Meeting Needs, Encountering Beautiful People

4 comments Written on July 5th, 2011     
Filed under: earthquake
How do you meet the needs of a town like Otsuchi? More than one in ten people died on March 11, including the mayor and the top 35 manager class employees at the city office. In the central part of town and out by the docks almost nothing remains standing. Two out of three townsfolk lost their homes to the tsunami? Almost every business in the entire town is gone. All the stores, the restaurants, the factories, the offices, the warehouses, the fishing fleet… all gone. I’m quite sure there is no one in the town that didn’t loose a good friend or family member that day. Victims still living in evac centers have been told they have to move out by the end of the month; but the temporary housing where they are supposed to live is way behind in construction. And the location is far, far away from town. Perhaps ok for those with cars, but by bicycle it takes over an hour to get to town!

How? How do you meet the needs of a town like Otsuchi?

Today we started with something pretty simple. After all, how many serious problems were ever solved with a BBQ grill? But nevertheless, everyone gets hungry, and everyone eventually gets tired of the same old food. So we brought in a gang of young people from California and put on an American style BBQ for the residents of the evac center that is still in the gymnasium at Otsuchi High School. Close to 200 residents are still living there but many are off at work during the day. We got there close to three hours before lunch, set up a prep and serving tent and fired up three industrial sized charcoal BBQ grills. A bit later Micah Ghent showed up with his portable coffee shop and set up right next to us with fresh coffee, cookies and pie.

Team members getting lunch ready


Our fearless leader

Residents happily receiving a hot meal!

That's our crew; A well oiled BBQ machine!

More residents waiting for the freshly grilled meat.

We didn’t know what to expect from the residents. Three and a half months of life in a gymnasium would get to just about anyone. Would they be grumpy? Would they be tired? Would they be impatient and demanding? We simply didn’t know. But what we discovered was that they were a thoroughly friendly bunch of very warm folk. They happily received the lunch, even claimed it tasked good, and seemed to genuinely enjoy any conversations that we struck up with them.

Soon after they were done eating the center coordinator asked whether we could feed some more. I responded, “How many more?” He said, “Well, the H.S. kids would love some hamburgers or hotdogs even thought they’ve had a school lunch.” “Yes but how many??” “Oh, about 300!” “Um… I think we’ve got about 50-100 servings left…” We were supposed to save a portion of our meat for Thursday’s activity but what do you do when you’ve got hungry teenagers lining up and longingly eyeing your food? Before we knew it there were fifty or more H.S. kids lined up for a second lunch… and what a blast it was to serve them and interact with them.

Hungry Teenagers

Lots more hungry teenagers!

Considering all they’ve been through I was amazed at how high their spirits were. They seemed like a bunch of really healthy and fun-loving teenagers. I was genuinely encouraged by them. I had a chance to talk with several of their teachers and they tended to agree that the kids were doing really well. The hamburgers and hotdogs went pretty fast and in the end we were almost completely out of food. But we had so many wonderful encounters with these kids that we went away deeply thankful for the sudden change of plans. I could really see how going back to a place like that on a regular basis would provide an fabulous opportunity to get to know a lot of people who are in the midst of incredibly difficult circumstances.

After lunch we ate our own lunch and then tackled the cleanup job and eventually got everything back into the truck. Our happy crew posed for one last shot.

The happy and tired group

On our way back to base camp we stopped at one of the great lookout points along the Sanriku coast to stretch our legs and enjoy the view.

Enjoying the ocean view

After a short rest at base camp we headed out for the favorite hotsprings bath house. Public bathing was a first for some of our members but everyone of them was a trooper, and by all indications they were all glad for the experience. Supper was also at the bath house.

Supper after a hot bath

A fulfilling day of service, an incredibly revitalizing hot bath, delicious food for dinner, and the all important stop on the way home for ice cream… what more could one ask for in a day?

“Now I lay me down to sleep…”

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4 comments “Meeting Needs, Encountering Beautiful People”

Sounds wonderful, wonder what you will do tomorrow? Hope that these encounter lead to changed lives on both sides.

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Day 2 will be in Otsuchi again, registering at the volunteer center first thing in the morning and then doing what ever they tell us to.

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Ah, Jim…thanks for connecting me with these lovely folks. I love to BBQ (that’s all we do in SoCal) and I have such vivid pictures in my head from your writings. Gives me lots to pray for.

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Wish I could have been there too!

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