Starting life over in Tsunami-struck Japan

Packing 103 boxes of food to distirbute to the victims at the temporary housing.
By Stephan Smitdorff
[notice]Stephan Smithdorff was sent by the Uitenhage-North Dutch Reformed Church to carry out mission work under the banner of Operation Mobilisation. This is latest update on relief work in Japan following the devastating tsunami in March[/notice]
This past week we have been in Miyagi prefecture, North East Japan, with a group of 22 members from seven different countries.  We continue to focus on Ishinomaki and the area around Minami Sanriku.

In Ishinomaki, we worked in the house of Mr Suda. He told us how his daughter died in the tsunami.  His daughter was eight months pregnant, and was too slow to escape to the 2nd floor of the house when the tsunami struck.  Mr Suda was on the stairs of the 2nd floor, trying to pull his daughter’s hand as the waters rushed in, but the rubble hit their arms and she lost her grip.

He said he can still hear her voice shouting, “Daddy, help, help…” But there was nothing he could do.  He said that scene keeps on repeating in his mind over and over again.  It’s like a dream and he still wishes to wake up from it!  We helped him to clear out his house and prepare it for renovation; as he is trying to make a restart with his wife, but it is not easy…

In Motoyoshi town, near Minami Sanriku we distributed food and supplies to the newly government built temporary houses. We packed over 100 boxes filled with food, cleaning products, and body towels (with a Bible verse printed on it) and distributed it equally to the 100 houses in one housing unit.

The people there were so touched.  Many had tears in their eyes, as they received the parcels.  These people are really struggling to start their lives again after they have lost everything.  They have received new housing, but many of them feel lonely and neglected. We even heard of someone who had committed suicide in another temporary housing unit. Starting life over without Christ is not easy at all.  What a privilege to encourage them, pray with them and have some fun times together.  One older lady responded, “I have not laughed so much since the tsunami.”

But the real highlight for me was to see Mr. Miura again.  We had helped him and his family on many occasions in the past 5 months.  After clearing up what was left from their property, collecting parts of their destroyed fishing boat, and then receiving a temporary house, Mr. Miura and his son went to Hokkaido to buy a new fishing boat in order to get some income again.  When I heard that he was coming home for a visit, I was really looking forward to seeing him again after a few months.

But then during his visit he had a motorbike accident and ended up in the hospital for 2 weeks.  We went to visit him in the hospital.  We both had tears in our eyes as we reflected on his sufferings over the past few months, but also were encouraged to see him count his blessings.  He said after he lost everything in the tsunami, he didn’t know how to start his life again.  But when we arrived to clean up just a small piece of his property, it gave him hope to clean up more and more and so to restart his life again.  He said he didn’t have any hope, but we brought him hope again.

We prayed for him and two days later he walked out of the hospital, still with a little pain in his left arm, but determined to start fishing again.  He said he is convinced something good is going to happen in the near future.  We pray that “that something good” will be his coming to know Jesus.

On Sunday, while Mr Miura was still in hospital, we had a BBQ picnic and time of worship at his house, with his wife,  three daughters and their husbands and some neighbours, with about 10 children around.  We dream of the day when this will be the beginning of the first church in Motoyoshi!

PS. You can also get more photos from our facebook page, called OM Japan Tsunami Relief

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