Yesterday our Nozomi staff received their first wages In addition to giving out their envelopes and having them sign, our manager Yuko and I also met with each woman individually to see if they have any concerns and to talk about the next steps in their learning process. I was thankful for the work that Jennifer had done in making up professional envelopes and salary sheets for them to sign.
It was much more emotional than I expected. Half of the women cried. T. kept looking at the envelope and with a shaking hand said, “I don’t remember the last time I got paid.” One staff tried to give me back the envelope, saying that she has received much more than she has given. She collapsed in my arms in wrenching sobs.
Our friend Chi.was reflecting with me on how we first met- two moms bringing their daughters to a bus pick up in the middle of a washed-out tsunami zone. She said she didn’t quite know what to do with this friendly foreigner mom who suddenly appeared one day (we had moved into a different temporary home in June and our bus pick up had changed). But over the coming days and weeks we became friends. She thanked me for helping her process the loss of their poodle in the tsunami, resulting in their family now having an adorable puppy named Ron. I told her how valuable her friendship has become to me. It has been such a joy to work together now four days a week–her presence in the Nozomi Project makes me so happy. As she received her paycheck, said she was going to lay out all the money on the dinner table so her whole family could enjoy looking at it!
Even though this past month they were all paid a lower “training” salary, it was a REALLY big deal. We had better sales just from volunteers and others coming locally so we were able to pay a bit more than we had initially promised for the first month. We are now making a switch to paying them “per piece,” with the hopes that this will raise their wages and help them make more money.
As the last one took the envelope with tears and profusely thanked me, I couldn’t take it. My words did not come out as clearly as I wished, but what I tried to say was: I wish it wasn’t me standing here. I wish it was Jesus! Then you would know who to really thank.
That probably sounds really trite. But I meant it so much. I wish they hadn’t been thanking me. It is still so so cool how God has brought all of us together — Be One, Nozomi ladies, different experts, volunteers, supporters who have contributed in various significant ways to make this happen. It all points back to God, who loves to restore what is broken. He is doing that very thing amongst us.