(The story and photo below are shared by permission)
This weekend Be One was asked to help staff a shave ice and face-painting booth at a city festival. It was beautiful weather both days, and our kids enjoyed the food and games as much as all the other children did.
Shortly after arriving the first day, I was talking with a young mom standing in line for shave ice. She has three darling little girls; I held her five-month old daughter while she was helping the other two (ages two and four). She asked about our children’s schools, told me about the nearby pre-school hers are going to. Then out of the blue she blurted out, “our school and our home are fine, but I lost my mother and my older sister in the tsunami. My sister was seven months pregnant when she died.”
She did not cry. It was a fact that she was sharing. And then: “A month after the tsunami my husband said he wanted a divorce. We had been living with his parents in his hometown further up north. So me and the girls had to move out. We moved in with my dad near here, but he is tired of me and the kids and wants us to move out now.”
Blow after blow after blow. Too much, I am quite sure, for any person to sustain. Y. is beautiful; her children have the same porcelain face and rosebud lips. I just stared at her, gripping her hands tightly as she shared.
Her two-year old had to go to the bathroom. They all went, and found some lunch, and then Y. came back an hour later. I was hoping she would. We sat down and talked some more. A Japanese friend also joined us, and together we prayed for Y., asking God to break through and bring hope.
The next day the kids and I went again, taking our other friend Yu. and her son S. Suddenly Y. came around the corner with just her youngest daughter and came running over to me. She had been looking for me. I asked where her girls were and suddenly the fountains broke and the streams of tears began. She held me so tightly, telling me that the courts have given her husband custody of the girls two days a month and they were with him until tomorrow. She missed them so much; her heart ached so much; if it wasn’t for her daughters she would have taken her life a long time ago.
Y. really wants to find a job, but it is nearly impossible with a 5 month old. She has a car, which is actually a great thing. We have exchanged phone numbers, and I am going to get together with her this week. We are praying, praying for insights in how we can come along side of her and help her. I am more anxious than ever to begin a small company for women that will enable them to work hours that fit their family schedule; that could accommodate little ones perhaps; that could provide an environment of love and care and truth.
And since meeting her I have been thinking a lot about heaven – about the promises of God after death. These concepts suddenly feel really important. I recently finished a really helpful book recommended by our friend Scott Shaum called Friendship at the Margins (Heuertz & Pohl). So much in it is good and helpful for our current environment; one of the concepts that grabbed my attention:
“Those of us who live in fairly comfortable situations sometimes fail to grasp how important God’s promises of final healing are to people caught in desperate circumstances…” (p. 134). “If we can be confident in God’s good future, we can find ways to live faithfully in the present. The promise of a final healing does not displace our immediate efforts at justice, responsibility and reconciliation; it provides a way to move forward in hope in spite of terrible obstacles and disappointment” (p 135).
At one of our recent worship services, one of the volunteer leaders Rusty shared an interesting observation from the end of the Bible. I read it again this morning – from Revelation 21:1 — “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and there no longer existed any sea…” In the Bible, the sea represents chaos, terror, pain. The new heaven will have no sea — there will no longer be terror and pain: “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall be no more, neither shall there be anguish nor grief nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away” (verse 4). There will be no more anguish; no more tsunamis; no more death. This is really, really good news for all the people who have lived through the terrors of 3/11. We cannot make any promises about tsunamis and earthquakes in this life, but we can about the next life. And because of that, and because of the ability God gives us to experience some of the future realities in our current lives, we do carry a message of Hope.
Y. said I could share her picture and her story. She wants – she needs – prayer. She needs tangible help. Please pray for her even as you read this. We need discernment and wisdom in how to help her over the long haul — not just band-aid love. And she needs to know about God’s healing power, both on this earth, and the final healing in the next one.
She had to leave with her fussy little one, and I had to attend to mine. She started to walk away, and then ran back again for a hug. I whispered in her ear, “You are not alone. There is hope.” Pray that I/we are able to back this up with real actions, real love, real opportunities to bring hope.