Chris' Tohoku Report (Ishinomaki City, Miygi Prefecture)
I had such a AWESOME week in Ishinomaki. I thought I would share with you some of the things that happened, day by day:
Monday (8/22): Went to Higashi-Osaka to catch the van to Tohoku at 7:30AM. The van had a flat tire. Had to get the van to the gasoline station to fix the puncture. One of the couples in our team was late due to a dead battery in their car. What a start! But we got on the road around 9:30AM and got into Ishinomaki at around 11:00PM. There were many already sleeping at the Dojo.
Tuesday (8/23): The team divided into 3 groups. I joined the group to work on an 83 year old elderly man's house. He needed the mud removed from under his house, a large amount of damaged things from his house thrown out (things like wet tatami, bikes, household items and damaged clothes etc.) and taken to the dump and his front garden weeded and cleaned. He invited us in to have lunch together. We had a chance to pray for him and by the time we left in the afternoon, his face was glowing. It was hard work, but really rewarding to see his smile at the end of the day.
Wednesday (8/24): The team divided into groups again. I stayed behind at the Be One house and helped with sorting and organizing supplies. Some supplies are for Be One use (gloves, masks, tools, etc.) some supplies are for BBQs and some supplies are to be given away to tsunami victims. It was a major job, but we somehow got it all organized. I then cooked dinner for the volunteers. I prepared a meal for about 25 people of cream stew, rice, fried pumpkin and watermelon.
Thursday (8/25): The team divided into groups again. I joined the BBQ planning group. We had a late afternoon BBQ for people in the neighbor around the Be One house. We planned, purchased food and prizes, prepared the food and then had the BBQ starting around 5PM. I would estimated we had about 200 people. We had prepared for 100. Jennifer made a run to purchase more food at the last minute. Bless her!
We prepared yakisoba, wieners, BBQ chicken, dinner rolls, potato chips and watermelon. A volunteer named Asami did hula and we played Bingo to give away the prizes.
I met a women named “K” who shared her story with me. Her and her husband lived in a car for two weeks following the tsunami. She said she was cold and hungry. She eventually found her daughter in a shelter.
Friday (8/26): The team I came up with from Osaka returned. (That was so sad to say good-bye to them.) I remained over the weekend.
We teamed up with a CRASH team from Hitachi to give away "kakigori" (shaved ice) at a matsuri in Miyato shima (in the Matsushima area). Miyato shima is a little island just south of Ishinomaki. It was a wonderful festival. There were many volunteers from a variety of places giving away free food: yakisoba, yakitori, ice cream, tofu, wieners, okonomiyaki and takoyaki (to name a few). They had entertainment and a fireworks shows sponsored by a company from Tokyo. It was very festive and a wonderful way to bless the people of Miyato shima.
The woman (K) and daughter (A) that I had met the day before at the BBQ, were also at the matsuri so I got to talk to them again.
Saturday (8/27): A new team arrived from Osaka in the morning. This was by far the hardest day. The entire team (maybe about 20 people) went to work at a shoyu/miso factory. A family business that has been running for 90 years. We cleaned all the mud and sludge out of his factory. The worst part was cleaning the rotten fermented soy that has been damaged by the sea water. Chad said it was the worst he's smelled in all the time since the tsunami. The smell was so strong that the mask didn't help much and it started to burn my eyes and throat. Some people had really red faces from the fumes and we had to take "breathing breaks". It was such a wonderful feeling to clean out his factory and help him get back on his feet. I was very satisfied at the end of the day to see his smiling face. I also reeked from the fumes. I will never forgot that experience for the rest of my life. I'm sure I will be reminded of this man whenever I eat miso or shoyu!!!
A high school girl who was a tsunami victim came to volunteer. She was really eager to serve. She told me her story and showed me pictures. On the day of the tsunami she was at home. She ran up the hill near her house and saw her house completely destroyed. She stayed in a shelter for 10 days. She found her mother 3 days later and her her father 5 days later. I can only imagine how scary that would be for a high school girl to stay in the shelter alone not knowing if her parents were alive or not.
Sunday (8/28): We joined the worship service at the Be One house and then started the long drive home back to Osaka.
I learned many things through this experience. Too many to share here. But some things really stood out. One is that God loves the Japanese people with a holy passion. A love so strong that he would send volunteers from around the world to help the people of Tohoku.
I learned that the family of God is awesome! I met people from near and far ready to do anything (including shovel rotten fermented soy) to help the people of Tohoku. All the volunteers worked extremely hard without complaining.
I learned that I love the Japanese people even more than I realized. Listening to the individual stories broke my heart! I talked with so many hurting people.
Let's all pray for Japan! "Ganbarimasho"!!!
Aug. 29, 2011