The past ten days our whole family has enjoyed having our friend from Fuller days, Cindy Frost, visiting with us. She’s been a great sport– willing to eat and experience many kinds of things. One night we were invited to join two other families in a special Osaka-region dish in which you deep fry all different foods prepared on skewers. We at around for hours skewering, frying, eating, and enjoying the company.
Cindy also had a one-night home-stay with a family from our community. The wife and daughter are believers, but the father is not. It was a great joy for everyone when Mr. I. decided at the last minute to participate in our house church on Sunday because Cindy was there. It was HIS FIRST TIME.
One highlight for both Cindy and me was returning to the place where we had ministered 14 years ago — the site of the Hanshin Earthquake in Kobe. I remember sitting in Cindy’s living room with a group of Fuller friends after watching our weekly ritual, ER, when the news came on with the first photos of the devastation. The Lord seemed to stir my heart in an unusual way — I sensed Him leading me to take a break from my current studies and bring a team to do relief work.
One month after the huge tragedy, ten Fuller students/colleagues and I left during our spring break to spend eight or so days doing relief work. Five of the team members had counseling training and were able to do some PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) counseling; all of us did a lot of things we had never done before.
We stayed the first night in a church in Nishinomiya (on the edge of Kobe) that was to become the mother church of our current ministry! Here we are enjoying cold Spam (an American church had sent a whole shipment for earthquake relief but no one was quite sure how to prepare it).
We then spent a week staying in sleeping bags in the church in the middle of the worse of the quake – Kobe Christ Glory Church. None of us had ever seen such devastation. Over 6400 people were killed in the earthquake; 100,000 homes were destroyed. More people died from the subsequent fires than from the actual quake.
The church served 3 meals a day to over 200 people who found themselves without homes or kitchens… we learned to LOVE miso soup and how to chop lots and lots of tofu. It was a wonderful experience in which we partnered with Japanese also working to bring relief, and even found ourselves performing at outdoor concerts for the homeless!
Eric, Olivia, and Cindy and I went back via GPS to Christ Glory Church last week, about an hour from our home here. Upon arriving, we discovered that the church building has moved about a mile away from the previous site. We had a nice visit with some of the church staff who remembered the “Fuller students wearing green sweatshirts”. One of the members took us to the street where we had lived and ministered. Here is the airplane view of how it looked after the earthquake:
It was hard to recognize as the same place! The church has been replaced by a large electronics store and parking garage:
The park where there had been hundreds of people living in tents is now a hot springs resort.
The shopping arcade is still the same, but filled once again with new stores and the bustles of shoppers.
On the outside, there is no sign of the disaster of only 14 years ago. But people still remember. And we will never forget. It’s an amazing privilege to be a splash of God’s grace in the midst of pain and devastation.