Wednesday, December 28, 2011

What I Know At 20

An Essay for Professor Philip Foxwell, Life 101
Once upon a time, there was a man. This man had a thriving business, a life which weaved effortlessly between continents, a loud and loving family, passionate involvement in global mission movements, and enough travel and adventure to fill several lifetimes. The word successful could be used to describe his exploits, but I believe he is a part of something far beyond success. This man asked his four children, of which I am the youngest, to read the book “What I Wish I Knew When I was 20: A Crash Course on Making your Place in the World,” in an effort to teach us about life, business, challenges, opportunity, and success. Being a hopeful 20-year-old, I thought perhaps there would be some magic to actually discovering these things at that age. Tina Steelig, author of this book and professor at Stanford University, would claim that “the key to success is the ability to extract the lessons out of each experience,” especially the challenges, obstacles, and failures, and to “progress with that new knowledge” (13). This may reflect the truth, but there are a few things that I have learned, (by the age of 20), that transcend these academic theories. Is progress really the key to success, and success the pinnacle of life? It makes sense in my mind, but something turns in my stomach as I try to accept this as the key. This cognitive dissonance proved to me that the book had some helpful insights, but it was lessons learned from the people in my life, namely the wisdom and integrity of my father, that has brought me to this place at the age of 20, ready to take on the world, one wave at a time.
There are a few phrases that are always on the tip of Daddy's tongue—phrases that anyone who knows him well would recognize as his maxims. I'm not talking about “nein fraulein,” or “huge tracts of land,” but those used almost as often. I don't know how many times I have heard, “You can't just sit there!” “Work hard, play hard!” “Be thankful!” “Keep the main thing the main thing!” “dive under the wave,” and “Let love and faithfulness never leave you!” As I reflect on these words that have almost become cliché to me, I am struck by what good advice they are, and how they connect to the book. A wise man I know once paraphrased Socrates: “I don't know everything, but I do know some things.” With all the wisdom my dad has given me, there are some things I know and some things that will always be unknown. That being said, without further ado, this is what I do know, at the age of 20.
You Can't Just Sit There
There is a tiny creek flowing between doing nothing and doing something, but the two sides of the creek lead down life-alteringly different paths. Steelig agrees that “the two options have wildly different outcomes” (Steelig, 19). Daddy has a few go-to stories to illustrate his various points, but one story is the definite front-runner. As he tells it, an old man ties handfuls of helium balloons to his lawn chair, grabs a 6-pack, a sandwich, and a BB gun, and sits in it as it lifts off into the air. Things got a bit out of control and he ended up lifting 15,000 feet or so into the air and getting in the middle of air traffic of LAX. He finally came down onto power lines after several freezing and terrifying hours in the air. When reporters later asked him why he attempted such a feat, he answered, “You can't just sit there.” That is a favorite of my dad's because he loves to encourage people to get moving, take initiative, and do something.
As Steelig's book says, “The world is divided into people who wait for others to give them permission and people who grant themselves permission” (57). I have experienced frustration at times with the current state of the church. The epistle of James calls believers to be “doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.” I can relate to this concept. I like to be a peacemaker, facilitating the actions of others in harmony, but I have learned that this needs to be balanced with the desire to challenge the corruption and injustice of the world, going out of my comfort zone to make a change. Opportunities are all around us, like when I got lost on a run and ended up asking for help and getting a job offer in the process, or when I had no plans for spring break so I signed up for what would be an unforgettable service trip with the homeless in Denver. “Most of us are content with taking small, reliable steps. We don't get very far, but we don't rock the boat either” (28). After the tsunami ravaged the coast of Japan, the roads up north were closed and communication was difficult. Rather than biding his time until he could go help the people in Shichigahama, my dad did everything he possibly could to make his way up to the devastated area, even before the self-defense troops were able to arrive. Against the warnings of radiation in Fukushima and the roads that were closed to civilians, he fearlessly took action, because that is the kind of man he is. He has inspired me to rock the boat, going out into the world to passionately combat evil at every chance I get.
Work Hard, Play Hard
Hard work is something Steelig wrote about and I have certainly seen embodied in my dad. I have no idea how he maintains the busy schedule that he does. He makes business trips to the U.S. that have meetings in a different state every day. His office is a place where challenge turns into opportunity. The very premise of his company is combatting the difficulty of cross-national business expansion by creating deals and negotiations in which everyone walks away smiling. With hard-work and open-minded determination, he has caused a tiny new company to grow into a flourishing business.
