Thursday, July 21, 2011

Earthquake Relief Day 1

Going to Japan this summer I knew I had a short schedule. 2 and a half weeks is nothing when going home AND going to another country. My dad was giving me a few suggestions for trips we could take and one of them was to go up north to Tohoku where the earthquake/tsunami hit. I jumped on that idea! My family had gone up once before and they were willing to go again. I always watch the news on TV or see pictures of places that were devistated by war or by natural disaster but it never fully becomes a living and active m event until I see it with my own eyes so I was excited and nervous to go up and see it all with my own eyes. We left around 4pm and with a 6 hour drive before us, headed up north. It was night when we reached a karate dojo in an area about 30 min from the coastline and away from the tsunami hit area. This was the base camp for Be-1 and organization created for the disaster relief by some Team Expansion missionaries. The karate dojo is where the teams slept and supplies were stored. It was late by the time we got there so we went right to sleep on sleeping bags and cushion mats.

The next morning, we woke up to a bright sunny day surrounded by rice fields. We got ready and headed to a communal room to eat breakfast. There we met the rest of the Be-1 team. The Be-1 team fluctuates almost daily with people coming up for a few days to months. Some were American college students here to help, others were Japanese natives wanting to help, some missionary kids, and even a Nisei Japanese-American person from California. Around 9 we all headed out to the earthquake area. I had my eye out watching to see if I could tell how far the water came in. We were driving into a city called Ishinomaki that was devastated by the tsunami. Sure enough, about 20 min car ride from the ocean we started to see water marks on signs that were about waist and knee level. There was a river that had flooded with the tsunami. Most every restaurant around that area was already open and houses were cleaned out and looked new again. My dad said when he came through this area right after the earthquake, there was just mud all over the place, and were were still far from the coast! This made me wonder what the coast looked like.

We drove more towards the coast and what struck me was that there was big hills and mountains in a close vacinity wth all these houses and then the ocean. It would have been easy for everyone to run up these mountains and stay safe from the tsunami. I'm sure some did do this. Still in an area 5-10 min from the beach, we pulled into a neighborhood where the Be-1 group is renting a house from a Japanese person while they move away because the house is devistated. The Be-1 group is renovating it and putting new walls and flooring up. In this area the tsunami came up to the first floor. The 2nd floor is perfectly fine. Some older houses had damage both from the earthquake and tsunami but most were livable because only the first floor was devestated. But if you think of that, most every house, the kitchen and bath is on the first floor so families can't do much if they were to live here.

Our mission for today was to do two food drops. First we went shopping. We went to a local justco and got around 10 carts and packed it full of veggies. The total food products came out to $500. We loaded those into the car and made our way to the drop site. Another church had come up and loaded a huge truck with supplies. Together, we spread out the food on a tarp so that the people could walk by with their bags and receive the food we give them. I was in charge of some of the fruit. We had everything labeled with how many of each thing the people received but we as the team handed out most of the items and placed them in the people's bag. It was super hot out by this time. The sun was blaring and we had to set up while the people waited in line. We set up two canopy's for the people waiting in line and handed out drinks. About 100 or more people came through at that time. When most of the food was gone and the line of the people had gone down, we packed back up and headed for the coast.

It is custom for Japanese people to give back when someone has given something to them. There was one main lady of the neighborhood that had called all the people to come to the drop. She was a short older lady and she was super funny. While the people were going through the drop, she would yell comments to the people to hurry through the line so others will have a choice. She would say things like, "Run through the line like you ran when the tsunami was coming!" We were kind of shocked but she was doing it to be funny. Anyways, after we had packed up, she came back with a basket full of snacks for all of us. The Japanese people just don't know how to receive a free Christlike gift!

Anyways, so we went to the coast and stood on the 2 story seawall with breakers and watched the ocean for a while. It was a moving experience looking at the water thinking that a few months ago, this water came crashing down into the city. At any moment there could be an earthquake and a tsunami and come crashing in. The sea wall we were on was pretty high too and the water had to come over this and crash all into the city blowing houses away. The area right behind the sea wall there were some houses still standing but some were gone. Oh how violent the ocean can be. Only God is more powerful then the waves of the sea.

We had a group prayer time on the sea wall and we prayed that hope will be restored to these people and only a hope that can come from Christ.

After the prayer time, we took a group picture :)

We then headed straight to the second drop. This time it was in a smaller neighborhood and a lady let us use her carport to spread out the tarp and use it as the food drop. This lady must have been rich because she had a three story house and it looked like a business right beside her house. She was also an older lady widowed. This time everything went quicker and smoother because we knew what to do. We had the people come by and we started running out of a few things. The line wasn't as long, maybe 50 people or more.

It's not like these people can't get any food. It's just that most of the cars were ruined when the tsunami hit, and most of the stores near the area were wiped out so if the people don't have a car or bicycle, they can't get food as easily as before. So our drops were just to help out a little bit and show them that there are people who still care for them. The lady, Suzuki san, let us use her house for going to the bathroom and such and in her house, you could distinctly see the water line on the wall paper. After we packed up for the drop, Suzuki san called us all into her house for cherries and a drink. Half of her flooring was gone in the room so we had to squeeze together to sit on planks of wood. You could see the foundation of her house through the floor. She was still a very joyous persons and even though she wasn't a Christian, we will all be praying for her.

We then headed back to the Be-1 house to wait for some other people. Andrew, one of the Team Expansion intern for the summer was going to mix cement to fill in a hole for the next-door neighbor lady. The Tsunami had ripped a hole into an area right on the side of the house. We all stood outside and talked to the lady and hung out while Andrew worked. We got to hear the story of what the lady, Kazumata san was doing when the tsunami hit. She evacuated to a shrine in the mountains but she ran most of the way. She didn't see any of the water but she said she could hear it and she started running.

She went into her house and cut some watermelon and we all enjoyed some while we cheered andrew on. After the cement was laid, Kazumata san ran and got some shells in her house and placed them on the wet cement. It looked really cute! After this we all headed to the bath house to wash off for the day.  We were SO sweaty and gross and the onsen was really nice. After that it was like 9 but we hadn't eaten dinner yet so we headed to a restaurant. By the time I got out of the onsen, I could barely keep my eyes open so when we headed back to the dojo for the night, I went right to sleep.

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