Being Let In — More Snapshots from 3/11, three years later

The past few days have been among the richest of our two/three years of ministry in Ishinomaki.

We are still learning what it means to walk with our friends up here through their grief and through their healing.  We are still trying to figure out exactly how to “weep with those who weep”  and to celebrate the times when we see glimpses of the joy that comes in the morning. We don’t always get it right.  Thankfully, the very fact of our being here – for the long haul — has allowed our friends to trust us.  They have let us in.  And it is such an amazing privilege.


I was walking into the Nozomi House when I saw her in the distance. I stepped out towards the road to wait for her.  She was walking toward me, with the cold snow pelting us both.  It was so so cold!  As she came closer, she looked at me, and then she looked away.  I knew she didn’t want to talk about it.  But I hugged her, and I felt her body sway, then brace again.  I’m sorry it’s snowing and so cold, I said.  She nodded.  “Yes, it’s just like that day.”


Our team today made four or five visits to some of the Nozomi staff who couldn’t or didn’t come into work today.  My friend S. and I went to see Chi.  I knew her daughter had had the flu last week;  when she came to the door she was wearing a mask and confessed that she herself was on her fourth day of recovery (in Japan the doctors require five days of staying home before you can go out after an influenza diagnosis).  She invited us in anyway- I was so glad.  We sat on the floor, gave her the Russian Tea Cookies that some of our team and kids had made on Sunday, and we asked her how she is doing on this day.  She said that almost worse than remembering three years ago was the challenges that she was having with her autistic son.  “I am so weak and tired from the flu, and this morning we had a battle.  He ended up scratching and hitting me and I couldn’t take it anymore.”  Chi. is always so calm and quiet, but she was crying.

S. prayed for her, and for her family.  I translated, sitting next to Ch, holding her hand.  When S. had finished, Chi explained, “that was so strange!  I felt like a heat pack was on my back under your hand as you were praying.  The heat flowed from my back down into my hand that Sue was holding!”  We explained that it was God at work, bringing His healing touch.  The Holy Spirit is so powerful!

Chi then told us that back in December, she had been working at Nozomi and sitting next to a long-term volunteer.  She confessed to that volunteer that she doesn’t really know if God exists or not.  The friend suggested that she tell God that, and that at times of need she could pray and allow God to respond to her need.  So she said that since that time, she has begun praying.  When she gets upset at her children, she has been uttering simple prayers to God.  And she said it has been so strange how a peace from outside has come over her….

“Now I believe in prayer….”


As part of our desire to provide rituals to remember, we planted a small camellia tree today in front of the Nozomi House.  We gathered at 2:30 pm, spent a few minutes praying, and then we had silent prayer as the city siren went off at the time of the earthquake three years ago – 2:46 pm.  Right as the siren started, our postal lady came to pick up our packages.  We pulled her into the circle, and stood in silence.


When it finished, Eric and one of the Nozomi staff took the tree and planted it in the prepared hole.


We sang a song that we do often at our Sunday morning worship.  Eric closed our time in prayer.  It was a small and simple way for those who wanted to to join together.  But the tree will continue to grow and thrive and bring forth beautiful flowers;  and we will remember.


In late afternoon and through this evening, Christians and our local friends began congregating at the Rock, a big local warehouse/hangout place being run by our Be One coworkers.  Our friend Y. asked if we could come and join her after work.  There were people milling around in different parts of the large room, some seated together sharing tea; others standing in small groups.  Y. went over to a couch area where no one was sitting, and asked for a few minutes to be alone.  She had brought with her the photo album of her sister growing up, and another album of her mom.  She had not been able to open these album since both of these family members had died in the tsunami three years ago.  But she was ready for this next step.  She wanted to be alone, but not alone, so she asked if we could just sort of linger nearby.

Sometimes just being nearby is an important task.


M. also went with us after work to the prayer time at the Rock. About 75 or so had gathered – it was such a beautiful mix of our local friends and believers who are choosing to be up here to walk together through the grief and the growth.  When I came back after dinner, M came bounding over to me.  “They prayed for me!  This couple from Sendai – I don’t even know their names.  But it was amazing!”  She is struggling so much with her daughter.  But I saw hope being born.



Eric wasn’t sure what to expect.  We knew Y’s dad had been alone all day.  We know he’s chosen aloneness for most of the past three years, but he had seemed so touched, so happy by our surprise visit on Sunday night.  So we talked about it and Eric went over in the early evening.  Her dad came to the door, and Eric gave him a platter of sashimi and some grapes for the granddaughters.  And he began sharing with Eric…. today he drove out to the place where his wife’s car was found washed away… and then the place where his daughter’s car had been found.  He told Eric that he just stood there and started shouting their names, waiting in vain for a response.

And as he stood there in the doorway next to my husband, he wept.  But this time he was not alone.



3 thoughts on “Being Let In — More Snapshots from 3/11, three years later

  1. Sue, you all have been on my heart so much this week. So thankful that you are there, open and willing to be used however He sees fit. Love and hugs!

  2. Powerful. Praise God for you and Eric to be there and have such insight on how to meet the emotional needs. Been praying for you this day.

  3. I am hopeful that as we read and are moved by these snapshots that we will siphon off a portion of the grief. Asking the Lord to strengthen you and enlarge your capacity as you come alongside to bear the burden of these dear folks.

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