 7 more quakes, and we fear they will continue for a long time. Luckily for us, our area doesn’t feel most of those, but the people that are in shelters, living in homes without water or electricity, each shake has to bring more and more fear. Please pray that His comfort can come over all of these people.

Until the last couple of days, the major affect have been to those closer to the earthquake center, but since the 11th their have been strong quakes in different parts of the country. Because of the Nuclear Reactor problems, the areas serviced by the Tokyo Electric Power Co. are conserving as much energy as possible. These areas include Tokyo, Yokohama and several prefectures. They are having roaming blackouts throughout each day to save on power. Zack lives in one of these areas and never knows when the power will be on or off. When it’s off, life stops! Japan is dependant on trains for transportation, especially in major cities, so when the lights are out in Tokyo, so are the trains. So in the major populated areas, the blackouts are creating unique problems.

Starting last Saturday, radiation levels were found in milk and spinach grown in the Fukushima area where the Fukushima Daiichi power plant is located. The products were immediately taken off shelves throughout the country, but since the country is already living in fear, almost all the milk and similar products (yogurt, butter, cheese) also are not found. A week ago, all of the toilet paper, tissues, instant noodles and other supplies were gone, but now in our area they are back. Two days ago a new problem developed as the water supply in TOKYO was found to have levels of radiation that were too high for children! A new panic developed as people flocked to the stores to buy bottled water. The stores were quickly out of stock. The threat increased yesterday to include the two prefectures around Tokyo. Bottled water is now NO WHERE to be found! The government is trying to buy as much as they can and freely give it out to families that have children under the age of 3. The trouble is there just isn’t enough water! People are worried about what happens to their children if they absorb or drink water while bathing? No one has the answers. So the news continues to add to their fears. Please Heavenly Father, Comfort your people!

In our last update we said how Kim was visiting one of the main shelters in Japan. It was a 4 hour drive from here and Kim along with 13 others made the trip. The outpouring there was HUGE! The shelter is in a LARGE metropolitan area and the people there are blessed with so many giving people there helping out. Kim talked with many different families. Most of the 8,000 people housed there have already been to 2 or 3 other shelters and are told that this shelter will close on March 31! But, in the center there was no panic, the people were all well organized. Each family had their own small space (enough to lie down in). With cardboard walls built up so they could have the impression of privacy. All of the people said they were being well fed and the volunteers were all great. The provisions for that center are more than the center can presently use as they have no SPACE either to store things or for the people to accept things. When asked what do you need, the most common answer was BATHS! The arenas and gyms in Japan don’t have locker rooms as we know them, so there are no shower rooms. While Kim was there, an announcement over the loud speaker said that for 6 hours that 6 different locations were opening their doors so refugees that wanted to could come and take a hot bath. The people (8,000) were very organized and quickly times and locations were set up and who could go where and when. People were coming by to take the children for study time, and everything was being run like a wonderful community. Only there was no idea what tomorrow would bring, the people all were so thankful for all the outpouring that was coming to them from all over. One old man asked Kim if she was from America. She said yes, and he told her it was Americans and their helping that gave him hope. Presently there are about 235,000 people still in shelters with over 2,500 buildings being used. None of them know anything about their future. Those that were living within 20 miles of the nuclear plant don’t know if they will ever be allowed to return to their homes. They have no jobs, although most of the companies are continuing to pay them small amounts, that money will soon run out. There are no quick answers, no quick fixes, only questions, most unanswerable at this time. Please Heavenly Father, Comfort your people!

For us, our lives are trying to continue as normal as possible. Many people have evacuated our area, especially the foreigners. Normally in Japan the end of March is a time to transfer to new locations as many companies transfer their workers every 3 to 4 years hoping it will keep them excited and more productive than staying in one location. Most of those are now on hold. Two of my students were supposed to move the end of March, one has been postponed until April 15th the other until sometime in August. Gas is sometimes in short supply, some stations limiting your purchase to just 3 gallons (10 liters), while others have limited their opening and closing times. After 5 o’clock in the afternoon it’s hard to find a station that is open. Supplies in the supermarkets are limited depending on what you want. Milk, rice, instant noodles, bottled water are almost impossible to find, while other products come and go. We are fortunate to have lots of storage space, so we usually have plenty but now are less likely to buy some things as we hope they can go to people less fortunate.