But working hard has always been only half of his slogan. Daddy loves to play more than almost any person I know. No matter how much he ages, he claims he will always be “18 'till I die.” He loves his toys, projects, exotic travels, and spending fun time with the people he loves. He is an excellent creator of fun, and has a lovely sense of humor deep down in his heart. Steelig quotes her own father in her book, “You shouldn't take yourself too seriously, nor judge others too harshly” (181).
Years ago, our family sat in a car on one of our long, exciting journeys, and decided to hammer out a family mission statement. “Have fun serving God and loving the people he brings to us” was the simple phrase we wrote down. It has permeated my life even without much thought. When a friend suggested we take a fifteen minute study break together, I thought she was referring to a fifteen minute break from fun to study. Sports have always been an exhilarating way to spend my time. I enjoy having a life filled with humorous and exciting experiences. Even in the face of possible humiliation or disaster, I like to take risks. A little mischief is necessary every once in a while in my life, otherwise I will go crazy. If someone gives me a dare, or a prank opportunity, I'm usually onboard. Adventures may flop, but “failure is an important part of our learning process, especially when you're stretching your abilities, doing things for the first time, or taking risks” (72). Perhaps I do not spend enough time studying, compared to a college full of perfectionists, but I try to find the balance between working hard and playing hard that my dad managed to find. Not only does is add excitement and enjoyment to the life we have been given on earth, but a sense of fun and adventure can enhance our ability to accomplish our tasks.
Be Thankful (Intentionality in Relationships)
Be thankful and intentional in relationships. This one seems like a given, but many people do not live in this way. This one goes back to Grandpa Foxy telling us the importance of thankfulness, and Daddy reiterating it. Steelig says to “Do the right thing, not the smart thing, so you'll be proud to tell your story later” (158). I know that I am proud to tell his story, because he is a lover of people and has a thankful hear in all circumstances. He notices people and treats them respectfully regardless of what they deserve. The success of his business depends largely on his ability to recognize the needs of people and try to facilitate them. Building relationships is one of the most important things in business and life. After years of mentioning my dad in various places, and having people find connections to him, it doesn't surprise me anymore to realize the vast network that branches out of him. He is a team player, building up his fellow workers and praising their work and characters. Sometimes the strange assortment of people that my dad attracts is humorous to me, but he recognizes them each as children of God and appreciates the worth of each individual.
Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing
Some people think there is a formula for success: magic words or rules or steps. This pharisaical mindset is what angered Jesus in the gospel more than almost anything. As Grandpa Foxy and Daddy have always urged, it is important to look at the big picture of life and “keep the main thing the main thing.” Failing in little details is not the end of the world, but failing to see what the details are a part of or what they lead to can make life impossible. Break the Rules. Break free from guidelines by having a “healthy disregard for the impossible” (Steelig, 34). Even bad ideas have the seed of potential. Life is much like business and writing—the best at it get to bend the rules and be creative, as long as the main point is there. There's no set formula for success, because often succeeding means escaping the formulas and traditional box. We don't have to follow a daily routine or a rule book, because freedom and creativity is a valuable asset. A runner can try all kinds of preparations and and techniques in a race, but if they don't know where the finish line is, they will never win. Not only are the small assumptions in life not important in the long run, but some are hinderances to truth and progress. Steelig says to “Give yourself permission to challenge assumptions, to look at the world with fresh eyes, to experiment, to fail, to plot your own course, to test the limits of your abilities” (175).
Dive Under the Wave
When troubles come like a giant wave, we can't let them knock us off our feet and tumble us around. We have to brace ourselves and dive under them. My dad is prepared for difficult times and resourceful in reaction. Rather than staying braced in one position, he keeps the future open for unexpected opportunities “Uncertainty is the essence of life, and it fuels is the fire that sparks innovation and the engine that drives us forward.” (183). Our old cabin at Takayama was a heap of rotten wood with holes and mushrooms everywhere. We were surprised that all the wind and rain and earthquakes around it did not knock it down, but then we realized that when the earth shook around it, it was so weak that it would just bend and sway with the earth. Resilience. This is what kept it standing. I know I am only twenty, but I have seen a share of disasters and troubles in my life. I could let these struggles knock me down and push me to the swirling depths of the sea, but from watching my dad's example, I try to dive under them and use their powerful force for good.
Let love and Faithfulness Never Leave You
These words from Proverbs 3:3 will always be in my mind and heart because of Daddy's repetition of them. The book mentions nothing of love and faithfulness, but I believe they are more important than any strategies for success. They are pillars of my dad's life and what I respect most about him. I hope to absorb his wisdom and apply it to my life in order to be more like this man that I love so dearly.  

