The Asian Rural Institute, located in Tochigi, Japan, has been dedicated to training grassroots rural leaders from Asia, Africa and the Pacific since 1973. In this way they have been living out their calling as global neighbor. Yet, since the devastating earthquake and tsunami struck Japan in March 2011 they have also worked to make a concerted effort to be this same type of neighbor at home. The ELCA, through our Disaster Response program, has been working with them in this process, particularly helping to rebuild some of their damaged buildings so that they can continue to be a good neighbor. I thought it would be good to give a quick update on how ARI has been responding.

New buildings that will help facilitate the work of ARI are hoped to be done in August. There will be new community space and classrooms in the new Koinonia (Greek word used to denote intimate community) House. The ARI shop has found a new space to help promote the products produced by the school. There is also a new Administration Annex to proived reception space for visitors, printing, meeting space and a computer lab. This space is made available in part through gifts to ELCA Disaster Response.

Is My Food/Soil/Water Radioactive
One of the affects of the devastating earthquake and tsunami was damage to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Since that time there has been a fear around radioactive contamination. The question of whether food, soil or water is safe is simple to answer, providing you have a $40,000 Gamma Spectrometer to read the level of radioactivity. Recognizing that this type of equipment is not sitting in everyone’s living room ARI has made their Gamma Spectrometer and training on how to use it freely available to people who want to test their soil, food and water. These people range from local residents testing their gardens, to farmers testing their soil for growing to a Christian school which tests its food each day. In this way they are helping their neighbors have a little more peace of mind in the midsts of a frightening situation.

I’ll Take My Oil Green
Another affect of the radiation leak at the Fukushima plant was Cesium contamination of soil, including at ARI. To address this situation in a sustainable way, ARI is growing soy beans. They are working with local farmers to do the same. The reason for this is that soy bean plants actually take Cesium out of the soil, storing it in their stalks, and leaving the oil void of radiation. So they are growing a crop that can be sold while addressing the problem of contaminated soil. Also, in a sign of knowing their community they are using soy beans, even though other plants like sunflowers have a higher absorption rate of Cesium. This is because the local farmers have a equipment and experience for growing soy beans but not for sunflowers. So they are meeting the needs of the neighbor by first knowning what these needs are and what resources the neighbor has.

Go With What You Know
With these new projects they are still keeping up their work training grassroots leaders around the wider region. They had 27 graduates in the class of 2012 from as far away as Brazil. We give thanks for this great ministry of being neighbor, whether that be across the street or around the globe.

Gifts to ELCA Disaster Response allow the church to respond at home and globally in times of need. Donate now.