Eric’s team yesterday had a special time of ministry on many levels. It was one of the days where they sensed God’s divine ordination of their events.
They took supplies to several places where government help is not reaching. One of those was a senior citizen’s center that Chad had visited previously. They had requested vegetables, so Chad and Eric took a load of vegetables and other supplies. The staff there have continued working, even though most of them had also lost their homes in the tsunami. The ladies’ under garments were a big hit — especially among the staff! The ladies started opening the packages, and joking about the colors and styles, such that Eric and Chad left the room. Several staff brought out one elderly lady in a wheelchair and showed her some of the clothes that the team had brought. She didn’t like anything, and wasn’t interested in the undergarments either. Then Eric remembered the scarves… and they showed them to her. She quickly chose one, and wrapped it around her neck. She didn’t take it off. (See photo in previous entry).
They found another area that had been struck by the tsunami but had not had aid. Some boys showed them an empty parking lot where they were able to set up a “free market” of goods, and someone with a bullhorn announced to the nearby apartment buildings that there were supplies. Eric said they did not need to wait long for the crowds to come, and soon they had “sold out.”
During the debrief time that evening, Eric said there were some touching stories of God’s creative and divine work. One of the high school boys on the team, Collin, had befriended a boy playing basketball in one of the areas. They started talking, and Collin asked him his story. He shared that just before the earthquake, he had a sense that something bad was about to happen. He tried to convince his grandfather and family to get in the car and drive. Then the earthquake hit. He went inside to get his mother and smaller sibling and they all went up on the second floor. The tsunami came and wiped out the first floor, but his family was safe.
Collin told him that God was watching out for him. The boy told him that he had one friend who was a Christian at school – who died in the tsunami. He thought this friend was watching out for him. He said now he believes that God is caring for him. His Christian friend who died – never knew then how important his solitary witness was.
Today, there was a 96% chance of rain so Eric and the team prepared bags of food evenly distributed that they planned to take door to door to residents of a large apartment complex. When they went over there, it wasn’t raining, and the residence started pouring out and coming to the vans. Eric said they quickly ran out of food, and wished they had put less in each bag so it could have gone further….
There was one guy, Aoki-san, who comes to help out whenever the team comes to distribute. He shows up every day, asking to help and do whatever they need. He shared that when the tsunami came, he was in his apartment on the fourth floor. He saw it coming, and saw the monstrous wave moving towards the apartment building, bringing with it unwilling victims who were yelling out, and cars with passengers trying to drive away. Aoki-san said that there were victims who saw him up on the fourth floor who asked him to throw a rope but he had nothing, and was totally helpless.
After the water receded, Aoki-san went out and gathered up the dead bodies. He said they were covered in mud; all that he could do was get rags and wipe the mud off their faces. They were lined up in a parking lot for weeks until government officers got into the area and were able to take out the bodies.
These stories are so heart-wrenchingly awful. There are so many who are living with these memories and pain. Telling their stories is the first part of healing. And being loved. I pray God’s people can keep going, listening, blessing, loving.
Tonight as Eric and the team met to debrief, share, and pray, there were several girls who have been hanging out and a mom who is touched by their generosity who brought macaroni pizza and strawberry ice over for all the team. They were touched by the witness of Jesus.
The kids and I have been reading the Bible narrative of the Holy Week leading up to Easter. We have all loved a new version, “The Children’s Storybook Bible.” Our reading today is about despair but also great Hope: “It was for this reason that I was born into the world,” Jesus said. This week, Eric has seen lots of Reasons.