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.