the gift of lament

I have not written a true blog entry here for numerous years, as I’ve ended up posting most stories or events of note on Facebook. But something this week has made me want to chronicle as we have marked ten years of the 3.11 triple disasters. There are so many stories and faces and feelings whirling in my head; it is a gift to be able to separate and share just a few of them with you my reader friends.

24 hour team prayer… carving out time with Annie and a friend late night on Wednesday, then starting Thursday morning with an hour of prayer. Psalms and prayers and heart cries. I couldn’t get through everyone on my heart in my time slots.
Our local schools had decided to close down for the day; we followed suit with Nozomi Project.
The morning visiting numerous friends. The photo below is with our friends – standing where their home used to be. It is now a walkway built on top of a barricade to lessen the impact of future tsunamis. (They gave me permission to use this photo). She shared about watching with horror from the second floor of their home right by the ocean as houses floated past and got snagged by this bridge. The earthquake had actually called the land around the bridge to sink 12 inches. She could not help; she could only watch.

Delivering more cookies – the neighbors around us, friends nearby who had lost a mother, a daughter-in-law, a father. To them it seems that ten years is not a relief but rather contained an added stressor of having to watch the constant news play back images of that day. Chances to give love in the form of hugs, and cookies made by friends across Japan who could not come but wanted to share their hearts and prayers. These were truly such beautiful, beautiful gifts.

K. and I stopped a bit randomly at the home of a neighbor a few blocks away. She came outside and was so happy to have friends just BE with her. Tired of watching the news, she wanted us to hear her story of ten years ago. Oh, how she suffered! Trying to escape with her neighbor who fell into a manhole when they couldn’t see what was in the road. They hung onto fishing nets until they could get to a safe building. Her son rescuing a mom friend and her son who were left stuck on a pole by tsunami waters. Her house tossed virtually on its side. Wearing the same wet clothes for ten days, no warm food or fresh water.

Remembering and telling is so hard but so important. We prayed and we hugged and she received our cookies.

More visits and cookies to other neighbors, the vegetable lady; several families who we knew from Nozomi; a friend of our youngest son who hasn’t left his house for many months. Eric and other teammates going out across town, and to different towns, to remember with people. Going to the site where our friend A-san lost his wife.

Maybe just letting them know that they aren’t alone. Being present.

Eric and Joey led a small gathering for those who wanted to be together at 2:46 when the siren would wail in remembrance of the 18,500 lives that were lost that day. I loved the simple old hymn that we sung. What a good reminder of his presence.

While we were out visiting, two friends made a big pot of tonjiru (pork soup). We didn’t have an official meal time planned, but it was good to have hot steaming soup available to put into sagging or empty or sad hands of anyone who came to be with us that day.

That evening, close to 40 of us gathered at 6:30 for a final time of prayer, worship, and bringing our hearts to God. It was rather informal, but it was one of my favorite times of worship in a long time. We gathered in small groups and prayed together. I loved it that two of our neighbor friends from Indonesia came to this service. One of our dear friends had recently lost her husband; she could cry and we could pray and those tears were mixed with tears from others who were also grieving loss, whether new or old.

The gift of lament. We could not do this every day (it is so exhausting!) but such a gift to do this together.