We will be having our annul Easter Egg hunt on Saturday April 23rd, and hope that we have a huge turnout. We have been growing and growing with each event that we do with a peak last year at Halloween where 185 people attended. Last year we had 85 people for our Easter event even though it was snowing in the early morning hours. Please pray that God will lead many to the hunt and during the telling of the resurrection story that many hearts will be opened.
By His grace, God continues to equip us for each individual challenge and opportunity that He presents. Your prayers and support are necessary to our being here. We ask you to pray with and for us that we always strive to walk before God, wherever that may be, and be used as instruments of His love in all we do. Should God ask any of you to partner with us in our outreach for Him, please send any love offerings to: Bethlehem United Methodist Church, for Baranski John Alan Mission Fund, c/o Becky Wack, 1003 Rowan Cove, New Albany, Ms. 38652. We do still need our own funds, but presently we need them for our Japanese brothers and sisters. If your heart leads you to send us financial aid for them please make a note with your love offering that it is for the disaster relief. Thank-you all so much for your prayers and giving hearts.

We hold you each in our hearts and prayers with praise and thanksgiving.

In His love & walking before Him, the Baranski Bunch

Friday, March 18, 2011 apologies

Praise God we are all OK. Shaken and full of concern but fine.
We've been sending out messages on FB and emails as we can. Sorry it's taken me so long to post here..just lots going on.
Letting you know up front that  this will be very long and many of you who check in on us here will already have seen all this. I'm putting in the last couple of updates that John prepared to send out to our newsletter recipients. They kind of fill in what's been happening and what direction we're heading now with the offers of relief that we've received.
If any of you have specific questions please email us and we'll do our best to answer.
Here goes...  written 3/16/11
Dear friends and prayer partners,

Greetings from Japan. First I want to thank all of you for the thousands of prayers that are being lifted up not just for us but for all of the people in Japan. During this terrible tragedy you are starting to get a reason why we are so in love with these people. Presently there are over 1,000,000 families living without water, electricity or gas. Food is in very short supply as are many other household necessities. All of the stores in those areas are closed indefinitely as are the businesses and basically daily life as they know it. Presently about 50,000 members of the Japan Self Defense Forces (their army) are in the region to aid in the rescue and rebuilding. Police from all over the country as well as other agencies are also there to aid where ever they can. If you are watching any coverage on TV in your area, you know the problems are endless. But did you also notice that all of the military, all of the police are busy HELPING! None are on patrol, none are guarding against looters, none are worried about fighting breaking out. These are indeed a remarkable people. Kim and I always say that to us their attitude towards each other is more Christian than too many in the states. It reminds us of the Good Samaritan story. But sadly less than ½ of 1 percent are Christian. Of those that have died, those that are homeless, those without shelters, almost NONE know about the wonderful love of our God! We ask that through this tragedy that God can truly open their eyes to His wonderful gift. You can all help. Please make it your prayer request to our Almighty Father that He sends the right people, the right things, the right message so they can truly find hope in His wonderful plan.

The news makes it sounds like in the rest of Japan life is going on as normal. That is true to some extent, but not completely true. We are so far fortunate because we live over 100 miles from the area, but even here we are now having gas rationing. You can buy THREE gallons of gas at a time! Why? Because we want to make sure there is plenty to help those in the damaged areas! If you go into any store there is no toilet paper, no instant ramen, no bottled water. Now, if you live in a hurricane area in the states, you know that these are supplies that people quickly buy up for their own protection. NOT HERE! These are items the STORES took off their shelves to donate to the relief effort. Is it inconvenient for us? YES! Is it worth it? YES!!! Because of the trouble with electricity, people are asked to cut back 50% of their normal usage….DONE! In some areas of Tokyo and surrounding prefectures their electricity is being shut off for 2-3 hours each day to help conserve. So is life normal?….far from it. Fear is gripping the country. Just last night we were awakened by 2 more severe shakes in our home. Many people are afraid to go out. Yesterday at our Bible Study, two members refused to attend because they were afraid there could be another earthquake and they would be too far from their homes. Yes, fear is everywhere…but life is continuing. Today Kim is gone at 6:30 in the morning to attend an elementary school graduation where she teaches. That area was hit hard Saturday morning with an earthquake that severly damaged one of the areas ski facilities and damaged one of the resort hotels, with moderate damage to the elementary school, but LIFE GOES ON!!!!

