International Ministries

Volunteers 2: Continued Adventures

October 20, 2011 Journal
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Dear Journal Friends,

Larry, Rie and I left behind the difficult visual images of Shichigahama on July 29 and drove north.  We left behind trashed beaches (cleaned every three days), and mountains of rubble from the clean-up operation.  After driving inland for a few hours the same scenes sadly greeted our eyes again as we headed up along the coast toward Kesennuma.

The Good Samaritan  After settling in on the 2nd floor of the church we began helping with the Sunday school camp in progress.  All the children involved had been deeply affected in one way or another by the disaster.  I did not know if anyone would talk about the tsunami experience with the children.  But Pastor Usui (shoe—sue- tea) and the Sunday school teachers unabashedly talked about the event.  The theme of the camp was the Good Samaritan.  Since the earthquake and tsunami, these children had continuously experienced the “Good Samaritan” story with them being “the fallen man on the road.”  

The other reason for this theme was that at the church there was box after box, tent after tent, and even a truck with the words “Samaritan’s Purse” (S. P.) witten everywhere.  Surely the children had noticed this and asked about it.  As we “helpers” were to find out later, Samaritan’s Purse has been a major enabler in all the disaster-zones here.  They have given any church desiring it, the opportunity to shine brightly by supplying disaster stage-appropriate goods while staying in the background!  A few weeks later I had the chance to introduce S. P. to Rev. Oyama in Shichigahama.  S. P. was looking for houses still intact structurally which needed the first floor rebuilt inside.  Since S. P. wants to connect churches to the community rather than toot their own horn, they ask pastors like Rev. Oyama to become involved when they had found owners willing to get a free make-over.  He has helped in the Christian dedication of a number of Buddhist and Shinto homes.

Back in Kesennuma, we helped Rev. Usui and other volunteers deliver S. P. goods to several newly-built temporary housing communities.  The church was also stacked with goods from all over Japan, both necessary and unnecessary items.  Everyday, a delivery truck arrived with more.  Pastor Usui showed us three thick binders of delivery receipts.  He has to respond to each one, of course.  One day four large boxes of dry goods and two 100 pound bags of potatoes and onions arrived.  They were from a Brazilian pastor, he said.  My ears perked up when I suspected it might be from Humberto and Josy Kudo near Nagoya.  They are tent-maker missionaries trained in Ann and Bruce Borquists Missionary training institute (JAMI) in Brazil.  Although communication with us ABFMS missionaries was difficult at first, now this couple has picked up a lot of Japanese at their company, so we can communicate verbally in basic Japanese and use Google translator when we write letters.

In May, I had the chance to coach them on what to send to the disaster area.  Now it was August, and many shipments later .  I called Humberto on behalf of Rev. Usui to thank him.  Then Rie, Larry, and I with Pastor Usui took off for temporary housing with a van and Samaritan’s Purse truck, to deliver the goods from the Kudo’s congregation.  It gave me a boost to be able to make these connections.

Mission Accomplished  Although everything we did could be called our “main task,” our advertised-task of pulling weeds in church and kindergarten garden and around the parsonage occupied a number of hours.  The Usuis seemed a little embarrassed that we had come this far to just weed and spruce up the large grounds, as if we were cleaning out a private closet in their home!  But perhaps it was more the idea that most volunteers came to serve people in the community not them.  Mrs. Usui kept saying “warui, warui” (I’m so sorry).  Rev. Usui joked to the Sunday congregation that he had purposely neglected the garden so we would have something to do!  But when it was finished, they said “it feels so good.”

More stories  We had many chances to hear stories wherever we went.  One that stands out was the testimony of Mr. Hidenori Ashikaga, a new Christian.  Rie translated for him on Sunday morning.  On the day of 3.11 he was just outside of town on business.  He entered town right in the middle of the chaos of the tsunami.  He tried to drive to his home/office but it was totally underwater, so he spent the first night in his car.  In his heart he apologized to his wife because he could not swim.  It was so heart-wrenching to listen to him tell how he spent three days looking for his wife, and finally found her in a shelter.  Later he jokingly remarked, “the results of this disaster is that I used to call my wife kanai (wife-in-the-house), but now she is so dear to me that I call her by her first name, Kazuko” (very rare for a Japanese man).  Mr. Ashikaga is a scientist and has discovered and makes EM (Effective Micro-organisms), an amazing natural substance which is being used to enhance sanitation, remove odors, mold and rust, and also in agriculture.  Someone in our group asked him what his greatest need is presently.  He replied “sleep.”  In spite of his scientific mind, gregarious personality and Christian faith, he said, “every time there is an earthquake at night I lay awake until morning waiting for the sirens to sound, warning us of a tsunami.  I’m sleepy, but my faith is in God.”

Heartily, Heartily  the volunteers and I felt like we left Kesennuma for Shiogama with a full plate.  God had met our every need and we felt truly blessed, awed, sorrowful, joyful, all at the same time.  What does God have in store for us next that will top this, I thought.

To all of you who prayed for us, a hearty, hearty thank you.  To all of you who continue to give toward my support, enabling me to continue helping volunteers in Japan and ministering to Japanese, a hearty thanks.  And thank you ahead for continuing that support.  New supporters are heartily welcomed as well.

Now heartily, heartily give to the World Mission Offering.

If you would like more details on any of what I have shared here, please let me know.  I’ve only been able to share briefly about traveling, Kesennuma, the Baptist church, Sunday school VBS and “damaged” children, kindergarten, contributions of Samaritan’s Purse, weeding (!), volunteer experience,  Mr. Ashikaga and EM.

In the next journal I will share some of the final episodes 2011 summer‘s volunteers.  Please stay tuned.

In Christ, Roberta