Old Stories, New Ideas

4 comments Written on February 8th, 2012     
Filed under: earthquake
We woke up to a bright sunny morning in Miyako, and it was cold! But a warm breakfast at the basecamp of the Hokkaido Christian Ministries Network got us going for a full day. In preparation for the mobile cafe we would do at a temporary housing area we were put to work wrapping boiled sweet potatoes. We got an early start and took a couple brief detours on the way, driving thru the heavily hit harbor neighborhood in Miyako, the decimated town of Taro and then to the tiny fishing port of Koborinai, where the highest water marks in all of Japan were recorded on March 11th, topping out at 38 meters.

As soon as we got to the temporary housing area it was time to start going door to door, letting the residents know we were having a mobile cafe. It was interesting to see the reactions of residents when they saw a 193cm tall, gray haired, white guy standing in their doorway. But as soon as I mentioned the mobile cafe every one of them broke into a smile and thanked us.

About thirty people showed up and everyone seemed eager to visit, laugh, enjoy tea and snacks and even play with balloons. Who ever said they were only for kids? Tim Johnson brought his guitar and performed several songs that really seemed to grip everyone’s attention. We are so spoiled having a musician of his caliber in our midst. The organizer and leader of this event and other cafes in the area is Pastor Iwatsuka and the look of surprise and delight on his face when Tim began to make music was nothing short of brilliant!

Another memorable moment for me was when I asked a group of middle aged women whether there were any residents who had experienced the previous tsunami that destroyed their town. It was in 1933 so not many are left. They didn’t really know so they turned to the next table where two or three much older folks had been sitting quietly without participating in the boisterous conversations very much. Suddenly their faces lit up and a couple of them became very animated as they began to share their memories of that life changing experience. The seventy eight year old stories were obviously as fresh in their minds as the events of last March even though they experienced them as young children. It made me wonder how many people will remember March 11, 2011 in the years to come. Undoubtedly those who were here will never forget, but what about future generations?

When we were done cleaning up our team had a chance to meet with Pastor Iwatsuka and the other volunteers to hear their concerns and burdens as well as to talk about possibilities for future ministries. We were all moved by the pastor’s story of how his entire paradigm for church work has drastically changed in the past several months. He has been pastoring a small, struggling congregation of fewer than twenty people for many years and always thought his main task was to gather more people to the church. It wasn’t until a month or two ago that he found his perspective being altered in ways that even surprised him. He has come to see his primary task as one of taking the ministry of Christ to those in need rather than bringing them to the church. Instead of trying to have a big Christmas event at the church he realized that it made far more sense to celebrate Christmas in several temporary housing areas. The result was profound in that instead of gathering a few dozen people in one place for a one time event he was able to share the message of our savior with several hundred hurting souls all along the coast. When some individuals have expressed an interest in coming to his church he surprised himself by telling them they didn’t need to make that journey because he would happily come to them where ever they are and share the good news with them right there! That is a fundamental paradigm shift that can only come about from experiencing what he has experienced through this disaster. No amount of talk could have ever convinced him of the need for this shift so we can only praise God for what God is doing and pray that more and more church leaders will come to share his views. It may sound and feel like new ideas, but in truth, this may be the oldest story of all.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

Wrapping sweet potatoes

Our first night accommodations at the HCMN basecamp

Our team ready to hit the road

The world famous seawall in Taro that failed to protect the town

Koborinai Harbor

Tim sharing music at the cafe

Tim sharing music at the cafe

Tim sharing music at the cafe

Tim sharing music at the cafe

An elderly gentleman sharing his memories of 1933

Hearing Pastor Iwatsuka's new vision for ministry

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4 comments “Old Stories, New Ideas”

So great to hear your report and to see Tim playing shakuhachi again!

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Thanks for sharing about the trip to Tohoku. It will be interesting to hear more about the impressions of the team from the U.S. about what has happened there, and what further things can be done to care for people. Thanks for going with them, blogging about what is happening, and posting pictures. it was great to see Tim doing music for the people in the temporary shelters.

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Thanks so much for posting your reflections on the day, and for the photos. It’s fun to imagine hearing Tim’s music as I see the pictures.

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Nice to hear from you, and see the situation there; after came back from the trip last summer, I sometimes pray for the people there and you guys; I prayed for that they can know more about God’s love through you; and it great to see Tim still play music; God really use Tim’s talent to serve in the time needed.

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