Time to Remember

As the first anniversary of the horrible earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown of March 11th draws near, I’d like to share with you over these next two weeks about our ‘take’ on the disaster. Some of you will remember Tony and I were having a ‘date’ back to where our missionary career in Japan all began 34 years ago in Yokohama. Yokohama is a good 400 miles from the epicenter of the quake, but I’ll never forget that day. We’d just paid and stepped out of a trendy little coffee shop when it began.  Since we’d only been back in the country for a couple of months, it took me a second to remember what was happening.  We’d experienced numerous earthquakes over our years here in Japan, but NEVER anything like this!  When it finally dawned on me what was happening, I remember a feeling of dread I’ve seldom experienced.  I had NEVER seen pavement undulate like waves.  I had certainly NEVER seen five story buildings touch each other at the roof top, as if waving in the wind. This lasted for almost 5 minutes.  I’ve told many people, “that’s longer than a bad song”.  People screamed out for GOD! I struggled with panic as I clawed at Tony’s arm till it finally began to settle down.  And remember, we’re 400 miles from the epicenter!

Of course there were hundreds and hundreds of aftershocks, much like a child who’s fallen and hurt himself and then just can’t stop crying.  Some were again quite frightening…….one particularly terrifying moment was when they started screaming “Tsunami!!! Head for the mountains!”.  We didn’t know where to find safe ground, but we were more fortunate than the 20,000 who lost their lives that day, in that the tsunami didn’t come our way.

If you remember my blogs, I told of how we were pushed from here to there, first taking refuge in the Sheraton (sitting on the cold marble lobby floor with thousands of others who were just glad to be out of the weather) then told to walk about a mile to a sports dome where 15,000 people huddled in fear.  Finally they got a train running and we mobbed it, (shades of Dr. Zhavago) and rode to within 6 or 7 miles from our house, where it inexplicably stopped.  We walked the rest of the way in the freezing and black (no electricity) pre dawn.

Definitely unforgettable.  Definitely life changing. Definitely a time to praise God for keeping us safe.

This past year, till now and even beyond would see a great deal of our day to day lives being wrapped up in  ’relief’ work.  Giving out goods sent from you and from people all over the world.  Initially it was ‘instant’ rice, (an abomination to Japanese, but better than nothing) then after a few weeks, clean underwear.  Our trusty little van was loaded to the gills so many times because of your generosity.  We helped start an education fund for orphans of the tsunami…….

Today I want to tell you about one isolated little town, Kyubunhama. (pronounced Kyuu-boon-hama)  It’s on the Oshika Peninsula, where most of our work, and the work of the churches in nearby Sendai have focused.  I guess Kyubunhama caught someone’s attention because there has long been ONE Christian there.  She’s Korean.  I don’t know how she ended up married to one of the villagers, but she’s been there many years, doing the honest but hard labor of a fisherman’s wife, quietly serving her Lord.  When the Baptists arrived, she identified herself and a relationship began.

First of all the Japanese church people went in and asked, “What do you need the most?”  They said they needed a place to gather out of the weather, as most of their homes had been destroyed and they were packed into the few that were still standing.  The next Saturday about 50 guys from churches across Japan came out early and got to work; by the end of the day, the fire station was cleaned out and gutted and the next week rebuilt.  Every time they went, they served hot meals to hundreds, helped some of the fishermen string shells to restore their oyster farming businesses, and shoveled a world of mud and debris, all the while talking and sharing their love for Jesus.  Some times we foreigners would be able and privileged to join in the work as well.

Then the Texans got word of the village.  I guess they say Texans like to do it big; the next thing we knew, Texas Baptists had sent the funds for SEVERAL vans to be purchased.  They were given to the churches to lend out free to groups that needed them.  They named them Texas One, Texas two, etc.  We began to see these vans here and there across the disaster zone.  Kyubunhama got one.  Remember, there is only ONE Christian in this village, but they got unlimited use of a van because Christians care. Most of the cars, trucks and boats had been swept away, so these vans were a real life line.  Other villages with NO witness got vans too.  I guess that’s the unconditional Love of Christ at work.

Baptist men came and built a shelter for their only bus stop.  They got it done right before the bitter winter sailed in on icy winds.  People stand there today, out of the weather and think about people far away who care. The head man recently said to my friend.  ”Kyubunhama LOVES Christ!”.

Ok Ok you say, ‘Where are the baptisms, where are the churches?”   All we can say, in the words of last week’s blog “In His Time”; but I’m guessing from now on, our one little Korean will have a willing audience!

God Bless you all as we wait for spring and the warmth of new life.


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