How do you respond when disaster strikes? The recent earthquakes and tsunamis that pummeled Japan were devastating for millions of children, men, and women. Yet, for Wendy Eros, MB missionary to Japan, they were also an opportunity.
In early May, Eros and four Japanese friends traveled north to the hardest hit region, Sendai/Tohoku. “The images from that experience will stay in my mind forever,” she says. “Seeing the devastation first-hand was like watching a movie with 3-D special effects! It was depressing. Yet, we saw hope among the ruins.”
The group arrived after driving for 10 hours. There was no time to rest. They immediately went to work at the Japan International Food for the Hungry distribution centre in Sendai. Sorting through unending boxes of donated items, they began creating order from chaos. Shell-shocked families came in to pick out clothing and household supplies.
Driving through Ishinomaki, the women were speechless. The roads were vacant. “As we drove, we prayed out loud that God would comfort the people here in the north.”
In Ojika Penninsula, only two houses remain out of 65. A small school on a hill high enough to escape the tsunami currently shelters 62 people.
The second day, Eros and her friends joined 100 other volunteers (mostly Christian) in a massive, city-wide cleanup effort. The women worked hard raking, hoeing, and sweeping the beach sand covering Mr. Takahashi’s lawn. After several hours of tough labour, he was thrilled to see his grass again! “We were encouraged to see a rainbow forming in the sky behind us,” says Eros. “God was watching over us!”
Of the homes left standing, most are unlivable. In Mr. Matsumoto’s home, the water rose to the second level. Floorboards needed to be removed and lime spread in the basement. Walls were covered in filthy layers of mud, seaweed, and sand. The bathroom alone took almost five hours to clean. “I was glad I had an extra toothbrush to scrub with,” quips Eros.
The cleanup and rebuilding work is by no means over. “We know that our small effort helped to make a big difference,” Eros says. “God’s love was shining bright for everyone to see in that neighbourhood.”