More/final beauty and brokenness

Five years have passed since that day that rocked Japan and the world. This is my last beauty and brokenness entry this year. I’m going to close with two photos that are representative of this day, and how beauty and brokenness are commingled here where we live.The past two days have been filled with listening, crying, praying, worshipping. I have heard new stories of 3/11 experiences; I have listened again to some repeat ones. It is a strange thing to live in a town that is filled with so much sorrow; where everyone you meet has experienced major loss and trauma. Each story is so important.
Photo 1, beauty and brokenness:
This first picture is the daughter of M., one of my good mom friends. (She gave me permission to share!). She brought her two girls by our gathering place this morning to talk, and it was great to have a wonderful bag of homemade cookies to give them, representing love and prayers sent from across Japan. While her girls played in one room, M. came in the kitchen where two of us were making soup. She began sharing her story from five years ago… She and her small daughter fled to a mountain top and survived on small packets of tofu for three days; her parents barely survived the tsunami as it flooded their home. (They survived because the neighbors behind them threw down a top made out of sheets from a second floor window). Her sister was due with a baby, and had to be helicoptered to Senda to give birth. Five days later, she delivered her baby, but her husband still wasn’t found. She sent him a picture on her cellphone of their new baby, hoping he would somehow see it. His body was found some days later. M.’s story is so mixed with joy and sorrow it is hard to process it all. Still. But today it was an honor to be there for her and her girls; to listen and cry and remember. To give them a tangible gift representative of love from around the world.
Photo 2:
For our Be One team, we struggle to find the most appropriate way to show love and respond to people’s ongoing pain and struggles. We choose pretty simple and informal styles in which we can adjust and respond to the needs that we see. We closed the past 24 hours this evening with a gathering of worship and sharing. We asked any of our local friends to share things that they’ve learned the past five years. As we passed around the mike, we heard many touching stories. One of our older local friends started to share but couldn’t finish – the pain was still so raw. And then our friend Joey closed by sharing from Psalm 23 and ending with two simple things: 1) God isn’t done here yet – greater things are still to come in this city! and 2) We are “one” as a community – we stand together through the valleys, the pain, and the joy. It is good to have such a place to belong!
As we closed and stood in a large circle, holding hands, I felt so thankful (and quite weepy!) for the privilege of being in this place that is so intermingled with pain but priceless friendships. I am so incredibly thankful that in the middle of such brokenness there are wonderful communities like the one we experience where hope is being born.

Beauty and Brokenness

I decided this next week or so to daily share my own “beauty and brokenness” perspective through photos on Facebook that help illustrate the state of things in Ishinomaki five years after the disaster. One photo of something beautiful around me, and another photo of something that represents what is still broken or resulting from the earthquake and tsunami that hit here. I feel thankful to have the privilege of living here and bring able to share the state of life here.  Here are the photos and summaries of the first three days…

Day 1, 3/5/16 Beauty, and Brokenness

Day 2, 3/6/16

Beauty: Perhaps because of the strong sea winds, the clouds and sky are so beautiful in Ishinomaki!  Brokenness:  This is the back of our kids’ nearby elementary school; the blue line represents the height of the tsunami waters. These blue signs are everywhere around our town, perhaps making sure people don’t forget the danger that exists living in this coastal town. Probably an important reminder, but it means everyone everyday must see these signs and remember…

Beauty:  This is our neighbors’ home, the Aizawas. (Our home is the yellow one in the background). Their garden had been a place to cheer my heart since before we moved in. No matter what season, it is well-maintained and even in the frozenness of winter there is something blooming! They told us that five years ago this garden became a parking lot for trucks and cars that got dragged this far in by the tsunami waters. So many have chosen to find ways to plant and grown new life where there had been terrible destruction. They are my heroes.  Brokenness:  This is a small piece of the parking lot on the other side of our home. Every time it rains, more broken pottery is brought to the surface, a vivid reminder still five years later of so much that has been broken.

Stories from Ishinomaki: Lost and Found

One of the best storytellers I know, Becky Still, recently wrote a story about our work here in Ishinomaki.  T.J. Lee, one of her co-workers with connections in Japan, came and took photos, and became friends with our family in the process.   They make us look a lot cooler than we are, but here is the article that they crafted together.  I love how they highlight our friends here.  The people in this community are the ones with stories that should not be forgotten.

Here are a few of the other photos that T.J. took during his time visiting.  The last one is my favorite.  I love that he is holding broken tsunami pottery found in the small parking lot next to our home;  I love that he is holding his favorite “ne-ne” that has since been lost.






Four Years Later…

***3/10.  She sat across from me at the table.  “Tomorrow I have to go with my family to the temple.  We still don’t have a gravesite for my mom and dad, so we just go to the temple instead.” C.’s parents had both been killed in the tsunami.  She hasn’t talked about it much.  I asked why they don’t have a gravesite yet.  One of the other women sitting nearby made the money sign with her hands.  It costs too much.