The major fear now besides the earthquakes is the worry about the nuclear fallout. The radiation levels are being monitored throughout the country. Zack left last week to start his university life. He is 200 miles from the reactors, but they are told to STAY IN THEIR ROOMS! Do not go outside and practice is canceled indefinitely!!!! FEAR! We worry about him and do ask each of you that can to send him an email. His email address is: I know that most of you will say, we are praying for you, but please think for a minute. This is an 18 year old boy that is now living in fear. He is told to stay inside, be careful and life as usual is suspended! If he only gets, “we are praying for you”, maybe, just maybe it will add to his fears. I am asking you when you email, please include a funny story, a joke, or something to make him smile. Please also include, we are praying for you, but if that is the only message it may add to the fear. Thanks so much for the prayers, but also thanks in advance for all of you who will send him a funny story to lighten his load. *please note that these are a Dad’s thoughts and feelings for his son, Zack always tells us he’s fine and not to worry*
Many of you have asked us how you can help. Of course PRAYING is the number one, but many also want to make financial contributions. I know that many of you are donating to the International Red Cross, and also your churches are making donations through the national organizations. It reminds me of this story:

While walking along a beach, an elderly gentleman saw someone in the distance leaning down, picking something up and throwing it into the ocean.

As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, picking up starfish one by one and tossing each one gently back into the water.

He came closer still and called out, “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”

The old man smiled, and said, “I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?”

To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”

Upon hearing this, the elderly observer commented, “But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!”

The young man listened politely. Then he bent down, picked up another starfish, threw it into the back into the ocean past the breaking waves and said, “It made a difference for that one.”
So in reality, there are over 1,000,000 families affected presently by the tsunami and earthquakes. If your organization would donate $1,000,000.00 (a huge amount) that would amount to $1 per family. To be honest that won’t even buy one can of bottled water. We have chosen a starfish family that we hope with your help can make a difference to. We have chosen the Suzuki family. The middle daughter and her family are our neighbors and our best friends here. The rest of her family, 2 grandmothers, her mother and father, 2 sisters (both single moms) and their 5 children all live in Sendai. They have all been to our house and we know each one personally. In a follow-up letter I will be sharing pictures of them and their personal lives so you can get to know them better. I will also include why we are so willing to help them. The needs here are endless, but yes, you too can make a difference to that one ‘starfish’. We ask that you please open your hearts to how God will lead you in helping. Thanks so much. I am looking forward to sharing the story about this wonderful family. We know only a little about their present condition, except they are all safe except for one grandmother. She has been in a care center, and no one has heard from her or about her. The family home has been destroyed as well as two of their cars. Three of their homes are basically intact as far as we know, with the parents home possibly having one of the exterior walls gone. Telephone and email contact is almost impossible, so for our neighbor, not knowing is the worst case. She is pretty much a basket case, and we are so concerned about her mental and physical health. So again, please pray for them and their family specifically, as well as the countless other millions that have been devastated by this tragedy. Again, I will try and send more details including photos of this family as soon as my time permits. But always remember, that you too can make a difference to that one!
Thank-you all for the wonderful prayers and desires you have to help.
In His love, care and protection,
Your brother in Christ,
John Baranski

Greetings friends, family and fellow prayer warriors.

