19th August 2013
We spent a day in one of the worst affected areas, a place called Ishinomaki. We stopped next to a house that was a complete wreck and a thought hit me – the absolute best case scenario for the owners is that they have lost their home, their car and likely their job as the local economy has been destroyed. As shocking as that sounds, that is the best situation they could be in.
We went to one shelter to distribute hygiene kits, kitchen kits, underwear, tarps and blankets. There were over 1500 people in crowded, cold, miserable conditions: effectively living the life of a refugee. My thought as we drove away was that the people there were “existing” rather than “living”. It was very sad to see.
There were lots of smaller shocks but we did experience a 7.1 earthquake while we were there which lasted almost one minute. It violently shook the apartment we were in and things came crashing off the walls. It caused a tsunami warning but thankfully it didn’t materialise.
The Japanese people were great to work with – extremely hard working, very polite and willing to get involved. The amount of respect shown to us and each other was amazing. We were working with some high school students who volunteered in our warehouse. They were there pretty much every day from 9-5, working free of charge doing a lot of menial manual tasks and never complaining.
Apparently less than 0.5% of people claim to be Christians. So it was great to see the Body of Christ in Japan coming together and uniting in this response. It’s even more remarkable when you consider that many of these churches were affected themselves by the disaster.
It’s clearly going to be a long road to recovery both in terms of the physical reconstruction and the psychological effects that the Tsunami has had on people. However, Japan is the fourth richest country in the world, so I’m sure the physical recovery will be quicker than if the earthquake and tsunami had hit a poorer nation. Also, as the church is at the ‘sharp-end’ of our response, I am hopeful they can use this opportunity to demonstrate God’s love for the Japanese people in a practical way.