Relief Work in Sendai, Japan
To be a victim of a natural disaster, is to be robbed of your daily life. It means loss and confusion and conflicting emotions all at once. For some its a struggle for survival. For others its lonliness and fatigue. Some try to reach out to others, and in so doing they themselves are drowned in their own weakness. Three months after the earthquake of March 11, we are still victims, each seeking to rebuild a life which we can call our own. But in the midst of it all, some people are looking for HOPE. They have an eye for the beautiful things, they have a heart for shared JOY, they have a vision for a community that can bring PEACE, they know that LOVE means action carried out in humble ways.
Our partner church, the Kyodan, has established a Relief Center at the Emmaus Center in Sendai, Japan. In an effort to reach out to the wider community, Rev. Noda (Relief Center staff) visited the Shichigo emergency shelter where 500 people had been evacuated. He met and talked with many people. In one of his conversations he shared his vision for involvement in the community. “We have come to look for HOPE. And we want to share that HOPE with the young people. Would you engage our young people, nurturing them and guiding them toward that HOPE?”
These simple words caught the imagination of Mr. Sugawara who was himself a vicitm of the tsunami. This shared vision for hope-building is the foundation upon which our relationship has continued to this day. Each day we send from 30 to 50 young volunteers out on their bicycles to help with mud removal and house cleaning in the Shichigo village. The young people on bicycles are a symbol of our humble presence in their community. We do not mean to advertise who we are, nor to do large scale relief work. We go each day to help the residents rebuild their own lives, and in the process grow in our mutual relationship of trust.
Jesus said “God has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” The disaster of March 11 has left many people captive to the reality of loss and destruction. Many have lost sight of their future. Oppression fills the air. Yet the bicyclists themselves continue to be a symbol of HOPE. Through thieir encounter each day at Shichigo, each person receives a proclamation from heaven; “this is the year of the Lord’s favor.”