Blessed be the Name of the Lord

Today marks the fourth anniversary of the massive tsunami that hit Japan. The Wycliffe New Network team went to Japan a year after the disaster to learn more about how it impacted staff from affiliated organizations.

Kesennuma in March 2012

In March 2011 Kimiko’s parents were visiting her in South Asia, where she serves as a literacy worker. On March 11 while Kimiko was at work, her mother received an alarming text message from her younger daughter in Japan.

“There has been a huge earthquake here. Please pray.”

“We tried to contact [our daughter in Japan] but the phones were disconnected. We didn’t know anything. All we had was ‘Please pray,’”

Since Kimiko joined Wycliffe Japan in 2009, her parents, who are strong believers in prayer, have hosted an inorinowa, or prayer circle, for Kesennuma Bible Baptist Church.  The group prays for Wycliffe Japan staff.

When Kimiko came home from work on that day in March, she and her parents went to the embassy to watch the news and saw devastation sweeping across the country.

The Most Powerful Earthquake Ever Recorded in Japan

The earthquake was the most powerful ever recorded in Japan. It triggered tsunami waves that reached heights of 133 feet, traveling up to six miles inland in some areas. Thousands were killed. Hundreds of thousands lost their homes. Millions lost electricity and water. More than 1,000 people were killed in Kimiko’s hometown, Kesennuma.

The Church in the Aftermath

After the disaster, Japanese churches faced a nation in mourning. People combed lists of survivors for the names of friends and loved ones. Families had lost everything. Amid the devastation, the Japanese church prayed and served. Churches served as centers for relief work and as havens for those seeking help.

Wycliffe Japan members and the staff of Wycliffe partner organization ViBi (Video Bible – a ministry of Japan Deaf Evangel Mission) each joined relief efforts, serving their neighbors and churches across the country.

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Chaos in Japan prevented Kimiko’s parents from returning to Japan immediately. When Kimiko watched her parents finally board their plane, she wondered how they could possibly recover.

After getting to Tokyo, they had to wait two more weeks before they could get all the way home. On May 28, they arrived by bus at the evacuation center and confirmed that all of their family members were safe.

“We were so happy to meet our family and embrace them. They all lived in a big gym with room for 1,200 people,” says Kimiko’s father.

Washed Away

They soon discovered that their home and their business, a small print shop, had been destroyed.

Kimiko's father stands near to where his house once stood

“This was where my front door used to be!” Kimiko’s father stood in the middle of a concrete foundation. Weeds and grass popped up through the cracks in what remained of the tile floor. Kimiko’s mother picked up one of her old coffee mugs, but nothing else was to be found.

As they entered their print shop, Kimiko’s parents saw mud oozing through all the cracks and crevices of the printing machinery. It seemed impossible to recover.

Kimiko remembers her reaction to the news. “It meant that all of my belongings in Japan had been washed away,” she says. “I felt like God had brought me back to the basics again, to rely on Him for everything.”

“It is good for me that I was afflicted…”

Today, as Kimiko’s parents look back, they see how God did what they could not imagine.

“When I first arrived back in Japan,” Kimiko’s father remembers, “two verses came to me. One was Psalm 119:71: ‘It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.’ The other was Job 1:21, where it says, ‘The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.’ When these verses came to me, I couldn’t process it. We had lost everything…. How could we say it’s a blessing? How is affliction good for me?”

Kimiko's parents

Kimiko’s mother adds, “We had a vision before the earthquake that we wanted to do printing for evangelistic purposes, so it was shocking to have everything taken…We felt God was challenging us and asking us– ‘Will you still follow me on this path?’”

About a month after Kimiko’s parents’ return to Japan, volunteers from a church in Singapore arrived to clean out all the debris and mud in their print shop. Then came a Japanese team of professional carpenters. Japanese believers sponsored new printing equipment for the shop so that Kimiko’s parents could begin working together with a Christian publishing company. They began to print evangelistic material for the people in the areas hit hardest by the tsunami.

“We did experience hardship,” says Kimiko’s father, “but through this we could see God’s grace, and we were reminded that Jesus is with us all the time.”

The Kesennuma First Bible Baptist Church inorinowa (prayer circle) has resumed meeting, in Kimiko’s parents’ new dining room. In this room prayers rise for Kimiko and the other men and women serving worldwide with Wycliffe Japan, working to provide the Word that has sustained the Kesennuma believers through loss and devastation.

