It was in the Christmas season, so we asked T Store again whether we would be able to hold on ‘Ishinomaki Christmas Festival’ there. Owner Mr. T again accepted our plan very warmly. We had seven different programs that day: 1.distributing winter cloths and Omochi (kind of solid rice ball) for new year celebration, 2.feeding Oshiruko (Japanese sweet soap using adzuki beans), 3. visiting houses around T store, 4. distribution at Second Watanoha Temporary Houses, 5. lot drawing, 6. Christmas-box present, 7. Christmas song caroling and short message.
We had 66 members, the largest number of volunteers ever on our activities. Especially 9 members from MCC (Musashino Chapel Center), and 5 from Nagoya-Nishi Evangelical Free Church gave us so much help from the stage of preparation. Also many brothers and sisters of entire EFCJ assisted us by sending wrapped Christmas present and message cards. Those were more than dozens of corrugated box in total. We want to say sincere ‘Thank you!’ to them on this blog. You can see the photos below of how we made Christmas boxes by those presents. (If you push “i” button, you can see the description.)
We also set up two hundred ‘New year kit’ including Omochi and Anko (sweet, mushed adzuki beans) because it closed the day of new year. We used a fund from Ms. Monica Blettel, the teach of Tokai Seisho Shingakujuku for this purpose. We also really appreciate to the fellow Christians living in her country, Germany.
Activities were divided four groups, and done simultaneously by couple of hours: 1 and 2 for our church members, 3 for MCC members and 4 for Nagoya-Nishi members. After the end of each works, we gathered again, sung several Christmas songs, and pastor Yoshida (senior pastor of our church) spoke a short message, then we distributed Christmas boxes.
Because we had already have several time of activities, more than 170 people came to the festival. Unfortunately there was strong north wind reached to 10m/s this day, but people made a line and waited long. The patience of devastated people was really amazing to us.
Here is one of the sentiments from the volunteers:
“This was my first time volunteer work for SEFC’s activities. I went there with the members of same church and company. Eventually a cold snap hit Tohoku with very cold north wind this day. I felt the solid sense being in Tohoku, and also understood that people living there has fought with such a coldness everyday.
I was in charge of visiting houses. I brought some kits of Omochi and Anko and Christmas boxes by the team of three members each, and went to the houses in Watanoha one by one. One thing I really amazed was every people living there was so kind to us, the strangers. I am tend to have wariness for strangers because I have grown up in newly built urban area in Tokyo. If I were them, I would open the door fearfully a little. So I was impressed by their openness that they could naturally believe strangers like us.
One owner offered us teas and snacks, and shared many stories of the day of earthquake. Although they have faced so severe experiences, why they can welcome us, the strangers? I also received a warm message from them saying “You are young yet. Future is yours!”. I thought that what would I be able to do on my life, and felt “Until today, how much tears dropped and sunk into this land..?”
After the visiting, we sung Christmas songs together. I really appreciate that the people listened quietly under the cold air. This time we have prepared and distributed 160 cookies and cards with hand-written message. Our friend who could not come also assisted this work. It was also amazed that the preparation work of SEFC members. I want to come this place again with our church members and colleagues.”
(written by Ms. Momoko Fukuda, member of MCC)