Life has felt very full… my blogging time (kids in bed- late night) has been full the past week with working on some insurance issues, planning events/hotels/homestays for several upcoming teams, looking for flights for a possible trip home, correspondence that we have put on and various other things. So no blogging time!~
Several have emailed about an aftershock/earthquake that happened up north again – upgraded last night to a 7.1. Eric has noticed that Japan is no longer headline news on CNN’s homepage…. but yesterday’s quake made it to the top ten. Jim Peterson, one of our missionary friends who served the first two weeks after the 3/11 quake with Eric up in Sendai, was up in that area when this latest quake occurred. He wrote this on his blog yesterday:
Last night we stayed at the base camp in Miyako City. Just as we were getting up, around 6:51AM I heard the rumbling begin. We had felt a small aftershock last night as we were getting ready for bed but this morning I distinctly heard it before I felt it. Within a second or two the building began to rattle, and although there wasn’t any violent shaking or large movements the intensity was noticeably stronger than most little aftershocks. And it kept going for quite a while; possibly 30 seconds or so.
In a region where aftershocks are still an almost daily occurrence three and a half months after the big one, people hardly react at all when the trembling begins yet again. The good news is that the frequency and intensity of the aftershocks is clearly decreasing with time. But then every once in a while there is an exception to that pattern; like this morning. Within minutes loud sirens began to wail throughout the city. Then we heard spoken warnings over the public broadcasts system; “We’ve just had a strong earthquake and a tsunami alert has been issued. Do not go anywhere near the water and keep posted for further instructions.” This is the emergency tsunami warning system. Automated steel gates along the coastline begin to close, warnings are sounded and people near the water know enough to quickly get to higher ground.
The sirens and warnings continued to sound for about thirty minutes. We were in a section of the city where no buildings were destroyed but many were partially damaged on March 11. Looking out the window I saw pedestrians, cars, trucks and even public buses coming and going. Surprisingly, just as many were heading toward the water as the other direction. Clearly these people were not too worried. We followed suit and carried on with our morning devotions, although with more than a few extras prayers for the safety of the residents of Miyako. In retrospect, these residents have heard the warning sirens over and over again throughout the years. Nine times out of ten the waves never come, and even when they do it is usually just a matter of water levels rising a few centimeters before going back to normal. Furthermore, they now know what kind of earthquake it takes to create a giant tsunami like the one on March 11, and today’s rattle was clearly not that sort of shake. So perhaps it was only normal for the people in that part of the city to largely ignore the warnings.
And yet being overly cautious has always been the goal of the emergency warning system. Any time there is even a remote chance of a tsunami the sirens sound and the warnings are issued. Steel gates in the seawalls close automatically and schools immediately put into practice all that they have rehearsed in their regular tsunami drills. Signs along the roads all point drivers and pedestrians toward safety. This emergency tsunami warning system is arguably the best in the world. And yet we are surrounded by the incredibly vivid reminders of how that system ultimately failed just three and a half months ago.
Nearly thirty thousand lives were lost on that day. Hundreds of thousands became homeless. Countless others lost their jobs and almost everything that defined “normal” life for them. Now we are being faced with the burning question; “Who is my neighbor?” Or more specifically, are we as individuals, and as a church, prepared to show unconditional love and compassion toward the survivors in the name of Jesus Christ? The good news today is that based on the limited pieces that I’ve witnessed each and every time I’ve come to Tohoku, the clear and bold answer to that question is a resounding “Yes!”
Please keep praying for the people of Japan. To many here, it is old news as well. If their lives are not directly affected we notice that Japanese do not talk about the tsunami. But for those still in the midst of the devastation, daily life continues to be difficult.
I will have my first chance to go up to the Tohoku area since the quake. I will be joining a team of four counselors from Hawaii who have a burden for doing kokoro no care – heart care. They are an amazing team and we are blessed to have their expertise and compassion in Japan. We will be going to Ishinomaki for 4 days, and then they will come down and bless the people in our area, and those who are doing ongoing relief. If you live in Japan- we are still looking for opportunities for them to minister in the Tokyo/Osaka areas – weekend of July 2nd for Tokyo; July 9th for Osaka area). Please contact me if you are interested. And pray for God to open up the right doors for this team.
Our friends from L.A., Joseph and Yumiko, will also be going up to serve in Ishinomaki for several weeks. I’m excited to connect with them, and our short-term Asian Access teams doing ongoing ministry as well.
Thanks for praying. There is still so much need…. Japan is a hard country in which to minister for many reasons, but one is because counseling/psychology is still somewhat taboo. Everyone wants to seem “fine”, when the reality is that suicide rates have doubled in the past three months and there are huge gaping wounds that cannot just be covered up. Praying the truths of Isaiah:
“The Spirit of the Lord God has taken control of me! The Lord has chosen and sent [us] to tell the oppressed the good news, to heal the brokenhearted, and to announce freedom for prisoners and captives.” Isaiah 61:3