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Exodus Church

Exodus Church
Fukushima First Baptist Church Post Nuclear Melt-down

Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to go to a conference on the post-tsunami church in Japan hosted by an organization called Churches Helping Churches. It was sad to once again hear about how my home country had been hit so hard, but in this context I was more inspired then discouraged. Pastor Akira Sato, Takeshi Takazawa, and Tom Kim were all gracious and encouraging speakers. The highlight for me was having a live video feed of Pastor Sato's Fukushima First Baptist church congregation members on the screen and being able to pray for them by name as they prayed for us. What an image of the united global church.

Mr. Kim began the evening by talking about Churches Helping Churches and showing a video from the work they were doing in Haiti. 26 churches in Haiti, who were in the process of recovering from the disaster in January of last year, collected an offering for the church in Japan after the earthquake. When he saw this, Tom was moved by the compassion of those who had so little to begin with and had the revelation that “our strength is not in our money. It is in the unity of the body of Christ.” As the relief and supplies came from all over the world to Haiti, Tom wondered why the church was not getting the support it needed. “It is the responsibility of churches to help other churches,” he said. That is how Churches Helping Churches (and Churches Helping Pastors) has been able to make an impact in global Christianity.

After Tom spoke, Akira Sato, pastor of the four branches of Fukushima 1st Baptist Church that were evacuated and scattered after the disaster, came to share his story and vision. Sato feels he was called “for such a time as this.” His wife had a dream many years earlier depicting the evacuation of their church. On March 11, coincidentally the birthday of pastor Sato, his congregation was indeed evacuated along with 70,000 others near the Fukushima First Nuclear Plant. Sato wrote a book called Rurou no Kyokai or Exodus Church chronicling the journey his congregation, or what is left of it, has made since that day. It is currently the best selling Christian book in Japan. “I never imagined this drama would happen to us,” said Sato about the trauma, “Even today I sometimes believe it is just a bad dream. We lost our families, church, and home.” But Sato still remains a warrior of faith, like a modern reflection of the heroes in Hebrews11. “I thought my church died that day, but it did not,” he said “We lost four chapels and multiple organizations, but the church remains. And we don't need to worry because the church is our home. We lost many visible things, but we discovered the invisible power of Christ.”

Sato firmly believes that his congregation has grown and learned much through this disaster and has much to teach to Christians around the world. Through this test of perseverance they have met with God. Some say nature must run its course. Some say God judges people through nature. Sato Sensei says that whatever the cause of this natural disaster, it is events like these that make it more clear to him that all creatures need the redemption of the Christ Jesus that Romans 8 talks about. “I want that Jesus to come stand in our homeland and command the waters to be still and the earth not to shake. What I want even more than that is for that Jesus to come and touch each of us now and say 'Do not be afraid.'”
The Fukushima First Baptist congregation, along with thousands of believers and non-believers in Japan still face many afflictions. They face the stigma that people do not want to interact with them for fear of radiation. They have learned to live with very little and take joy in small things like a real bed, a warm shower, and the provision of food and supplies. The disaster pushed Sato and his congregation to set their priorities straight and depend on God alone.

