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,

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