The Emmaus Disaster Relief Center

The Emmaus Disaster Relief Center


History and Relationship to Global Ministries

Established in 2001, the Emmaus Center is an ecumenical church-based community center for the church and the wider public. Christians number one percent of the population in Japan. The Emmaus Center is one vital way for the church to contribute to society. A strong youth outreach program ministers to many young people who study in the city of Sendai in northeastern Japan. Global Ministries has strong historical ties to the city of Sendai and has worked closely in the area of youth ministries with its partner church, the United Church of Christ in Japan (UCCJ – known as Kyodan), ever since the inception of the Sendai Student Center in 1951.

Kyodan Responds to Triple Disaster of March 2011

On the 11th of March 2011, a devastating earthquake registering nine on the Richter scale shook the northeastern coast of Japan. The tsunami which followed hit 350 miles of coastline, devouring many towns and villages. The tsunami claimed 15,000 lives, and 230,000 people yet live in temporary housing more than 18 months after the disaster. Entire communities were devastated. Many people lost their jobs and means of livelihood. Then, on March 12th, the nuclear reactors in Fukushima exploded, sending radiation into the atmosphere.

Soon after the disaster, Global Ministries partner church, the Kyodan, designated the Emmaus Center as a relief center to help the tsunami survivors. A central office was established in Sendai at the Emmaus Center, along with a satellite office in the coastal city of Ishinomaki. In the initial year after the disaster, the Emmaus Center housed and provided meals for 2,500 volunteers, most of whom were young, and 80 percent of whom were non-Christian, to work with families in two localities: Shichigo and Ishinomaki.

After the initial phase of mud removal and house cleaning, volunteers began and still today assist the survivors in many ways. The motto of the Emmaus Disaster Relief Center is “To Walk Alongside the Survivors” until they find renewed hope in their lives. The Emmaus story in Luke 24 provides this vision.

Relief efforts include:  

  • help with removal of debris in the fields,
  • daily visits to people in temporary housing,
  • organization of special events like festivals and sports events to bring people back into the community,
  • after-school programs for children of the affected areas,
  • delivery of needed items according to the changing seasons such as fans, heaters, dehumidifiers, blankets, etc.
  • involvement in the local council to help rebuild the villages.

Northeastern Japan is mostly rural, with many agricultural and fishing communities. It represents a less prosperous area of Japan.  The communities in this region are largely composed of the elderly, the handicapped, and children. The daily outreach activities of the Emmaus Center are intended to show its commitment to be a constant presence in their lives as the survivors themselves continue to rebuild their own lives.

Global Minstries welcomes help in order to continue supporting the relief activities at the Emmaus Center:

Volunteer: The Emmaus Center accepts volunteers on a regular basis. Food and lodging are provided for a minimal cost. Volunteers from overseas are a welcome sign of solidarity. Please contact:  Global Ministries Mission Personnel Office at or (317) 713-2570.

Pray: On the 11th of each month, staff and volunteers join hands in a moment of silence in remembrance of those who died, as well as for those who continue to struggle after the disaster.

Financial gifts:

  • $ 10 can buy a pot of flowers to take to surviving families to show care for them
  • $ 50 can provide two warm blankets for people residing in temporary housing
  • $100 can provide ten families living in temporary housing with disinfectants to protect from mold
  • $200 supports food costs for 30 volunteers for 30 days