We have moved again! How much I have wanted to find time to write updates – in some cases individual messages to some of you who I know have specifically been praying for us – but my days and my nights have been filled to the brim. In the midst of some pretty overwhelming days, we have seen God’s favor and care for us. We know God has been answering your prayers in a variety of ways.
To back up – a lot happened last Thursday!
First – thank you for those who have been praying for our friend Y. who I mentioned in a previous post. Last Thursday we got together for lunch, and my friend Karen K. from the Hawaii team join us. It was a wonderful few hours. Y. had her five-month old baby with her, and Karen was able to hold her for a LONG time after we were done eating to free up Y. and I to share uninterrupted. She told me that since we prayed together two weeks before, things had gotten better with her dad, and she is going to stick it out and continue living with him. She said, “I can tell God has been helping me.” Love that! We had a great time together, sharing our stories and then praying. Three times she cried: The first two were when I asked her what her mom was like (she sounds like she was an amazing lady — and I told Yuko that I think she takes after her a lot!); 2) when I told her I have a dream to start a business for women in Ishinomaki like herself. She grabbed my hand and just begged me not to let go of this dream. I”m not planning to! I continue to entrust this hope to God for him to bring along the right provisions to be able to do this.
Next- thank you for your prayers, worries, encouragement for our housing situation. Also on Thursday, our friend Michiko called back the realtor who helped them find their home up here to just see if they might have something come up. They didn’t. But they called her back ten minutes later and said they had just received a listing for a rental home listed for up to a year – would we be interested? We went that afternoon, saw the outside, and said we wanted to pursue renting it. While our business manager and Michiko did a lot of the nitty-gritty negotiating, we were able to see inside it the next day. What we didn’t expect was to see that it was FULL of furniture and stuff… that of an 80-year old lady, who from what we can understand was sort of being coerced out of her home by her daughter who lives in Sendai. They left it “as is.” Wow. Fortunately, we did get permission from the realtors to box up her kitchen things and some of her “goodies” that were sitting out and put it away in closets.
Meanwhile, the land sale is going through, which is wonderful, and while there continue to be snags in the process we hope that we can move into a pre-fab home sometime in the fall. In the meantime, God has provided a really beautiful home that is all that we need for the next few months. It is not in the direct area where we have been doing ministry, and so we need to drive our three children to their school/kindergarten- about fifteen minutes one way. It is a bit of a drag as most days they have three different times of needing to be picked up, but we are doing our best to find creative solutions to this when possible.
The home is located on a small mountain bluff overlooking the ocean. I am sure that before 3/11/11 it was an amazing view up here! Now, it overlooks the valley of death, as I call it… It is one of the worst-hit areas on the entire coast. Over five hundred people were killed in this small area. I think of everywhere I have been so far, the drive through this couple of miles makes me the most depressed. It looks like a bomb was dropped; in addition to the tsunami, this area had many gas fires that just added to the awfulness. This area (Hiyorigaoka) has been in the news frequently because of a kindergarten that decided after the earthquake to try and get the children home on the school bus. The bus driver came down the mountain, saw the tsunami coming, and tried to return, but was picked up by the tsunami and the bus was carried to the gas station that had caught fire. The four children remaining inside were all killed; the bus driver escaped but has since fled. There is an ugly lawsuit pending between the parents of these children and the kindergarten, which has announced it will be closing its doors. It is just sad, sad, sad.
The home we are living in now is up on the hill just to the left of this photo. It is the second bank of homes away from the overlook. From the second story, we can see the whole spread of damage across the valley. Today I met a neighbor across the street, who is in the homes right at the front of the cliff. He shared how terrible that day was; he found a rope in his home and was able to save a number of people who were being thrown against the side of the mountain. He said there was one junior high boy who managed to crawl up the mountainside and tumbled into their home, just sobbing. He stayed with them for three days until they could find his family. Our neighbor said that they housed ten people for three months, as did many others in our neighborhood. Even though they were safe, the homes just below them – their community – were completely washed away.
ANYWAY – on that Thursday, after finding out about this possible home up on the bluff, as I was having lunch with Y. I told her where we may be moving. When I told her the address, it was the third time that she started crying – our new home is a five minute walk from her dad’s home! I had NO idea she lived anywhere near here.
Since moving on Sunday, she has come by twice. On Monday, she brought her five month old (her other two are in daycare) and stayed for the day, helping out with some volunteers who are here, hanging laundry, eating lunch with us; sharing more of her story. It was a very rich time. She took our kids on a walk to the nearby park, where Olivia found a four leaf clover and Owen found a five leaf one! At the end of the day, we all walked back to see where she lives – incredibly close. She loved when we gathered around and prayed for her. She said she is so glad to know that friends in the US and other parts of Japan are praying for her! Keep praying, please! As I continue to hear more details of her experiences, I do not think I have heard a worse story coming from 3/11 than hers; she is in need of a tremendous amount of healing, and the outpouring of the love of Jesus.
I have to say that this past week has been stretching in oh-so-many ways. If it were not for an amazing team from Hawaii, I don’t think we could have pulled out moving out of and cleaning up the old home, and boxing up and cleaning up the stuff of the 80 year-old who had lived here and then moving us all in. We have felt very upheld by the servanthood of friends up here who have ministered to us!
In addition, our good friend here Yu. worked all Sunday afternoon with a small team to clean up the old home. When we went to leave the home, we discovered that even her shoes had been boxed up and moved to the new home! She borrowed an extra pair of someone’s flip flops. It was a really fun time for this other friend from here to bond with all of us. We ended the night with dinner and a trip to the onsen baths.
It has been a joy to receive help from our new Ishinomaki friends. On Saturday, a large group of about 18 volunteers, led by Eric and Jonathan, went over to Yu’s home and crawled under the floors to pull out all the muck left there by the tsunami over a year ago. While some of them were under the house, they discovered a sewer hole with the lid pried open. That explained the terrible smells they have been experiencing! Her family was incredibly happy to have these things taken care of. But it was also wonderful the next day to have her come and serve us. We really believe in building mutual relationships that are founded on principles of friendship and reciprocity…
As I have had a few seconds to think about the experiences of this past week, I have been able a bit to realize how God has brought us to the exact home where he wanted us, exactly when he wanted to do it. I remember several days before that Thursday reasoning with God that it would certainly help my stress level if He just told me THEN what He was about to do. I don’t think we lost faith that God would do SOMETHING, but I know that I was getting tired and anxious of waiting. I have thought a few times this week of a phrase that Mother Teresa said, “Let Jesus use you without consulting you.” I wouldn’t have picked a home that would have us driving through the valley of the shadow of death six or more times a day… I would have loved to be closer to the school friends of our children and our new friends. Come to think of it, I wouldn’t have chosen three moves but only one.
But I would not in a million years have missed the opportunity to live a five minute walk away from Y. This is a HUGE, spread-out city. But God has placed us together as neighbors. Absolutely amazing. If Jesus will be good enough to use our family to show His love to her family, then He can feel free to move us around at the last minute without consulting us. I have thought a lot about how God answers prayer. It is not always in the ways that we desire. Sometimes it seems He is holding out on answering one prayer in order to answer another, more significant one. I think it was St. Augustine’s mother who wrote: “You did not do what I was immediately asking, that You would do what I was always asking.” God is answering our always-prayers, and weaving them into the prayers and needs of others around us. It is a wonderful thing to be at God’s disposal. Oh for grace to trust Him more!