|What Has Happened to My Sendai?|
|Tuesday, 02 August 2011 11:34|
This is a submission by CRASH Japan volunteer and longtime resident of Japan, Marisa Foxwell.
On my first trip to Tohoku a month ago, I stood on the sea wall overlooking the ocean, with hands clenched at my side, breathing in the bitterness of the salty air that usually brings such sweet memories. In past years I had walked down that sea wall with friends in our swimming suits, laughing and enjoying each other's company. I would come and buy kakigori (snow cones) from the stands on this spot, or collect seashells along the beach with my family. But this time, as I stood in a staring match with the lapping waves, I knew this place would never be the same. I wanted to scream at the mighty water, which I had spent my summers splashing in, for betraying me.
I knew it was not the ocean I should be angry at for the indescribable scene of destruction that surrounded me. But what words could describe that sinking feeling within me? Sometimes there are too many words and not enough words and absolutely no words at all.
Two weeks ago I went up to CRASH Japan's Sendai Morigo base camp and worked in Ishinomaki and Sendai with four other staff members from headquarters. All the CRASH Japan workers have read numerous clips in the news, seen oh so many images, and heard endless stories and accounts of the northern disaster region, but even a few months of headquarters work in Tokyo cannot prepare you for the reality of the devastation. This is where my close friends live and where I have loved to come and bask in the beautiful scenery, but now the landscape is almost unrecognizable.
What has happened to my Sendai? The shore is covered in huge shipping containers, busted open, or half buried in the swirling sand and water. Houses have been lifted from one place and plopped down in a heap somewhere else. Telephone poles and signposts are bent, twisted, and snapped. Sidewalks and roads are cracked, rippled, and missing chunks. Where elegantly curving pines once greeted me, there are now heaps of splintered trunks. The row of houses along the road we take to get to our cabin is now nothing but foundations and dismembered rooftops. My fisherman friend tells me that in this row of houses, ten people were killed, five of them his friends or family. I just want to look up at the silent blue sky and ask why.
In the past weeks, I have been on several trips up to the disaster region, doing relief work with various groups. It has been exciting to see all kinds of people working together, offering relief, and little by little making a difference, but it still frustrates me to see what a tiny scratch each of these trips makes on the mountain of need. Sometimes I feel so hopeless in the midst of this process and wonder what I am doing. Then I remember the faces of the people I love in that coastal town of Shichigahama, near Sendai, and the people I have met in my visits to Tohoku this summer. I see the faces of those left homeless, shuffling through lines to collect a meal, and the faces of those toiling in their rubble-filled rice paddies, which may never grow rice again. I see the faces of the children who have lost friends and family, yet still manage to run and laugh with me. I see those people riding bikes or walking for miles because their cars have been crushed like aluminum cans. I think of Ouchi-san, whose house we helped clear. He is a town hero who warned people of the tsunami and was swept away on top of his truck until he managed to get to safety. His wife and daughters now suffer from depression as they try to deal with the tragedy and move on with their lives. Let us not lose heart, but let us remember that these are the people we are fighting for.
The land is ominously flat in Ishinomaki, where we went to work the first day of our trip. That is what made it harder for everyone to escape the oncoming water. That is why the city looks like it has been devoured and spat back out. The stench of rotting fish and mud covers the whole town, where people are trying to carry on with their everyday lives, despite the devastation and trauma. One of my fellow volunteers called it "a little slice of Hell," and I can't help but agree that it is hard to find God in a place like this. Nevertheless, through the experience, God has renewed my faith in a way that He never has before, and proven Himself faithful, even loving, and very present in the heart of this muddy stench, reaching out to these depressed and melancholy people.
Through this trip, my passion to help in the relief effort has strengthened. I returned to the CRASH Japan headquarters with new insight and motivation to be part of the operation to mend these peoples' lives and show them the hope they are so desperately searching for. Rather than paralyzing me in grief, this most recent trip has mobilized me to keep the whole picture in perspective and continue to work as part of the body of Christ that can be found at CRASH Japan. I have seen progress being made on all my trips, and I have hope that the sun will rise on Japan's darkness. More importantly, our Son, Jesus, has already risen. He has already overcome the world and all the troubles within it. Whether you are sending support, working in headquarters, living one day at a time in Japan, or showering Japan with prayers, remember what you are fighting for.
I know I'm just another person describing the mess, but please allow yourself to crawl with me through the heaps of rubble that I once called home and remain everyday reality for my friends in Sendai. Please, please pray with me for this land and this restoration work, and let us show light to a suffering people.
Marisa attends Wheaton College in Illinois, USA. She graduated from Christian Academy in Japan (CAJ) in 2009.
For details about helping as Marisa did, check out our volunteering page.