Three walls were broken through the course of this disaster. The wall between the church and the community around it, the wall between the church and a nation hardened against Christianity, and the wall between Japan and the rest of the world. People in Japan have been so touched by the encouragement and volunteers from all over the world who have heard their cries for help. I myself have seen Japanese people break down crying, (something not often seen in Japanese culture) at the realization that people around the world are not ignoring or forgetting about their troubles. Pastor Sato also was moved by the compassion he experienced and said “Who are we that we are so cared for? We are just simple people that lost everything. We lost everything, but we received many things. And we are happy.”

What does this mean for the future of the church? Sato's ambition is to build a new church building in Fukushima, along with an apartment complex for people to live in. It is not an easy undertaking, but “I will try again and again and again” he says, “and I will build another church. The people, especially the old and weak, have no home, so I will build an apartment building for them. We Don't have the money yet, but I have faith that with God's help, we can finish it all by March.” Sato said “I want to thank the global church and testify that God is real in the midst of all the suffering.”

The faith of this man and his congregation were inspiring to me, and this story gave me a picture of the global church as one united body. The church goes through so much suffering in every nation of the world. Rather than simply hearing these stories in isolation, I think we should receive them as what they truly are, wounds to our own body. The members of Fukushima First Baptist with weary smiles beaming at us from the screen during the conference are not simply characters in a traumatic tail or victims of a far-away disaster. They are my brothers and sisters. We may never understand the full extent of how connected the global church is or should be, but the connection is there and must not be ignored.

The tsunami ripped through villages and exiled congregations, but the church in Japan remains strong. Perhaps it is true what pastor Sato said: The walls around the church have been torn down a little. The people are turning their gaze, searching for a sign of hope. They see the compassion of Christian volunteers, friends, and missions and are so thankful. I believe that something beautiful and mighty is about to rise up from the tangled debris of this disaster. The time is now for Christianity to sweep through Japan, for individuals of faith to rise up and inspire their communities by the power of the Spirit, and for Jesus Christ to heal the bleeding hearts of the people. 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Stand With Tohoku

This is a youtube slideshow that my sister made from her week in Japan this month. It's way better than anything I could make, so I'm posting it. The pictures were taken on our trips around Ishinomaki, Onnagawa, Takehama, Shichigahama, and elsewhere.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

5 Months Later...Life Goes ON

Walking around Shichigahama, where our cabin is, is still a bit sad even 5 months after the tsunami
At times it seems empty...

hopeless, and discouraging, 

But there is hope springing up all around.
We were clearing rubble, 

and gathering lumber for our local carpenter friend to use, 

And found a church that landed in the middle of the rubble. How the cross is untouched, I have no idea.

This will be a year forever remembered by Japan. But I have hope that it will be remembered not just for the terror and tragedy of March, but also for the amazing recovery and transformation to follow

Right next to the miraculously intact church, there is a Japanese Shinto god-box (right) which is completely smashed.  

 An old neighbor who lost everything patiently sits and thatches new fishing nets... for the future.
 Workers are making good progress and figuring out how to rebuild
 We can take a moment to breath in the fresh air and feel the cool water at the beach
And we are doing what we can to help, little by little.

Hidemasa san's land, which we cleared of debris in May, is already growing vegetables again!

And Hidemasa is cheerfully gathering crabs and mussels in the tide pools

His 3 friends caught 30 HUGE salmon the other day, using only fishing rods off of their tiny boat. It was some freak tide caused by the tsunami, and they were all ecstatic with the good fortune. Maybe it was God's way of communicating grace to these people.  

Hidemasa san was the designated gutter and scaler...

 ...and he was sure to explain certain anatomical features of the fish to my mom, to make sure she was an educated high school principal

His family still lives in pre-fab housing, but we are working on getting them houses.

Some women, who own a restaurant by the ocean and are good friends of my family, were severely hit, so my relatives have been helping them out these past few months. As a thank you, they cooked us all a magnificent feast, and we talked and shared stories.  Some of them had very traumatic experiences, but they are all very optimistic and joyful now. 

Our neighbors, the Aizawas, had there home destroyed, but they are some of the most fiesty, determined people we have encountered, and have been working non-stop to get back on their feet.

