On a spontaneous mother-daughter date to the onsen (public bath) tonight, Annie asked why all the kids on the bus started folding their hands and praying. It was 2:46 on their way home from school. I was in the Be One guest house, working on jewelry with several ladies from our community. Fire trucks and loud speakers began announcing something throughout the community. It was time to remember a year and a half ago.
I like it that Japan stops to remember. I don’t know how long this will continue, but it still feels really important. After all our school pick-ups were done, about twelve of us (Be One staff, friends from the community, and a few Japanese volunteers) met down at the water below our home. It was actually a beautiful afternoon — hot, but with a breeze coming off the ocean. We sat along a tall sea wall, and did our best to remember the words in Japanese of several hymns/songs. Our friend Y. was sitting next to us. She has not been to the sea since that day. She used to come down to this beach, she shared, with her parents and their large dog. The mangled pile of cars behind us had been a huge park. But now, as she looked at the sea, she said it makes her feel nauseous. She said she tries to imagine what it must have been like for her mom and her older sister to have experienced death by tsunami. Sometimes she has bad dreams where she is being crushed by the waves.
Some in the group had not heard the details of her sister’s death…With tears streaming down her cheeks, Y. told how her sister, seven month’s pregnant with a little boy, had fled from her car, and been pinned under a tree by the first tsunami wave. She called her husband on the cell, leaving him a message of where she was. He didn’t get the message until a week later when cell phones were restored. She didn’t live through the second wave. And so, through the tears, we read Psalm 46 together. And we prayed. For Y.; for her father, for her three little ones, for her brother-in-law. My prayer is that she knows every day that she does not have to walk alone. There are not words to bring comfort, but there is our presence. As we sat together on that cement wall I sensed a new release come over Y. with the spilling of tears. We have had some rough days together — days of her despairing for her life — and I know that there will still be some more tough ones ahead. But I pray that with God’s help she will continue to find Hope.
While we were meeting, there was a security guard who is on 24-hour watch for the tsunami-crashed cars that line the highway behind us. He came over when we were singing, and said he knew a lady who was a Christian and he was interested himself. One of our friends from the community, Mr. T., said, “we’d be really happy if you join our group.” It made me smile to hear him say that- we love it that he is inviting others to be a part of what God is doing here. Eric had quite good talk afterwards with our new guard friend. We plan to visit him (can you imagine a 24-hour shift where you sit and watch crashed cars?) and take him some coffee…
I was thankful today for the words of a Psalmist many thousands of years ago who knew just what to write for days like this.
1 God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.[c]
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
5 God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
7 The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
8 Come and see what the Lord has done,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields[d] with fire.
10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
11 The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.