Check out: http://www.crashjapan.com/
Dedicated to assisting believers around the world during times of crisis, CRASH's mission statement reads as follows:
The mission statement for CRASH is to equip Christians in Japan to be ready when disaster strikes to show the love of Jesus in practical and effective ways. Our method is to provide a model of action, accurate information and volunteer training to a broad network of churches and ministries across Japan.
CRASH is endorsed by JEMA the Japan Evangelical Missionary Association and works in cooperation with the Disaster Relief Commission of the Japan Evangelical Association.
I became aware of this organization after the call went out for immediate disaster relief after the March tsunami/earthquake that rocked Japan. At first glance, it looks like a reputable organization.
My questions are arise from the rather vague outline the website presents. Christians quite often are quick to offer aid in times of crises, most often in the form of finances. Generosity is encouraged in Scripture! And when disasters of this magnitude strike, we often need a way to feel like we are helping the situation rather than sitting by powerless. Besides, we are called to assist our brothers and sisters in times of need.
You can take a look at the site for yourselves, but know that it's not primarily CRASH that I'm questioning.
Yes, there is a time and place for critical aid, foreign and domestic. When war, famine, natural disasters, or disease strike, a community needs to be rallied around so that everything from clean water, food, shelter, family reunification, etc., are taken care of.
Sometimes, however, Christians in the developed world like to take over and be the heroes. Perhaps it's not our intention, but that's what it looks like. Or we write our checks and the feeling of assurance we have assuages us that our role has been fulfilled. The debacle of Hurricane Katrina, I think, has shown the lack readiness in North America to attend to domestic plights. For certain, local community members in New Orleans stood up for themselves and many re-built against all odds — some odds coming from a lack of organization and understanding of community relationship and development. However huge gaps were revealed in terms of mobilization and strategy.
There is often a 3-R linear diagram that outlines what stages a country/community goes through after a disaster hits:
Relief —-> Recovery —-> Restoration
Relief is precisely what CRASH is doing — stepping in to ensure immediate needs are taken care of.
Recovery begins with the immediate crisis is over, but the long haul of re-building begins, the mourning of lost loved ones continues, and decisions about "what now?" sink in.
Restoration is often seen as where the country/community are able to stand on their own two feet again, and look forward to improving their stabilized community, rather than only cleaning up after the disaster.
Christians sometimes get stuck in the "Relief Zone" and keep sending money/resources to places that do not require it, thus impeding the growth process. Or, swinging the other way, we put a timeline on a country/community's recovery and wonder why in the world isn't it "all better"? One lady was clucking her tongue the other day against Haiti and why it hadn't gotten themselves all together yet. Her church had sent multiple shipments of children's hats and STILL they were needing more!
Comments like this usually only expose ignorance, and lack of understanding.
As believers, we need to learn mutual love and interdependence with one another. We must not dive in like super heroes a clean house. This takes away from the humanity and relationship building of "the other", while we still think we are doing a good thing. We need to learn when to step back. Because what we are doing is actually creating cycles of dependence.
This leads to the second point: there is no black and white timeline. Cultures vary from country to country, and even from block to block. You cannot tell a community that the time for mourning their dead is over because "it's been long enough". That must come from within their voice as a people. When we have it in our heads that if we keep up the relief efforts for long enough, it will translate into recovery which it doesn't. It simply extends the crisis, often creating poverty.
I, myself, actually believe the restoration phase undergirds the other two phases even while having a time of its own. So my diagram would look more like this:
Relief —-> Recovery —-> Restoration
\——- R E S T O R A T I O N ————-/
Jesus begins His healing work in times and ways we as human do not understand. For us, these phases act as guides for community healing, but a community does not need to be out of the danger zone before experiencing Christ's intervention, tears, love, and grace. It in fact surrounds us all the time — our redemption, repentance, reconciliation, and renewal.
As for Japan, we as believers from around the world need to support it right now — materially and financially. Yet we also require discernment as to when to step back materially while remaining wholly invested in love and relationship. How does our role change? What needs have changed? Where is the change coming from? Are different regions growing, requiring different supports at different rates?
Some may balk at asking these sensitive questions, but without putting them out on the table, we will continue to offer the wrong kind of support, or the right kind of support at the wrong time; or keep our heads in the sand that much of this work will be lifelong, and sending a box of hats doesn't equate to eternal relationship.
My question of CRASH would be: what do you do AFTER the immediate crisis is over?