I asked C. if it feels hard to be the fourth anniversary.  She said, “It’s easier than it was last year.  I’ve sort of gotten used to them not being here, and so I just sort of talk to them.  When I leave in the morning to come here, I go over to their picture and tell them I’m leaving.  When I return home, I tell them I’m back.  I like knowing that they are somehow still with me.”


During lunch today, some of us were at our gathering place.  We had about six or eight local friends come by.  One of our dear friends, Mrs. K., told me again different parts of her tsunami story. Telling the story is still important, even four years later.  It was snowing and cold that day four years ago, a lot like today.  I am so amazed that she survived, because she had run from her home to her son and family’s home – found the door locked, and had run home and then up the mountain just as the waters started crashing in.  Her son’s home was virtually destroyed.  I’m so glad the door had been locked so she didn’t stay there.  I can’t imagine life without Mrs. K.


Mr. A held him close.  He made a funny face. Everyone laughed.  There is so much healing that comes from babies.



Eric was at the store today buying gifts for some local friends.  He didn’t have much time.  But there were a lot of people he wanted to see.  So he prayed, “God, who is hurting the most now?  Who do you want me to visit?”  Immediately he thought of the dad of our friend Y.  He had lost his wife and oldest pregnant daughter in the tsunami.

He drove over there with sushi and grapes.  The two previous times that he has visited, he handed the food gifts, talked briefly in the genkan and left.  This time, though, Y’s dad invited Eric in.  Eric sat with him for about two hours, listening to many stories about his deceased wife, and looking at photos.  This tough dad cried. Things have not always been smooth with Y and her dad.  Eric suggested that sometime soon he sit with his daughter and together they look at one of these albums.

Tonight I got a text from Y. about how happy her dad was for the visit.  Y. was thrilled.  Her dad never shares with anyone.  This was a special gift to both her dad and to Eric.


Tonight before our final gathering time, E. sat across from me and a friend and said, “Things are a lot harder now than they were four years ago.  The tsunami was terrible, but I’m able to see good in it because God let me meet you and the others who have moved here.  So I’m finally able to see some good. ”

Child 1: “Mommy, why do you think God made the tsunami?”

Child 2:  “God didn’t make the tsunami!  Did He, mom?”

Wow.  I can’t answer those questions (and that’s what I told our kids.  But I am completely convinced that God wants to work through and in spite of the terrible destruction;  that God wants to walk with people through their pain and the challenges that have come over the last four years, and I see it happening.


She said she wanted our prayers.  She didn’t have a specific area needing prayer tonight, so I suggested that we just listen and hear what God might want to share with her.  My friend V. read Psalm 23 in Japanese to her.  And as she was reading, I pictured Jesus the Shepherd scooping up E. and holding her close to his heart.  I told E about this image, and that God wanted her to just lay down all of our responsibilities and heavy burdens and just experience his love and care for her.  God was inviting her to come.  Just come. After this prayer time, E. couldn’t believe how light she felt.  It was so so good to see her letting go of some of the heaviness that she had come with.



We had a wonderful final gathering, with 40 or 50 adults gathered together to remember, to promise again to walk together, to invite the presence of Jesus into those places in our lives.  It was such a bonding time.  At the end we gathered in small groups and some shared, some prayed, some listened.  We stood in a big circle and held hands as a symbol of our desire to walk together towards Jesus, whatever the future may bring.  No one can do it alone.



I was thinking today about our work at the Nozomi Project.  There are five or so staff who have left for various reasons – some on good terms with other staff, and some not.  But I thought about it tonight and realized that all five of them are still connecting with our Be One team, and coming to us to help them in their various stages of life currently.  They are coming to those with Hope for continuing healing.  I am so thankful for that.


After I got home and was trying to get all our kids into showers and then pajamas, I got a call from N.  I haven’t seen her in quite a while.  Her three year old son had been killed in the tsunami.  Today she and her family went to the area right near our home where he had died.  She said she had wanted to come by our gathering place, but it just felt too hard.  She said, “I could laugh yesterday, and I am sure that I will laugh again tomorrow, but I couldn’t laugh today.”  When I prayed for her over the phone, I prayed for her mother’s heart.  A mother can love so wide, and so deep;  but when that child is gone it means the pain is so wide, and so deep.


