Fresh Air Camps
This past spring our partners in Japan, the Kyodan (otherwise known as the United Church of Christ in Japan) sponsored a short retreat for ten families (ten children and ten guardians) living in the Fukushima area to escape from their radiation poisoned living environment. They spent five days on the southern island of Okinawa, all expenses paid.
God is my shepherd, I shall not want,
God makes me lay down in green pastures,
and leads me beside still waters. Psalm 23
This past spring our partners in Japan, the Kyodan (otherwise known as the United Church of Christ in Japan) sponsored a short retreat for ten families (ten children and ten guardians) living in the Fukushima area to escape from their radiation poisoned living environment. They spent five days on the southern island of Okinawa, all expenses paid. This was the third such retreat sponsored by the Kyodan, and plans are to continue to provide these retreats two times a year for families living in the Fukushima area. The five to seven day retreats are important for two reasons. First, they allow children to recover physiologically from the damages of radiation. Radiation enters the body of a maturing child and alters the DNA. Even a short time away from a damaging environment allows the body to recover its natural balance. The second reason is psychological. Families living in the Fukushima area are living under highly stressful circumstances. The government denies that there are health risks for children and residents living outside of the 30 mile nuclear-off-limits-zone. Concerned citizens, however, who have been educating themselves and taking their own measurements after the nuclear disaster, have reason to question the official line. The government wants to isolate those who question the authorities, and or discredit anything that goes against government policies. The people whose lives are on the line, experience the painful tug-of-war in their daily lives as they try to maintain themselves as functional members of society on the one hand, and yet also live with the uncertainty and fear that no authority has been able to make go away.
Below I want to introduce the words of Rev. Hideharu Fuda from Sendai, Japan who planned and accompanied the group this year. I am proud that CGMB has been involved in supporting these retreats and that we are enabled to walk with God through the work of our partners – a God that can do nothing other than LOVE.
“Suffering due to radiation is ongoing. It will most likely continue for decades. The radiation that fell on forests and mountains, rivers, the ocean and the fertile earth will continue to damage human bodies. The whole ecosystem for animals, plants and all of nature will continually be broken. From now on we can expect thyroid cancer in children, as well as many other illnesses linked with radiation poisoning. As was the case in “Minamata,” we know that both the government and the Tokyo Electric Company (TEPCO) will do their utmost to disqualify any evidence that these diseases are a direct result of radiation. Even as the voices of the people cry out; “We are not guinea pigs!” the government continues their “Safety Declarations” which only continue to put the lives of our children at risk and increase the suffering of the people.”
“In that regard, we cannot afford to stand by idle and do nothing for these families. The short retreats are not only needed for small children, but the parents who live with their children also need to rest from time to time. Even a short time away from a high radiation environment helps radiation levels in the body to decrease. In addition, an opportunity for parents to accompany their children on the camps allows for both parent and child to find physical and psychological healing. To breathe in the clean air, play in the water and with the soil, lie down on the grass, and see the laughter of the children as they play, brings healing to the soul. I do not know how long we will be able to continue this program, but I hope we will be able to continue as long as necessary.”
Jeffrey Mensendiek serves with the Council on Cooperative Mission, assigned to the Gakusei (Student) Center in Japan. He serves as Director.