Does anything make sense?

3 comments Written on May 6th, 2011     
Filed under: earthquake, missions
We made it home after three days of hard driving and as I tried to sort through my thoughts I was struck by all the conflicted images and emotions we’ve had. It started with the tears of joy and sorrow, and then yesterday it was scenes of death and the sweet aroma of new beginnings. Then last night we found ourselves in an idyllic setting, enjoying a beautifully restored old cabin that sits on a cliff top with almost 180 degrees of gorgeous ocean views. And yet even from there we could see the aftermath of destruction where perhaps a dozen or more homes had been washed away.

Just a small portion of the view

One of the distinctives of that setting was the sound of the ocean. Its a beautiful sound, and yet I couldn’t help wondering what it had sounded like on March 11th. It was chilly but I decided to sleep with my window open so I could enjoy the sound of the ocean all night, adding a couple extra blankets over my sleeping bag. It reminded me of another time I had done the same thing in Monterey, CA over twenty years ago while on a business trip. But then last night the earth beneath the cabin began to shake some time after midnight. Sounds of beautiful nature, thoughts of destruction… it was confusing to say the least.

This morning I took a walk on the beach and encountered this:

Forty foot shipping containers strewn about

How did they get here? Did an entire container ship sink somewhere nearby? Were they washed off the loading docks in a local port? What did they contain? Are they still full? So many questions… and yet only a few more steps revealed that even this scene was somewhat deceiving.

Nothing but an empty shell

We packed our things and closed up the cabin before heading into downtown Sendai and to the Baptist Seminary that lies on the other side of the city. After all the small towns and villages of the past two days downtown Sendai was much bigger and busier than we expected. And any signs of damage from the earthquake seemed to be completely invisible. It looks like just another big, crowded city.

We eventually made it to the seminary and had a wonderful visit with the director, Rev. Moriya and his wife. He has come to see this disaster as an opportunity for a fairly radical paradigm shift for the church. He talked about how the profound disruption of life-as-usual has forcefully pushed the church out of many of its long entrenched traditions. He talked about what it actually looks like to be a church that impacts the community. And he talked about how the destruction of so many families has forced him to reconfirm the foundational role of family, both in the church and in society at large. It was a thought provoking discussion that was all about pushing the boundaries and changing the rules for church… and all of this with a pastor and seminary director from the Conservative Baptist Church! Talk about conflicted thoughts!

Meeting with Pastor Moriya

Amidst the books that were all on the floor eight weeks ago

By noon we were ready to head back to Tokyo. The drive went smoothly and we stopped for lunch at rest area on the expressway. It was in Fukushima, home of the famous (or infamous) crippled nuclear power plant. The big sign over the entrance way to the restaurant advertised fresh Fukushima fruits and vegetables! Not sure whether that actually attracts customers or not…

Lunch on the road

But surely the most conflicted image of the entire trip had to be that of Gary Walter challenging a bowl of slippery noodles with those pesky little chopsticks!

The noodle wagging the sticks…

So have I made sense of it all? Most definitely not? But honestly, that doesn’t feel like a huge problem to me. The clearly visible and undeniable problem that I am completely unable to ignore is the catastrophic human suffering. Jesus hated it when people suffered and his response was always motivated by compassion. That pretty much sets the course for me, and I guess I’ll just take it one step at a time with my first priority being to try and stay faithful to that motivation.

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3 comments “Does anything make sense?”

Your post makes me think of Isaiah 53:3. Jesus was a man of sorrows. We sorrow for a short time, but we rejoice in our future joyous hope! I’m excited to see what God will do through all of you.

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I noticed your post because I am facebook friends with Pam Kumate having lived in Japan for three years because of military. Your post reminds me of after the May 3rd tornado here in Oklhama. I lived on the edge of destruction–power out. death nearby–within walking distance–and then just a few yeards away: Life seem normal. Difficult and eerie for me. Thank you for sharing. I shall pray for you and your team. Martha

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“Profound paradigm shifts…what it looks like to be a church that impacts the community..pushing the boundaries and changing the rules for the church… Jesus’ response was always motivated by compassion. That pretty much sets the course for me…” Jim, thanks for this powerful account and the well-done photos. My prayer is that all of us would rise to the challenge this disaster has presented us. Thanks for drawing us in.

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