They cleared their farmland and are growing rows of beautiful flowers for the Obon holiday (a festival everyAugust to honor the dead) and they say the people will really need these flowers this year. 

We helped them clear the rest of their land so they can now do more farming, and maybe even start an orchard.  

In moving some of the stumps, it took all the men, and a car to pull them out, but Aizawa san refused to let the car drive it straight out, because it would smash his wife's sprouting hydrangeas, so we drove it all the way around to save the flowers.  

Mrs. Aizawa san told us, “before you know it, there will be a great house where this foundation is, and we will have you over for tea.”  

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Son-shine Kids

For the last 2 weeks of July, I worked as a teacher at an English school called Honeybee near my home. The school was doing a special Summer School program called “Sonshine Kids,” which was open to more kids and more Bible-focused then the regular school session. We ended up having 40 kids, which was a bit tough considering how tiny the building is and how few teachers there were, but despite some stress and exhaustion the classes went pretty well each day. Aaron and I were in charge of ten students, who were around 8 years old. Our theme this year was the fruits of the spirit, and it was incredible to see both the lessons the kids were learning, and the less obvious, but still powerful lessons the teachers were stepping into without realizing it. Each day was not only a chance to share a spiritual principle with Japanese students while trying to teach them English, but it was also a time to radiate love to these kids even in trying situations, and apply those principles (love, joy, peace, patience...) to my own life.

When you have to take Biblical themes and simplify them enough to give a talk about them to small children, the simplicity is often just the kick in the pants we need to set our lives back into the right direction. These kids were loud, and energetic, and sometimes disobedient, but I loved them so much. They would do funny little rebellious things, and I would try not to laugh, because it would only encourage them to break the rules, but I couldn't help smiling, even when they hung off their chairs, cut out the wrong shapes for the projects, or ran in circles instead of walking in a neat line down the street.

One of the days was an art day, and each of the kids was given a bar of soap and tools and told to sculpt the soap into something, copying pictures given to them. I has to laugh when only 2 kids actually tried to copy the pictures of faces given. Makoto made the Tokyo Sky-tree, a recently built landmark that is the tallest tower in the world. Maika made a guinea pig, while her sister Momoka made a camera and walked around pretending to take pictures. One girl made an otter, but the head fell off so she tried to mash another one on. Yuuki was making a seal, but as he chipped away at it, it morphed into a self-portrait, which then morphed into a super hero. I loved seeing each of their personalities come out in the projects, walks, interactions, and lessons we did, especially since they are just at the age when their personalities and unique talents start to blossom.

The teachers and staff members at Honeybee were wonderful to work with, and so supportive of me as a rookie. At the end of each day, I would say goodbye to each of the teachers and walk down the long narrow stairs to my bike to go home and collapse with a sore throat and brain. I would catch myself thinking “English please” or “Let's sit down now” when with my family in the evenings. Everyday we dealt with some perpetual criers, some projectile vomitters, some incapable of sitting stillers, and some incessant gigglers, but they were wonderfully bright and eager kids, and my heart was always warmed by the talking, singing and laughing, no matter how loud.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Most Recent Trip... in Pictures

Our wonderful team, working hard. 
The Samartitan's Purse camp sleeping quarters...many interesting experiences there.
The dobo muck and oil spilled throughout the farm, with deposits of rotten potatoes, made for some very interesting smells and dirty butts.
Combing the field to remove debris that might catch and break Abe san's plowing machinery. Never have I been so proud of a square of straight clear dirt.
A quick trip to Minamisanriku, which is right near Tome. This town is so destroyed, that there are no plans to rebuild it. But places like Ishinomaki already have people wanting to rebuild their lives there, and a lot of clearing and rebuilding is needed there in order to make that possible.
Kimiko Isaya and her husband Isaya san, standing on part of their farm we helped clear. What a joyful, persistent couple. I'm so glad I got the chance to meet them.
Abe san's farm--a section he has cleared to test if he can still grow crops even with salt still mixed into the soil. There are beans and squash growing in his experiment plot, which is a sign of hope in front of the rest of his huge uncleared farm.
We helped to muck out houses in Shintate, Ishinomaki so that they could be restored and fixed to be livable again. These houses go through many steps with Sam. Purse before they are livable, but it is part of their 300 houses by Christmas plan.
It was so encouraging to see almost 50 volunteers pour onto the field the morning we left Tohoku to return to Tokyo. We showed them what we had been doing, gave them advice about the work, and said goodbye to all our newly acquired friends. It was hard to leave, but we knew we were leaving everything in many good hands.
Yeah... this sums up our team members.


