Old Stories and New Stories

Post a Comment » Written on June 27th, 2012     
Filed under: earthquake, missions
Today we worked on a house in the town of Minamisanriku. It was a beautiful home in an idylic location. On March 11, 2011 the owners felt the earthquake, heard the tsunami warning sirens and even though their house sat higher than most in town and was probably the sturdiest of them all, just to be safe they scrambled up the hill behind their house. What happened next is for ever etched in their memories. Water came rushing in from the harbor below and just kept coming. To their amazement their ┬álarge, two story house was soon almost completely submerged. The only thing visible was the roof! But perhaps the biggest surprise came when the water finally receded. Their house was still there! Unfortunately, almost everything that had been in the house was completely ruined. This was where they lived, but down near the harbor was the small inn that they had owned and run for years. Unfortunately it was completely washed away. And about a third of the land where it sat was also erroded by the waves and washed out to sea. There isn’t much chance of ever rebuilding the inn, but they definitely want to return to living in their home. Unfortunately, without a steady income that’s not easy considering how much work needs to be done on the house. So that’s where Samaritans Purse enters the picture. With the help of volunteers like the team from Newsong they are mudding out the house (removal of mud, floor boards, all drywall and ceilings that got wet) and then putting in new drywall, floors and ceilings. After that the owner plans on doing the rest of the repairs himself. Today was a great opportunity to get to know him and his wife. They are extremely friendly, eager to share their stories, and happy to have help.

The house as it stands today.


Miles and Kendra hard at work

Removing drywall

Mouldy ceiling removal

More drywall removal

During the morning break the owner took us up the hill behind his house and proudly showed us the temporary shelter that he made for his family in the days after the tsunami. All of his supplies were salvaged debris from around town. It started with a tiny “box” just big enough for his family to sleep in. But then he kept adding to it and by the end it had five or six rooms and was quite an engineering marvel to say the least.

The rather extensive "temporary shelter"

There is one particular spot in the yard near this shelter that has a really nice view and they’ve set up a bench and picnic table there. I was enjoying the view when the owner pointed out that their family deity was enshrined right below that point on the hillside, marked by a small stone image. He explained how his family had been in this location for many generations and that the two huge trees on either side of the stone had been planted by his ancestors. The depth of his connection with this land and surrounding community only serves to intensify the pain that he must have felt, seeing so much of washed away. It was a good story to hear so I asked about their annual festivals in that community. They live on a narrow peninsula and at the tip there is a Shinto shrine that has an annual festival. But two years have passed now without holding the festival because of the upheaval in their community. His deep desire to see things return to normal was painfully evident.

The family god


The path to their safety on March 11 and the trees by the family god

Later  he told me about the constant fear that comes with living in a location like this and how it was that fear that saved them, while those who lacked the fear realized too late that their mistake was fatal. In his small neighborhood alone countless homes were destroyed and about ten people lost their lives.

His stories come from a context and history that spans hundreds of years. It is a very, very old and powerful story. And yet at the same time he is being confronted with a radically new story. It began when all that he thought was safe proved to be radically dangerous. And now things that weren’t even remotely on his radar until now are competing for his attention. Strangers who show up from all over the world and just want to help; Weird practices like standing in a circle with these strangers, holding hands and praying to a God he doesn’t even know; (incidentally his first comment to his wife as they stood, holding hands was, “We haven’t done this since high school!”) And the beginning of a new life where he can’t take anything for granted, but simultaneously can’t help but see an incredible story of recovery and renewal.

Will all of this lead to a new story for him; a life changing encounter with Jesus Christ. If you were to ask me for statistical probabilities they would be low! But if we didn’t believe in a God who can blow statistics out of the air with a mere thought, I guess we wouldn’t even be here.

Lord, let the new stories flow! Let the new song ring loud and clear!

Group photo at the end of the day

For more photos click here.

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