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.
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.