Samaritan's Purse Tohoku Trip with CAJ Alumni

The Dates: 7/6-7/12.

The Location: Staying at Tome base and working in Shintate, Ishinomaki

The Organization: Samaritan's Purse

The Team: Amos Cole, Aaron Winter, Jordan Foxwell, Krysta Carrick, Ruth Fujino, Hikari Morimoto, and Sara Nozaki. Every member was a CAJ alumnus, and a great friend, and I really appreciated the strengths that each person brought to the trip. It gave me a very clear picture of the diversity of gifts in the body of Christ. Some people are strong workers, some are good at networking, some are good leaders, some are calm encouragers, and everyone works together for the glory of the kingdom of God. 
We bonded over ridiculous snoring and sleep talking during the night, a steaming van with no air conditioner during the day, some strange music playlists, navigation disasters, ominously empty rural train stations, tiring but fun work, interesting encounters with people, and the passion to give back to the country that has been home for all of us, and that we have all missed since being away at college.

The Mission: Clear Abe san's farm of plastic pieces from the nearby wrecked factory and oil, salt, and muck in the dirt so that he can farm once again. It was slow, smelly, and hot, but everyone worked hard, and we had some fun as well.

The Passage: Galatians 6:1-10...Carry each others burdens, Test your own actions without comparing to someone else, Share good things from the Word, Sow seeds that please the Spirit... “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people...” The S.P. Base camp director shared this with us one morning, and it was a challenge that resounded through the whole week.

The Moment to Remember: On 7/11, at 2:46 pm, exactly 4 months after the earthquake struck Japan, the nation had a moment of silence. At that time, our team was in the middle of clearing the farms of Abe san and Isaya san, who are neighbors. We took a break to gather in a circle and share a moment of silence with the Isaya family, but before that, our team huddled and prayed over the nation of the Japan, and the block in which we were working specifically. It was a powerful few minutes, in which the hearts of people across the country were simultaneously linked through the bonds of empathy and hope.

The New Friends: Besides growing closer to and making memories with the friends already on our team, we also were able to make many new friends during the trip, whether from sleeping in the huge room of cots with other teams, working with volunteers from various organizations and places during the day, or chatting with the owners of the houses where we were working. Kimiko Isaya was a very generous and compassionate women at one house where we were working, and kept trying to give us food and drinks, even though she had hardly anything to offer. She started crying a few times as she told us of her experiences and how much they had lost, and how grateful she was to us. We had a lot of fun working with her in her field and being able to bless and be blessed by Kimiko.  

Monday, July 4, 2011


This week since getting back from the last Tohoku trip, I went with Jordan to meet with the head of Habitat for Humanity in Japan to see what kind of work they have been doing, and what help they need. They are sending weekend trips up North every few weeks and still trying to work out all of the strict Japanese building requirements so that they can begin more intensive house-building work around September. Let's hope they don't come across too many more obstacles, because there are hundreds of thousands who need homes right away.

I was also continuing to work with CRASH doing team coordination, taking people around Tokyo and making sure they got up to Tohoku, and documenting our most recent trip by writing an article and sorting through photos to be put on the website. It's kind of exciting to be doing media work with a relief organization like this, because it's the kind of thing I'd like to do in the future. As I sat in the headquarters typing my story on the laptop and editing other articles, I tried to keep a professional face on, but I kept thinking to myself "This is so cool!!" (yes, with 2 exclamation points).

