Thursday, November 17, 2011

Biblical Proportions

 the latest update from Bruce!
Ohayou gozaimasu !
So here is a brief overview of the damage caused by the March earthquake and tsunami:

"A total of 196,559 buildings were destroyed or damaged. Around 27,000 people were killed. More than 460,000 were made homeless and sought refuge in shelters. This included 150,000 in Miyagi Prefecture, 47,000 in Iwate Prefecture and 130,000 in Fukushima Prefecture. In the first three days after the disaster Japan’s Self Defense Forces (the Japanese military) rescued 66,000 people, many of them stranded on hilltops, rooftops and among debris. Because reaching them by land was so difficult many had to wait to be retrieved by helicopter, which could carry only a few people at a time. Thousands of others evacuated their homes due to the crisis at the Fukushima nuclear power plant."

The Homes that workers from this base are working on are in the Miyagi Prefecture. Every corner you turn in the town of Ishinomaki has signs of what took place here. Damaged,unlivable homes and vacant lots are everywhere. I watched as a small excavator on one site stirred up the soil while others sifted through the soil to find any valuables that may still be on site after a home was removed. Once this step is done, the soil is neatly graded and then lime is hand sprinkled over the whole site to neutralize the effect on the soil that the salt water had.

Regardless of current appearance, it certainly is much better than right after the tsunami. Yesterday, at lunch, the homeowner of the house we just completed today sat down and told us about her survival experience. She said that when they felt the quake they knew it was different than the usual quake and should leave their house. Apparently many others were already on the road, heading to the hills. Her family made it to the hill behind the town in time to escape the wave.

(A comparable distance scenario would be to picture being downtown Bellingham and having to get up to the top of Alabama hill as quickly as possible)

She said that most of the people who were fleeing and who didn't make it were in vehicles and trapped in massive traffic jams rather than on bicycle. After staying at a relatives home in the mountains for a few days, they made their way back home to find that all roads were full of debris, their house was still standing but surrounded by and full of debris. She said that the bodies of victims were everywhere. Neighbors homes on two sides were gone and all 6 people had died.
It is very impressive to consider how much work has been done so far just clearing the streets. There is a mountain of debris down on the waterfront which all came from the street cleanup. Currently intentional demolition and repair is the name of the game. Standing in the street in front of our project home I can turn and look in any direction and see excavators at work and hear the sound of jackhammers and concrete saws.

Another thing visible from the jobsite is a significant row of pine trees (40' tall) between us and the seashore about a mile away. I was told that the tsunami wave came over those trees on its way into town.
Samaritan's Purse came in right after the disaster with boxes of survival items and handed them out. They have only been given until March of 2012 to stay and do their rebuilding work. My hunch is that deadline will change because of the positive impact they are having in the lives of many Japanese by the repair work they are sponsoring. 110 homes have been rebuilt so far out of 300. This interaction between SP and the Japanese has had other interesting effects on the locals here.
1) The custom of each family looking out only for itself is being confronted
2) The "shame" of receiving hand-outs is being challenged
3) Interaction with foreigners , in their homes, on a daily basis, is causing a breakdown of the Japanese isolation tendency.
Some other post tsunami stories:
I met a fisherman at church on Sunday who had his home rebuilt by SP and was there because he wanted to get to know the God that brought his fishing boat back. His boat was swept away by the wave and he and others spent days looking for it before giving up. Then one day, he looked out to the harbor, where his boat used to be parked and there it was, sitting where it should be. He said, only God could have made this happen ! I need to know this God !

Another woman who's home is being repaired simply stated that she wanted the joy and hope that she was witnessing in the workers on her home. She asked "How do I get this ? ". She was at church on Sunday also.
Another family that was fleeing the tsunami was swept away in their car but it floated along well enough that it eventually floated over to a building where they were able to climb out of the car into the building and be saved.
We just started our second home today and the homeowner seemed to be a very intimidating and stand-offish person. So at lunch we asked if he and his wife would share their tsunami survival story. He has a business of harvesting seaweed and processing it at his facility in a warehouse behind his house. He was processing some seaweed when the earthquake hit and it shook this 10-ton machine off its foundation. He decided to ride his bike down to the harbor to check on his boats but before he got there he was confronted with water in the street about a foot deep and growing. It got too deep to ride his bike and he fell off and swam to a carport, grabbed a support post and climbed up onto the carport roof. He spent 3-hours stranded up there during which time a life vest from one of his boats came drifting by and he was able to snag it with a stick. He said it had to be God who brought his own life vest to him when he needed one.

Later an old man in a boat drifted by and he got in his boat and they floated to a school building, kicked out a window and spent the night in there. Because it was very cold and snowing, they tore up the carpets and put pieces over the windows and doors to keep the room warm. The next morning he found his way back home and climbed down debris piles to get into his home where he searched everywhere for his wife, expecting to find that she had died. She wasn't there because she had already escaped to higher ground. This couple lost there entire business and their home. And now, in the name of Christ, they are getting their home back, free of charge. Since sharing their story, this couple has been more comfortable with us and us with them.

So what is this all about ? Why the earthquake and tsunami ? Did God allow it ? Did he allow it as a way of beginning something new here in Japan ? Often it takes tragedy to jolt us out of our comfort zone and into a place where we are open to options. Like leaving our old gods behind in favor of The God. The God who really does exist and want to participate in life with us. God is using us as part of his change agent as we fix these houses. We are a link in a chain of events that God is orchestrating to save Japanese people from continuing to be spiritually dead. Miracles are happening everyday here. Please keep praying.

Sore dewa,
Bruce (3rd from left) surrounded by other men on the team.

No comments:

Post a Comment

thank you so much for taking time to read and comment! have a great day!