I don’t have all the answers, but in the beginning and in the end, I believe in a God who hears, and a God who heals, and in a God who walks with us along the way.

Christmas Full; Christmas Emptying

Today, December 25th:

  • It snowed twice:  beautiful big snowflakes this morning as our family was assembling to open gifts, and then driving home tonight from Christmas dinner with friends.  It melted in between but it was a beautiful Christmas morning and evening.  Something about snow is pure and new and touches me.
  • We had a crazy 5.5 earthquake wake us up this morning.  It is about the fourth one in the past ten days, which is unnerving.  Our friend Beth said that in light of the recent activity, she has updated her earthquake survival kit recently….
  • We were blessed with some amazing gifts.  Our kids had a really really fun day opening gifts and building/learning/trying on/imagining.  So so fun. So so blessed.
  • In the midst of it all, I got mad once at one of our kids, and had to apologize.  We made up.
  • I talked with my dad this morning.  All of our kids did.  It was his evening, which seems to be his hardest time in terms of being lucid.  He wasn’t making much sense to any of us, and then suddenly to me he said, “Hey, I read your latest four- page newsletter that came.  It’s exciting all the lives that are being changed!”  And my old Dad was back for a short bit, quick to rejoice over news of God at work. The dementia has not managed to take over everything!
  • I did a lot of cooking in between gifts and prep for Christmas day – made our traditional sausage breakfast casserole for brunch, and pot roast and chocolate chip cheesecake for dinner/dessert.  They all turned out pretty good, though the pot roast was a bit dry.  (It was still an awesome treat that we can’t usually get here!).  Oh – and our favorite homemade eggnog for dessert time.  I love it that our kids love it as much as I do!
  • We had a fun dinner/gift exchange time with our team tonight.  It was good to laugh and enjoy each other’s company, even though we were all tired.  We did a white elephant gift exchange, and I won a box of old-ish cans of tuna and some canned bread (entering the fourth year of its five year shelf life!) that I think will make perfect updates to our own survival kit…
  • My highlight of the day was between 2 and 3.  Our team all went to a local nursing home and sang Christmas songs and a few of our favorite worship songs.  We had prepped our kids, knowing it wasn’t easy for them to do this.  But I loved hearing their voices sing louder than the adults!  We sang “Kimi wa aisareru tame umareta” to them – “You were born to be loved.”  While we sang, we went out and greeted and shook hands with each of the attendees.  I got to one sweet woman, and there were just tears streaming down her face.  She couldn’t stop.  She hugged me and kept squeezing my hand.  Of course I couldn’t sing!  Jennifer came over, still singing, and then her voice broke.  Eric said that Ian (5) bravely went from person to person, shaking their hands.  They were all waiting for this little dressed-up Santa to come and greet them too.  I was proud of him and each of our kids. When we had finished our short time of singing and were saying goodbye, I went and sat with Mrs. Akio a bit longer.  She said a lot has happened in her life.  I looked at her eyes and could only imagine.  I prayed for her and promised to come back.
  • It was a wonderful treat to have our friend Y. go with us.  From the minute we started singing, the tears started flowing for her.  She was touched deeply today. I think we all were moved from our own self-preoccupation to focusing on these dear older ones who did not have the blessings that we currently have.  There was an emptying of ourselves that happened;  I sensed we all, like me, walked out a little lighter;  with a little less of me.
  • Many blessings today! That short time of giving our time and ourselves to people with more needs than our own shapes our perspective.  I was thinking about the old hymn that speaks of Christmas with the verse, ”
    He left his Father's throne above 
    	(so free, so infinite his grace!), 
    	emptied himself of all but love, 
    	and bled for Adam's helpless race. 
    	'Tis mercy all, immense and free, 
    	for O my God, it found out me!
  • It’s the Christmas story, isn’t it?  One who left his comfort for much for than an hour and emptied himself in a myriad more ways than we did.  But it is such an immense privilege to join him in the emptying process of loving. It has been a wonderfully full day.
    Merry Christmas!    IMG_6216

Finding the Joys

There are weeks that go by and I think…if I had to tell someone about everything that has happened this week, they probably wouldn’t believe it.  Each morning, day, and night has been so — full.  Little crises, challenges, sorrows.  I decided tonight I want to share a few of the joys of this past week.