BUT whenever I come back to Tokyo, my heart longs to be up in Tohoku with the affected people, in the affected area. So I'm going back up tomorrow, this time with about 8 CAJ alumni friends. We will be in Ishinomaki working with Samaritan's Purse for a week. I hope we can work out the details of this trip and really be a blessing to both the victims we are helping and the host organization with which we are working.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

CRASH HQ Sendai Trip 6/22-6/26

Reflections from the CRASH HQ Trip Last week. 
(Photo Credit mostly to Pauline Wu)
Special thanks to my team members: Urs, Lalita, Jordan, and Pauline. I enjoyed working with you, laughing at our silliness, debriefing after tiring emotional days, and getting to know you all better. 

This was "Seaside Chapel" in Sendai. Now only the foundation and the cross remain. Those from the congregation who are still alive continue to meet in a cafe. CRASH has been working through this church and doing events, especially for child victims, in the Seaside Cafe. Makes you remember what the important parts of a church are...

This is the CRASH Sendai Morigo base camp which we stayed in. It was a group comprised of individuals from headquarters to observe the base camp procedures and experiment with sending individuals rather than only accepting teams. 

One of our work projects was at the house of Ouchi San, a farmer and volunteer fireman in Sendai, who shared a bit of his story with us. Ouchi san (the one in the middle with the helmet and apron) is a local hero, not only because he is known for growing the most delicious vegetables around, but also because on the day of the tsunami, he went towards the water, where there is an elementary school, to warn everyone to get to higher elevation. Then he drove back towards his house, racing the wave, but was swept away in his car. He managed to climb on top of his drifting truck and grab hold of a roof and hold on. It wasn't until four days later that Ouchi san was able to get news to his wife and daughters that he was safe, because they were at the school. He told us that the kids in the school had watched as people scrambled to get up into buildings but were swept away, and they wrote all over the walls things like "I don;t want to live, because I've seen too many people die." His wife and daughters now suffer from post-tsunami depression and the family is struggling to move on with their lives. Nevertheless, Ouchi san has high spirits and perseverance and, as one of the volunteers said, "sums up all that is good about the people of Japan." I barely even met the man, but I have so much respect for this new hero figure. He is not a Christian, but he accepts help from the church thankfully and allows us volunteers to pray for him. When we asked him what we could pray for, he said, "I already know you have been praying for me. But there are so many other people who are much worse off in my town." He went on to describe some people's predicaments, and then asked us to "pray for everyone." These are the people we are fighting for.

Ouchi San saved this puppy, Rui-chan, from drowning in the tsunami. It has a lot of problems now. It barked at us like crazy, so we asked Ouchi san if Rui disliked foreigners. Ouchi san replied. "He dislikes foreigners. He dislikes Japanese. He even dislikes me, his rescuer. The only one he likes is food. Food is like his girlfriend!" 

This is Ouchi San's farmland, which will take years to be rid of salt and trash, but he dreams of one day farming his famous vegetables again. The base operations leader was talking to him about how the rain coming down to cleanse his field of salt water was God's grace. 

The calander in Ouchi San's house is still on 3/11. He told us that's when time stopped for him, and nothing will ever be the same.

Our other work project was in Ishinomaki. We spent the day clearing out a house of it's mud, fish, and debris to rid it of stench, filling bags with shovel-fulls of rotten goodness-knows-what. 
The combination of strenuous labour, an overwhelming smell, and the view of destruction as far as the eye can see, made it a day none of us will forget. I've smelled a lot of rancorous things in my life, but this was the worst. 

One of my fellow volunteers called it a “little slice of Hell,” and I can't help but agree that it is hard to find God in a place like this. Nevertheless, through the experience, God has renewed my faith in a way that he never has before, and proven himself faithful, even loving, and very present in the heart of this muddy stench, reaching out to these depressed and melancholic people.

Through this trip, my passion to help in this relief effort has grown stronger. I returned to the CRASH office with new insight and motivation to be part of this operation to mend these people's lives and show them the hope they are so desperately searching for. There have been moments where I have been paralyzed by grief, uncertainty, or frustration, but I try to learn from these moments and move on, keeping the broader picture in mind. 

It was a great trip, and I made a lot of friends from all over the world who are volunteering at the base camp. What a beautiful picture of the body of Christ coming together. This is the church.