Having said all that....the days this week have been long. I knew Thursday would be an emotional roller coaster. I knew we'd probably see a bit of Tsunami damage on our trip. I'd seen this youtube clip: Be warned this is hard to watch - harder I am sure if you understand Japanese. I can tell homes washed away, cars (some with people in them) float by, cars end up on 2nd and 3rd stories of buildings, ships end up in the middle of town, and the big brown building disappears by the end of the clip. A 38 m wave came over the sea wall in Miyako City. Six thousand homes were destroyed. I can't remember the number of people killed or missing. Many.
Our mission on Thursday was simply to drive to Miyako City, meet Pastor Iwatsuka, encourage he and his wife, and leave the kits. We had 4 vehicles, 9 people. It was a 5 hour drive down and we wanted 2 people in each car for safety. Akikosan asked to come with us. She was invaluable as a translator,as a friend and in providing a Japanese perspective on the things we were to see and do. She is not yet a Christian and I wanted her to see the body in action.
We laughed that this was Akikosan in a box....surrounded by home kits.
Loved Mt. Iwate on the way down
64 kits delivered to Miyako Community Church
Church is held in the living/dining room of the home....notes on their board.
Ruth and Chaplain B - there are other unloading photos taken by Navy PA. If I see shots, I'll add them. We were really too busy unloading to take photos.
What an honor to meet one of the pastor/ pastor wife which our project will resource.
Team Misawa and Miyako - minus two
We had hoped to take Pastor Iwatsuka and his wife to lunch, but the timing was off. He and one of his parishioners were heading to the center. He prays, the man is a chiropractor who adjusts....
Pastor Iwatsuka said they will take a team of 15 to a home, help clean it and deliver a kit. What a blessing.
We left to grab some lunch. Up to this point the day had been wonderful - really an emotional up...but the sickening plunge downward was coming. As we drove through town we began to see damage. Damage we'd seen on news clips and such...but the impact was different.
Akikosan explained this was a dump site for debris...it was shocking and yet only a dump site.
We've seen lots of boats where boats should not be - both in our city and on the road....but the boats were for the most part in the harbor....damage but not evidence of lost life.
We took a turn and found ourselves in a different, unexpected section of the port. This was residential. Not only were uniformed men working, but there were women also. They were picking through the rubble. It was hard to switch gears so quickly...I recognized the scenery from videos, I remembered the fact that 6,000 homes were destroyed, I noted Akiko's demeanor getting agitated....and it clicked. I asked if we were were seeing people looking through their homes. Yes, we were. The Japanese government, now that piles of rubble have been removed from port areas and city streets, are turning to this housing area to recover the bodies of thousands of missing. I thought my heart had broken for Japan over a year ago. I have prayed to have God's heart for Japan. At this point I was hit with incredible sadness and grief. It was unthinkable to note all the futons, furniture, toys and shoes jumbled in the mess. All we are doing seems so tiny, so pointless.....I was shocked at how quickly we had gone from ministry to voyeurism.....We didn't take pictures. We left. We gathered up back at the church and prayed.
I learned details to make future teams run smoother. I learned something about human nature....it's easy to slide into spectator mode in a completely innocent moment - with a turn of the road. Future teams will not drive to the sea area until we are CERTAIN recovery work is finished. We cannot risk Miyako Shi misunderstanding the motive of love and gospel. We are on a ministry mission - we are not trying to work in tourist trips on the sly.
I learned, in my GUT, what I had known intellectually, we cannot meet all the needs we witness. We are fulfilling one small role in God's body. We can do that to the best of our ability. I'd set up an assembly line on Wed. Anna shared that if God has an assembly line and is creating a car, we don't have to make the whole car alone, we simply have the job of ratcheting down the bolts in this one spot. We can focus on the one need and do our best to excel in this one spot. Jan had shared a story weeks ago......and it has come back to me...."Why in the world do you TRY to throw all the starfish on the beach back into the ocean. You can't possibly get them all to safety?" True, true....."but to that one starfish it makes a difference." I pray our little offering makes a difference to those whom we provide kits.
I learned that I didn't fully GET IT. How precious it was to hear the church would, "clean the home and give them a kit." I pictured them dusting building material from FEMA type apartments, wiping muddy footprints from floors.....but these saints are going to help families CLEAN the wreck and rubble of their home plot. I am humbled. I am saddened.
The tears finally came. Yes, some of you have wondered when it would happen. I know I'm tired - but it is more than being worn out. It is weeks of being strong and not allowing myself to grasp the magnitude of HUMAN suffering which surrounds us. I've always been empathetic. I placed myself in the shoes of the women I saw searching through the rubble, and I experienced new levels of brokenness. I'm driven to ever-more passionate intercession for the souls of Japan. I cannot imagine dealing with this level of pain without the comfort of the Holy Spirit - our comforter. My exhaustion from shopping is nothing. My determination to keep going is renewed. "Your kingdom come, Father, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. May we be used faithfully for your kingdom purposes, wherever you have placed us."
We declared I would not do chapel work today. I've answered a few volunteer emails.....but today I needed to decompress so I can get back to it for next week. We ran to lunch. We came home and did jobs around the home.....we enjoyed our children and lived a "normal" life for a day.
This photos brings me a measure of peace. Please pray for this dear couple. There is ONE church in Miyako City....one. Imagine it; even small towns in America will have several flavors of churches. Their burden is great. Join me in supporting them in prayer. I'd love to be able to tell them Christians around the world are praying for them. This picture represents to me two pastors, from different countries, serving ONE Lord to meet the needs of a beloved nation.
BTW this is a chapel project - Catholics and Protestants working together.....the body as it should be...working together to be salt and light.
I called Akikosan today. I needed to apologize for our cavalier attitude. She was a comfort. She told me I need to talk about what I saw and I need to show pictures so others will understand what is going on. It felt inappropriate to take photos of the housing area...so much pain and they should have the dignity and privacy to go through their things with some measure of - well - privacy. We couldn't read the signs which told us not to enter, and the JSDF waved us in. Akiksoan said we are blessing many people and this is a great work. I will take comfort in not having offended a friend who I so want to meet Jesus. So, with her blessing, I will share what I experienced.
I'm sad, however God is GOOD, God is redemptive, God can, and I believe WILL, bring good out of this tragedy. I continue to pray for at least one soul for the kingdom for every soul lost in the disasters. I continue to pray for bridges for the gospel. I am still.....
Living all of life before the face of God...