One week and a day ago we moved our family from Sanda! Much has happened in a week. Last night I sat on a newly- purchased floor chair in front of a kerosene heater in our newly-moved into home and tried to write an update using our newly-acquired personal wifi… but the wifi didn’t work. We are guessing it was because of the typhoon that was passing through. So I will try at different times today to work on this and get it posted. It has been quite cold and windy most of this week, with four (I think) fairly significant earthquakes happening on various nights- more and bigger than usual. A little fanfare for our entrance into Ishinomaki, I guess!
There are three categories that I think of from this past week: housing; schooling; and relationships.
We moved on Tuesday to a home that I have posted about previously. Missionary friends up here became friends with a lady who was overseeing the house. It has been empty for ten years, since her nephew, the apparent owner, suddenly disappeared. It hadn’t been touched in those ten years! Various teams of volunteers have worked on the house over the past several weeks, and it is now cozy and a nice home. Eric worked last night on some of the doors that wouldn’t close due to the earthquake last year – there are still things like that, and some floors that need to be finished, but overall it is looking good! Here are some pictures.
Teams putting in linoleum flooring upstairs:
The same room after we moved in… we fit snug as six bugs in a rug when we lay out all of our futon bedding:
Our friends Aiko and her daughter Sakiko drove up with us and stayed for several days to help. Ian became quite attached to Sakiko – and she helped to entertain him while we were cleaning and preparing to move. Annie really loves the upstairs bedroom because it overlooks a river inlet that has seagulls swimming and playing on it.
Here we are meeting the caretaker of the house, who lives nearby. We haven’t met all the neighbors yet, but hope to make the rounds this weekend. Directly behind the home is an older man who has been fixing up the home to move back in sometime later this month from a temporary shelter. We heard from our friends that he lost his son in the tsunami.
We went on Monday to sign up Owen and Annie for their elementary school – it starts this coming Monday. The elementary school that is nearest to the land that we hope to buy was hit hard by the tsunami, and also became the evacuation place/ home to over 700 people for many months after. It was the site of different BBQs that we have written about previously. It looks in sad disrepair now, but the plan is for them to fix it up over the next two years.
So, all the kids who should be going to this school are being bussed to a temporary school about fifteen minutes away in the mountains a bit. They gather at the school in the morning and ride the buses – this is what Annie and Owen will be doing. (We were bummed, though, to find out that they need to ride on different buses – they have buses that are staggered by five minutes for each school grade). Their new temporary school is located on the school grounds of another established school, with the temporary junior high school on the other side of it.
While from the outside the temporary school looks like a long trailer park or something, on the inside the classrooms are quite nice- nicer than their previous elementary school was!
One of the bummers about our visit on Monday was that the staff had changed significantly since Eric’s visit two weeks prior. In Japan, every few years teachers and staff are rotated to other schools in the same district. They have no say in the matter – it is a matter of course that they accept. So the kind principal and staff who had greeted him and been really excited about our coming were no longer there; in fact, we realized that we were there on April 2nd, the first day on the job for the principal and office staff who were new! I asked a lot of questions, and didn’t necessarily get clear answers (we still don’t know what time the buses are going to bring the kids home each day!). I was relieved though to hear that there are no buses the first day, but that we can take them and stay through the second period for the opening ceremony. It will be helpful for us to get a better picture of the school and the kids’ classes.
Today Eric was out all day with volunteers helping at some jobs, so I took the kids myself and went to visit the only youchien (kindergarten) nearby. I was rather disappointed in my initial impressions (it is expensive without some of the services that our previous youchien had provided; the principal didn’t necessary wow me…), but first impressions are often wrong, and I have been reminding myself that we are here to build relationships and if Olivia can make some good friends she will be happy. This youchien has enfolded many children from another one that was washed away in the tsunami, and also has forty or more kids coming who are living in temporary housing units. We need to decide on this in the next day or two and order her (very expensive!) uniforms, as well as enroll her before her opening ceremony next Wednesday. We would love your prayers for this. There is another smaller youchien but it would mean a ten minute drive each way to the site where that youchien had been before the tsunami, and then she would have to take a bus to the new location that is being shared with another one.
The day that we went to see the school, we picked up Eric’s junior high friend, Y., and one of his friends who is Owen’s age. They were bored and just looking for something to do, so drove around and did errands with us. I was really touched by his friend K. While we were driving, he told us his story from a year ago. He was at his friend’s home, and his mom was driving him home in the car when the tsunami hit. Their car was picked up and began to be washed away when it slammed into a home, breaking the window of the home and their dash window as well. They were able to get out of the car and into this stranger’s home, where they made it up the stairs. They stayed in the home until the next day, when the water eventually receded. K. told us that he heard his dad’s voice calling him from outside and ran into his dad’s arms. Until that moment, his family did not know he was safe. So hard to imagine.
When we dropped the two boys off at their temporary housing units (situated very inconveniently away from just about everything else), the boys enjoyed some soccer together. I hope we can continue meeting these guys! (i’ve blocked their eyes to protect their identity; you can see the temporary units in the background).
We have been spending time when we can with our Be One team, getting to know each other better and figuring out how to best function as a team. Tomorrow we have set aside the day for a team retreat, which will be a great opportunity to deepen our relationships. Because it is spring break, we have had bunches of volunteers up here since our arrival. We’ve appreciated their help with our home and the many things that we continue to learn about ministry up here. There have been a few challenges but we continue to love the Be One spirit that embraces so openly the help of all who desire to come and volunteer.
Our family is doing really well through this past week of transitions. The kids have had fun playing with the other Be One kids, and have done a really good job in moving locations this past week. I know that they are not looking forward to starting a new school next week, but haven’t said much about it. We appreciate your covering all of us in prayer. I have found God’s grace continuing to carry me through these days. I continue to learn anew that when I set my eyes on Jesus none of the challenges of the day need overwhelm me; when I set my eyes on the challenges I am prone to become overwhelmed. I had one small meltdown on the way to move into this home as I suddenly just wanted to be “known” here…to have people helping us move in with whom I have history. This will come, I know… my role right now is to help our family make new memories and history and start well, trusting in the One who knows each of us by name and has counted every hair on our head. Yesterday in devotions with our kids we read the children’s Bible of Moses leading them towards the Promised land. Time after time, God provided just what they needed — just in time. I am so thankful for God’s daily provisions, for time after time providing what we need.