“All that was lost has now been restored. God took away and has now provided again. That’s our experience of Job 1:21,” say Kimiko’s parents. “‘The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.’”

Article by Kate Roberts
Photos by Marc Ewell


This story was written for the Wycliffe News Network.

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The Way to Micronesia

Do you ever wonder how God weaves all of our unique experiences together for his purposes?  Read this story from my trip to Micronesia in May of 2013 to learn about one families experience. 

For Peter and Robin Knapp, the way to Micronesia has been long, with many unexpected twists and turns. The paths of those who choose to follow Christ are never dull, as Peter and Robin can readily attest.

Peter Finds His Place

Knapp Family

When Peter, who grew up in Germany, was nearing high school graduation, he decided to pursue the study of theology. But he faced a problem. He knew pastors delivered sermons once a week, but he didn’t know what they did the rest of the time.

That night as he prepared for bed, he prayed, “God, if you’ll show me what it is [pastors] need to let people know, I will study theology. Otherwise I’ll study something else.”

At that time, everyone in Germany was being drafted.  Because Peter was a conscientious objector, he did alternative service at a Christian retreat center run by the Liebenzell Mission. He heard the gospel as he had never heard it before, and it puzzled him.

He decided to pay a visit to the center’s counselor. There Peter committed his life to Christ. “I knew I had new life. And I knew then what it was that other people needed to know.”

Peter applied for seminary in Switzerland and soon found joy in studying the Bible in its source languages. But Peter still did not believe he had the ability to pastor.

He heard missionaries speak about Bible translation and wondered if somehow that could be a place for him to fill. Could he somehow help missionaries with languages?

Soon after he attended a weeklong seminar presented by Wycliffe Germany. After the regular sessions, they taught people how to learn the sounds of languages and how to learn unwritten languages and develop alphabets for them.

Peter knew he had found his place. He applied at once to Wycliffe and was accepted.

Robin’s Road


Far away in the north-central US, Robin attended church regularly with her parents. At six-years old she decided she needed to become a follower of Jesus.

Robin’s family then moved to the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific for five years because of her father’s employment. During that time they met some missionaries to Micronesia and had Micronesian friends.

Years later, at about age 16, Robin went to Ecuador as an exchange student. At that point, God had already been speaking to her about serving in another country.

While Robin was in college, she began dabbling in languages, graduating with a BA in Spanish. She also learned some French and Russian.

After reading a book about Wycliffe’s founder and hearing a Wycliffe pilot speak at a nearby church, Robin decided to join Wycliffe USA. She went to study linguistics at SIL in the south-central US. There she met Peter.

At last their paths had dovetailed, and Peter and Robin began on the next part of their journey as husband and wife.


Robin Knapp with friend

Robin Knapp with a Khakas friend from Siberia.  Photo courtesy of Peter & Robin Knapp

For the first seven years of their ministry together, Peter and Robin worked on a translation in Siberia. A friend from Khakasia (a small province in eastern Siberia) urged them to translate the Bible into her language.

As the Siberian work progressed, the Knapps’ friend would periodically tell them she’d been applying what she’d been learning from scripture. She said, “I think these principles are actually working!”

From Snow to Sand

When the Knapps’ work in Siberia came to a close, they were not sure where to go next, but God opened a new door. The SIL* Pacific Group was establishing a minor in Bible translation at the Pacific Islands University (PIU) in Guam, and Peter and Robin were invited to serve as instructors.

“It never dawned on me that I might go back to Micronesia,” explains Robin. “…for me it was like returning home.”

Peter Knapp teaching at Pacific Islands University

On the same day Peter and Robin agreed to join PIU’s staff, the SIL Pacific Group director forwarded them a request from the Mwoakilloa language community.  They were asking for someone to help them with their Bible translation program. Peter and Robin agreed to be their advisors.

“That just blew my mind,” Peter says. “They could have started their project on any day, but they started it the very day we called to accept positions at the university.”

Since arriving in Micronesia in 2012, the Knapps can see how, even years ago, God was weaving Micronesia and PIU into their lives.

“I thrive on seeing students begin to understand,” Peter says. “This is the best thing I can do.”

Robin agrees. “Scripture is the only thing you can ever really leave someone.”

Article by Kristel Ortiz
Photos by Elyse Patten and Heather Pubols

SIL International is a faith-based nonprofit organization that serves language communities worldwide.


This story was written for the Wycliffe News Network.

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