We are realizing the immensity of the problem of the hundreds of thousands in Japan who have been displaced by the tsunami or nuclear problems. Even though we are a 14 hour drive from Sendai, we continue to find people around us who have come as a result of the disasters. Last week while I was at a weekend clinic (our week of flu!), a woman sitting next to me in the waiting room with two small children suddenly leaned over and said, “Are you Takamoto-san?” I was rather surprised- I had never met her before. She said she had just come down from their home above Tokyo to stay with her parents in Sanda because of concerns of radiation for their children. She had had tea at a neighbor’s home, who had mentioned her new American friend (me) who had adopted four children. I guess we sort of stood out and it was obvious…
Today one of our church member’s mother came to worship for the first time. She is staying indefinitely with the Yamane family because another family who lives one prefecture (state) over from Fukushima is staying at her home. There is a government hotline that anyone can call to find out about possible housing openings in various parts of the country.
This is an update that was sent out by a pastor who has worked for many years with Asian Access at Fukushima First Bible Baptist Church (located just 5 km from the troubled nuclear reactor). I worked with Pastor Sato many years ago when I was summer advisor. His whole community is needed to relocate indefinitely because of their close proximity to the reactor.
Pastor Akira Sato: Evacuation Report, March 18
Every day we are supported by so many people’s prayers. It already feels like much time has passed. I feel as if several years’ worth of drama has been packed into the last week. After reuniting with my Christian brothers and sisters at the evacuation site, I often will mistakenly refer to it in conversation as the concentration camp. It feels like we’re living in a war zone.
Whenever I hear people’s stories of their evacuation, I feel as if they have escaped through their fire or slipped through the middle of the tsunami.
Yesterday I got word from a church member I had been worried about, “I was truly saved by God” he testified. As I listened, he explained that immediately after the earthquake, he had suffered a heart-attack, and half of his heart had stopped. If the emergency surgery had have been delayed by just 30 minutes, he would have died. “I can see the hand of God in the leading me in a path to life” he testified.
Another woman in our church was at work and had switched seats just before the earthquake hit and as a result was spared death and was able to escape by car. The roads were terribly damaged, but as she was escaping she gave a ride to several people and they were able to show her how to avoid the broken roads, and make her way through the mess of cars disabled by flat tires and other damage, and arrive safely at the evacuation site. From there she was able to move to another evacuation site and miraculously find her relatives.
But the most miraculous thing is that I haven’t heard anyone say, “How could God allow this?” or “There is no God. I don’t believe anymore.” Having confirmed the whereabouts of 160 Christian brothers and sisters now, what I am regularly hearing is “The Lord is wonderful,” and “I want to trust God more fully from now on.” I wonder to myself, “When did they get such strong faith?”
Yesterday, three of the people travelling with us, shed tears as they put their faith in Jesus and testified to their new faith. Hallelujah! What joy there must be in heaven. There’s nothing like seeing fruit first-hand like this, in the midst of such a gloomy disaster.
By the way, yesterday before we moved from Fukushima to Yamagata, some of our people were able to move to the homes of family and relatives. While we know that life is a series of encounters and farewells, there’s something special about time spent with people who have come through the same trial and shared meals together. While I wondered, “When will I see them again?” I struggled to hold back feelings of loss. I get tired of keep shedding tears like this. I try to tell myself that life is about hellos and goodbyes but it’s not so easy.
Yesterday we loaded into 12 cars, and headed to our next refuge, which required crossing over snowy paths with walls of snow a metre high on either side of us. But it wasn’t as if after we reached that tunnel of snow we were in snow country, but even before, it felt like we were in a world of silver and white. Yonezawa Chapel is in the midst of completely white snowy surroundings.
We stepped out of the shivering cold and were welcomed by our church hosts with bowls of hot udon and soba noodles. I had the experience of holding back tears while I ate the food made for us. If this is I feel now, I hate to think what will happen in the future. Lord, like the silvery white snow we see all around us, renew my delicate heart.
We are now living life as “diaspora” (scattered peoples). In the end, “Where will we lay down roots? Where we will settle?” I wonder. What is clear is that through these unusual times, the Lord has stirred up everything. Some have been freed from their excuses and received the Saviour, others have repented that their faith had been sleeping. Still others have expressed their realization of how little is really necessary for life. In each of these souls the Lord has been powerfully present, rousing their very being, and over-turning the foundation of their lives.
Perhaps the Lord is inviting us to a new work. Perhaps the curtain is rising on a great drama like the exodus from Egypt.
(For those who have asked how to help our friend Kazue and her family in Sendai- we will get details to you very soon.)