Today along with a short update I will introduce the Suzuki family to you. Here now our biggest trouble is FEAR! Everyone is worried about the nuclear reactor. Many of our foreign friends are leaving the country out of fear. The US Embassy asked all Americans to evacuate if you live with in a 50 mile radius. Other countries have told their citizens to go back to your home country. Many Japanese are going as far away as possible just in case. The airports are jammed, the highways, trains, it’s like the annual vacation times. We are about 150 miles from the plant as the crow flies, and opposite direction of the normal wind, so we pray that we will be safe. We have no plans of leaving.
Gas is becoming more scarce, and supplies of normal household items decreasing. Many of the stores have yet to be able to restock, so everyone is conserving. Zack’s university is on hold, all practices and such things have been canceled indefinitely. We still feel shakes several times each day, but for us life is pretty much continuing as usual. We just thank God that all of our friends here are safe and same for their relatives.
Let me introduce you to the Suzuki family:
These are our neighbors, Hiroyuki and his wife Shiho and their children Ryusei, age 5 and Ayu, 7. They have lived next to us for the past 2 ½ years and beyond our neighbors, they are our best friends here. Outside of Ian and Zack, they’re closest we have to family here in Japan. Shiho especially helps us with any needs. She is always available to help, and is called on often to translate for us. She also is great helping with our church activities, even though she is not yet a Christian, she is teaching the children to pray and attends all of our activities. Her children take English a couple of times a week, and we get together as friends quite often. The kids call us their Nagano‘Baba’ and ‘Jiji’, Japanese for Grandmother and Grandfather. Last year for Kim’s birthday, Shiho presented her a picture frame with 3 different pictures, each picture showed Kim with 1 of her daughters, Daeon, Heather and Shiho. We have been so fortunate to have them as neighbors and friends and have met most of her family members. Her hometown is in Sendai, and her parents, 2 grandmothers, 2 sisters and their children all still live in Sendai. Thankfully they are all safe, but have no electricity, water, gas or normal supplies. They have no idea when things will be even close to back to normal. The grandmother’s family home has been washed out to sea along with 2 of their cars. The parents’ house is unlivable, but hopefully repairable. Nao’s apartment building has been declared unsafe, but fortunately Miho’s home has been spared. They (10 of them) are all currently living in Miho’s house. If you know Japan, that means not much space. We are only allowed limited communications, but they say they are fine, and all of the neighbors are helping each other however possible.
These are the parents: Chiyako and Toshio Suzuki.  This photo was taken only a little over a month ago.  They were in Nagano to help Shiho out as she was suffering from, meniere's disease.  Chiyako, her Mom, stayed for a little over a week, Dad and Nao’s family came on the weekend to pick Mom up and we enjoyed sharing a wonderful meal together. 
This is one of the grandmothers, Mitsuko Hirama in her late 70’s.  The older boy is Miho’s son, Sho, age 18.  He has just entered his first year at the university in Sendai and hopes to be a professional catcher one day.  His university is closed with absolutely no idea when it will reopen.  The grandmothers’ house completely disappeared in the tsunami and many lifelong memories gone with it.  The 3 girls are granddaughters.  The one on the far right is our neighbor Ayu, the other 2 are Yuuka, age 11 and Ayaka, age 7, both are Nao’s daughters.
This is the whole clan, excluding the grandmothers, Sho and Hiroyuki. From left to right starting on the top row; Toshio and his wife Chiyako, Miho’s daughter Miku (16), Miho (38), Shiho (36), Nao (31)- bottom row, Yuuka (11) Ayaka (7), Ayu (7), Tsubasa (5), and Ryusei (5). They are a very close family. They usually take a trip together at least once every year. This was last summer. Like every family they have good stories and bad. In the case of Nao, the lady on the far right, 3 years ago she went to sleep with a wonderful husband, full of joy, great health and no serious troubles. He woke up at 6 in the morning and was having trouble breathing. They called for an ambulance, and he passed away before 8 that morning. She was left a single mom with 3 young children. Miho, the older sister, has just recently gotten out of the hospital for a total hip replacement. Only 38 years of age, but she was hospitalized for 2 months. Luckily her parents and sister helped out watching and taking care of the kids. Toshio has a fun, but expensive hobby, he trains homing pigeons! He had a little over 200…but they too have been put out to sea. We are so thankful that their health is still good, but so many things are needed in their lives. The government says it will help to maybe 80% of losses, but in reality, the individual burden will be carried by people themselves.

We chose this family to ask for your support, mainly because of our relationship with the middle daughter Shiho and her family. Are they the most worthy family in the area, perhaps not, but another thing that makes them extra special is that they are so humble and so kind, that no matter what amount we are able to raise, they will say that they are OK, but this person, or that person really, really needs help. I can’t think of a better family I could trust to make sure that the money you are willing to give out of love will get to someone deserving, where like the starfish it truly will make a difference.
In His love, care and protection,

Your brother in Christ,
John Baranski

If you made it all the way to here, THANK YOU!, for taking the time and having the interest. Prayer does make a difference and we appreciate every one.
There will be more to come so check back...
In His love and service,