Published September 20, 2012
His first home was on the other side of the globe. It was where he spent his first 11 years, the place he learned at the feet of his parents how to love and serve God. It was the place where, as a young boy, he left his father, buried too young, too suddenly.
It seemed fitting that when he returned to his first homeland in Japan it would be to serve God as well as to remember. It was almost 30 years ago when Tim Beck felt God called him to be involved in missions. He was a bit apprehensive about that call, though.
“I’m like Moses. I do not have the gift of speech,” Beck admitted. He did, however, like to make and fix things. “My mother always told me I was born with a hammer in my hand. She has pictures of me tearing up plumbing in the back yard,” he said. Beck naturally found his career in construction.
His love of construction and his calling to missions came together when he went to Brazil on a mission trip to build three churches. “While doing that, the Holy Spirit told me to use my talents in construction to further the kingdom,” said Beck, a member of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Toccoa.
From 1994 to 1996 he and his wife served as missionaries in Venezuela. It was while working there that he hosted a good friend from Georgia who brought a team to work on the seminary and church buildings in Venezuela. “While he was there, he told me about a new ministry they were doing in Georgia called disaster relief,” Beck said. “He said it was lots of fun. You get to play with chain saws and fix roofs.”
When the couple returned to Georgia, Beck joined Georgia Unit 7R – a cleanup and recovery disaster relief unit based in North Georgia. Several years ago he took over as unit director.
When a tsunami hit Japan in March 2011, Beck immediately thought about providing disaster relief for the victims. “I thought it would be neat to help them since I was born and raised in Okinawa, but right after it hit, I was laid off my job and thought I couldn’t go because of financial reasons,” Beck said.
However, in August, he received a call asking him if he’d lead a team to Japan. Georgia Baptist disaster relief funds would pay for the first two trips that went to help the destroyed area.
While he worked doing cleanup outside of Tono, Japan, it was the long bus rides every day that gave Beck the opportunity to share his faith with Japanese relief workers.
“We stayed in Tono and every day they’d put us on the bus with about 30 or 40 other people for a one and half hour ride to the disaster relief area. The Japanese workers found out we were Americans and wanted to practice their English so we had the opportunity to share with them.
“We also had English/Japanese Bibles and were able to give those out to some of the people. We told them, ‘If you read it, it will help you with your English,’” he said.
Beck returned with another team a few months later on the first anniversary of the tsunami. “We were doing rebuilding during that trip. We had three people come to know the Lord and found out later that a fourth gentleman also accepted the Lord later on,” he said. His work in Japan also allowed him to return to his home and his father’s grave for the first time in 40 years.
“Many of the people in my church knew I had grown up there. They helped pay the extra cost so I could go to Okinawa on the way back home,” he said. One of his former students in a Sunday school class he had taught was stationed with the Marines in Okinawa and he and his wife hosted Beck for the trip. Beck’s father was an air traffic controller for the Air Force and also a missionary. He was a year away from retirement when he died.
“I wasn’t sure exactly how to get to the places where I grew up, but we found it. I was able to see the house where I grew up and reminisce and visit the cemetery where my father was buried,” he said. It was an emotional time for Beck, but appropriate that he returned home to the place where his faith first began.
“The reason I got involved in disaster relief is because it’s such an easy way to minister to people who are hurting and don’t know Christ,” he said.
Disaster relief is one of several ministries featured in this year’s State Missions Season of Prayer and State Missions Offering Prayer Guide. To order materials, visit www.gastatemissions.org or call (800) 746-4422, ext. 296.
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