1.  Not just one baptism today – but three.  It was unexpected, but completely amazing.  There are still no words nor pictures that can do justice to the joy we experience as a community when one – or a few- in our midst enter into the waters that three years ago caused so much destruction here.  Today’s cool weather, and bonfire, made it all the more special.


2.  Doing ministry with our families… One of the joys for us here is watching our children interact with our community, and forming strong friendships.  One of our friends sent me this picture a little bit ago of Annie and her best friend:


3.  When God surprises us in the midst of our challenges.  This past week I had numerous meetings about relational challenges at Nozomi Project – women in conflict with each other and unable to resolve it.  Last night, thanks to the hard work of a great team here from hawaii, we had a BBQ at our home for Nozomi women and their families.  While we only had three definite yeses before the event, we were thrilled that nine of the staff and children/families attended!  Even with lots and lots of food, we ran out.  It was a great problem.  And the laughter and camaraderie was such a treat. It was the perfect timing and a chance to see some really cool relationship things happen.


4.  After two plus years of Eric and Owen studying the Japanese martial art of aikido, I still don’t really get it.  But what mom isn’t going to love training that teaches her son discipline, manners, and restraint?  I was proud of my two guys today at their demonstration!


5.  Family rituals.  Even with schedules that sometimes run rather crazy, there are some family traditions that really help to anchor us.  Or at least i hope that they do!

Today, even with making lunch for 50, worship, attending an aikido demonstration, running back for lunch after worship, a beach baptism,and an after-baptism celebration, we were able to unwind from the day and the weekend as a family. We made pizza, and watched our favorite Sunday night video series – don’t laugh! – “Little House on the Prairie.”  Olivia was excited to help out.  I love this picture!

Now, we are waiting for Typhoon #18 to arrive.  It is heading straight for Japan and for our region.  Ian’s preschool has already been cancelled;  we will get an email at 6 am about the other three kids’ school.  We are fairly sure they will be home.  And they have already asked if I have all the ingredients for another important ritual for such a day — Typhoon Donuts (recipe here – they are awesome!) .  I assured them I do.  Praying for minimal damage tomorrow from the typhoon, and for maximum chances to do rituals and spend family time.

What we do with our loss

Today was beautiful weather so we decided to take a family bike ride.  We all biked over (Ian on the back of my bike, if you are wondering!) to a nearby family restaurant, and then we biked along the coast.


We wanted to head over to a playset that was built recently for the third anniversary of the tsunami by a friend of Be One, Mr. E.  He had also helped to make some of the furniture for the park that Be One rebuilt last year.  We were so surprised to find him there today, and we spent the next hour or more sitting and talking with him.

Mr. E is a pretty amazing man.  He and his wife lost all three of their children in their tsunami.  This is pain and grief that I cannot humanly imagine.

On the place where their house had been washed away, Mr. E., a carpenter by trade, has built a play-set.  He wanted to create a fun place for children where so much sorrow had landed.




The ocean is just 100 yards away.  The whole area used to be a thriving neighborhood.  Now, he said, only four residents are living in this neighborhood.  He sat with us and pointed to the empty plots all around us.
 The land right next door had been the home of a seaweed farmer.  He was out in his boat when the tsunami came.  The boat was able to roll over the tsunami.  The husband survived, and when he finally came back to shore and to where their home had been.  He searched and searched, but found that his home and the rest of his family had been washed away.  Three years later he is still unable to return to this location, but his sister comes frequently and leaves flowers in the yard in memory of the lost family members.

Across the street was a tofu shop.  The daughters and the parents were killed in the tsunami.




