With the members of Kanto (“Eastern”) Women’s Christian Association, Sendai church, Furukawa Church as well as missionaries in Ishinomaki area, 86 of us gathered together for today’s relief work. The team from women’s association arrived at Sendai on a micro bus, and held a session at our church on June 3. We are so thankful that people traveled so far to share their love with the earthquake victims in this area.
We got into five different groups so that we can visit the temporary housing in one of the 5 areas we regularly go. At each place, we got to mingle with the residents of the temporary housing and also hear about their stories from the day when the earthquake hit them. We prepared lunch, a package of relief supplies as well as gifts that were brought by women’s association for each person who attended today’s gathering. They also prepared for us some special performances by their talented members, creating a warm atmosphere. (Hiroko Takahashi)
Place of Activity: Temporary housing in Iwaida area
Number of Volunteers: 12
Special Performance: Recorder
On June 4, our group drove up for an hour and a half to Iwaida area to visit the temporary housing there. Wind was blowing gently, stirring up the surface of the Kitakami River as we crossed over it. Through two tunnels we reached the Watanoha area, where a junior high school and a girl’s trade school had been torn down completely after the tsunami. This is our 7th time visiting this temporary housing since we stared delivering supplies to it in October 2011. I have came here on my own numerous times too, I lost count of it already.
When we arrived at the temporary housing, the town leader’s wife welcomed us warmly. 8 of us from 4 different churches waited for the residents of the housing to show up for our event, but no one did, so we decided to drive around the area to greet and invite people over. 8 people came out as a result. Ms. A from Sendai church opened up the event by saying, “the relief work that our church has been doing was made possible by the support of many people like these women here. They made a long trip from Eastern Japan so that they can hear your stories and know how they can better support you in future.”
A member from Soka church played some hymns on the recorder for us, and the area was surrounded with beautiful sound of the recorder as we listened to it. We also had the chance to listen to people talk about their experience and memory of the tsunami and the earthquake. This is the story told by Ms. S whom I was talking with: “I lost my granddaughter in the tsunami. I was in deep grief for a while, but my son told me that I cannot be sad forever, that I need to cheer up and move forward. His words encouraged me to get up and move on finally. I am moving into my new house in June.” It was very moving to see a smile on her face despite all the hardships she had gone through.
The time of fellowship came to an end; we had to say goodbye. Some were exchanging their addresses and some were taking pictures. Snacks were given to each guest as a gift. The members of the women’s association had to go, but some of us stayed behind to eat dinner with people who came out today. During that, an old lady asked us about the location of the new church that will be built in Mitsuwa town in Watanoha area. She said she read about it on a flyer we distributed before. To our surprise, other residents of the temporary housing knew exactly where that church was going to be, and started explaining the location to her. We were very excited to know that our new church is eagerly anticipated by many people in the area.
It has been two years since the disaster hit Japan. Our relief work started soon after the event and has been going on to this day. Countless love and support has been delivered to the disaster stricken area with much prayer. I would like to thank the members of Kanto Women’s Christian Association as well as those from Ueda church who visited the temporary housing with us today. (Hiroko Shoji)
Place of Activity: Temporary housing #1 in Northern Watanoha area
Number of Volunteers: 13
Special Performance: Picture-story show, book reading
We arrived at the temporary housing at 9:30 in the morning, and had some light meal with the residents of the temporary housing as we waited for more people to gather for today’s event. At 10:00, people started to show up. We were told that a lot of the residents are gone for an elderly day care today, but we had 13 people showing up. We started out by introducing ourselves to each other, and then sang few worship songs. And then the member of women’s association read few books for us, which we enjoyed thoroughly. After that, we had the chance to listen to each resident of the temporary housing share about their experience of the March 11. I saw people listening very sympathetically. We ended the day with Pastor Wakabayashi from Ueda church praying over us.
After the members of the women’s association left, our church members stayed behind so we can spend more time with people who came out today. They said the government’s plan to elevate the road is not moving fast enough, affecting their plan for constructing new houses. I saw how people are still forced to living with great uncertainty and hardships. (Yoko Ushiku)
Place of Activity: Temporary housing #3 in Northern Watanoha area, temporary housing in Tarumi area
Number of Volunteers: 12
Special Performance: Piano performance
Praise our father in heaven! We held a joint event for two temporary housings today, where we had 12 residents joining us. We have been praying and preparing for this day for two months, so I thank God for blessing us with wonderful time today. We first had the members of the Kanto Women’s Christian Association introduce themselves. They then asked the residents of the temporary housings if they could share about their experience of the day when the earthquake hit the area. People kindly accepted the request and started sharing about their experiences. Although we could not to give enough time to this part of the program, many of them were listening sympathetically with tears. After the members of the women’s association left, we stayed behind to eat lunch with those who came out today. It was a relazing time of fellowship with delicious green tea, which was made by a member of our church. (Mariko Fukazawa)
Place of Activity: Mangokuura temporary housing
Number of Volunteers: 28
Special Performance: Ventriloquism
It was a cloudy day in Ishinomaki, but there were people waiting for us when the church van got there. We started to visit each household with an invitation to the event we had prepared for them, and people started to come out. When a large bus full of members of women’s association arrived, people’s faces lit up and immediately started mingling, introducing oneself to each other. Soon after, there were many groups of 2 to 3 people, sharing with each other their memory of the March 11th. Despite our concern that it might cause them too much pain to tell stories about that day, they were very open about it. They even told us that it lifted their hearts up to be able to talk about their experiences. We sang some hymns together, and enjoyed the ventriloquism that one of the participants from Nagareyama Church performed for us. Rev. Munakata then prayed very powerfully for the people in the disaster stricken area; each word he prayed made as feel as if we were made one in heart.
The participants of the women’s association left for Onagawa town to observe the coastal area that were severely damaged by the tsunami, but members of Sendai church stayed behind for lunch with the residents. We were also able to give each one of them a gift that the women’s association had prepared. I thank God and every participant for the great time we got to spend together today. (Machiko Yoshida)
Place of Activity: Takayasu Liquor Store
Number of Volunteers: 22
Special Performance: Apron theater (puppet show)
Among the 21 people who showed up today, there were some whom the owner of the liquor store had invited on behalf of us. He even asked two of them to share with us their story from that day when the earthquake hit their town.
We started off the event by singing few worship songs together, then the members of the women’s association performed a puppet show for us, It was a fun, very well-made show, and we all truly enjoyed it. After that, we listened to Ms. Konno share with us about her experience. It was a story of fear, despair, and love. We could not listen to it without tears. It was very unfortunate that we ran out of time for another person to share.
I felt God’s abundant blessing upon us, especially when recalling all the hard work that was put into preparing for today’s event. I am truly grateful. (Atsuko Ishikawa)
*All texts translated by Ayano Iizumi