When Garbage is So Much More!

1 Comment » Written on July 6th, 2011     
Filed under: earthquake
Day Three in Tohoku began with team devotions, which is a culturally appropriate activity in itself for a team in Japan, since it means cramming fifteen people in a six mat (9′ x 12′) room.

Team Devos

Then we headed back to the town of Otsuchi and signed in at the city volunteer center. They assigned our group to a site in the area that was completely flooded by the tsunami. There are two rivers that empty into the bay in Otsuchi and our location was along the northern river. The flat area right next to the river was mostly farm fields with a few houses and factories. Those areas were completely wiped out and hardly anything is left standing. But then the land begins to rise quickly into the forested hills and that is where many homes are located. The neighborhood we visited had perhaps 30 homes built on the steep incline overlooking the river and flood plain. The lowest homes in this neighborhood had first floor flooding, but by the second row there were almost no signs of damage.

As the water flooded the lower levels of that first row of houses it also brought tons and tons of debris with it. The majority of that debris has been cleared but in the residential areas there are still uncleared piles here and there. We were assigned to sort through and clear one such pile on the former site of a garage that was washed away. It looked like a small mound of dirt and garbage, but even with fifteen people we soon discovered how much work it is to sift through the aftermath of a tsunami.

Picking through the rubble

Bagging the garbage and shoveling the dirt

It took us all morning and a good portion of the afternoon just to work our way through that one little pile. Garbage went into bags, dirt went into wheelbarrows to a larger pile down below, and things of possible value like photos, important papers, and things with names on them, went into another pile for others to sort through.

Lunch time provided a short break from the hot sun and hard work.

Chillin' in the shade

Some Serious Snoozing!

It was hot and humid, and the work was messy and dirty. And yet by the end we were glad for the opportunity to have even a small taste of the backbreaking and thankless work that so many local residents have been doing for over three months.

Happy to be finished for the day

Perhaps one of the most striking realizations for me was that every piece of “garbage” that we picked up and threw into a bag for disposal was actually something that the owner had never intended to throw away. In fact every single piece represented physical evidence of all that was unfairly and unexpected taken away from these residents of Otsuchi on March 11. It was the very stuff of their lives, and yet it was all lost, and now we are tasked with picking it up and tossing it in garbage bags…

One of the things that makes this team so unique is our ethnic, cultural and linguistic diversity. We are made up of two Americans born and raised in Japan, one Japanese who has lived most of her adult life in America, two Japanese Americans, two people from Taiwan, three Taiwanese Americans, one Mexican American, one Serbian American and three other European Americans. God has been known to use linguistic and cultural diversity to scatter people when they have gotten a little to preoccupied with the accomplishments of their own hands, but it is amazing how God seems to reverse that trend when the works of our hands have been utterly decimated by the forces of nature.

The five team members with "Taiwan" roots

Our prayer is that Christ’s love and compassion will shine on Japan and that our service and perhaps even our presence might be a small reflection of that.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned!

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One Response to “When Garbage is So Much More!”

Even in doing as simple and basic as sorting through a garbage pile gives glory to God as you are serving his people.

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