We admired his yellow VW buggy.  He explained:  “My kids used to love to count yellow cars.  One day my daughter was counting and said, ‘If I can see three in one day, I will be so happy.’  After they died, my wife and I just wanted a yellow car.  It reminds us of what made them happy.”

I asked about his wife.  She isn’t working right now.  I wonder how she has strength for each day. I told him that I hope we can get together with them both soon.

He brought out from the trailer drinks for all of our kids. Then he led them over to a small tuft of wild clovers, and told them that he’s found a few four leaf clovers there.  Olivia found four or five, and Owen found two five-leaf clovers!  He gave each of our children some small wooden keychains that he has made from tsunami debris.




I watched Mr. E. as he so gently interacted with our children.  There was only kindness.  He must have been such an awesome dad.



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.


Conversations at the kitchen table…. remembering 3/11

She sat across from us and pointed to the empty chair.

“He’s a boy and he’s only six years old, so he doesn’t talk much about his feelings.  But a few weeks ago, out of the blue, he said, ‘So, I don’t have a mother, do I?’  Of course he knew that his mom had died three years ago, but it was like it suddenly hit him in a new way.”

His grandmother continued.  “I told him that he does have a father and a grandmother and that we are a family and we are going to work hard to stick together.”

Her voice broke.  “He said, ‘I don’t want to work hard for that if I don’t have my mom.’  I couldn’t take it.  I couldn’t say anything.  I had to leave the room.”


“My [grown] son and I ran upstairs when we heard the water coming.  This house was built well so we knew we could be safe.  But my daughter was working at a store near the water, and our grandson was at the school near the water. My husband was traveling on a business trip.  I didn’t know if any of them were still alive… When they didn’t come home I figured they had died.  There was no radio, no cell phones, no lights.  Just darkness.  We waited together and it felt like forever.

“Around 6 am I heard a crashing sound and it sounded like my grandson’s voice calling out frantically.  But it was my daughter — their voices sound the same.  She had waded through all the debris surrounding our home to come and see if we were still alive.  There were no words;  only many tears that morning.”


“We went to visit her [this afternoon] – it has been awhile.  We rang the doorbell a few times.  Then I walked around to the back of the house and noticed that her heater was on.  I knew that she must still be there.  When I walked back to the front of the house, I saw her riding her bicycle away fast.  She has ups and downs.  On the down times she still just doesn’t want to meet anyone.  It’s too hard…”


“Tomorrow I want to just work.  I don’t want to remember.  It is too hard to remember.”


“The morning after the tsunami I started walking all over the area in search of the 100-something of my store employees.  We had no idea where they might be seeking refuge but it was my job to report to the central office that everyone has been found (or not).  It didn’t matter how dangerous it was or that my family didn’t have much food.  I had to do my job.  I took my second grade son with me and we started wading through all the debris to visit all the schools and temples in the nearby areas serving as evacuation centers.  I couldn’t stop until I had somehow accounted for everyone on the list.”


“We didn’t know what to do when the siren started.  We left the home on foot and started running towards the school, but it was in the direction of the water.  When we saw the dark force moving towards us, we knew we had to run in the opposite direction.  I kept tugging on my daughter’s arm to run faster.  My husband finally put our 3rd grade [autistic] son on his back and even though he was so heavy he didn’t stop running.  We heard the noise and finally ran into the stairwell of a small apartment building.  We pulled our children up the stairs and there was a family in the top apartment.  They let us stay with them until the morning light came.  We didn’t know what we would find when we went back down those steps…”


“I don’t know what we are going to do when all the children return to their [fixed up] elementary school this next month.  My fifth grade daughter is so traumatized by what she saw at that school three years ago.  I’ve already told her that she doesn’t have to do the PE swimming lessons in that pool.  She saw those bodies floating in there and I know she will never be able to forget….”


“On the one hand, I almost cannot bear to relive the memories of 3/11 three years ago.  But on the other hand, if it hadn’t been for the tsunami I never would have had friends like you.  Some days I don’t know how to deal with such extreme emotions….”


Please pray right now for our friends in Ishinomaki.  For so many, life is still so very hard.  But we do believe in a Living Hope; in a Healer; in a Savior for this broken world.

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