|Volunteer Story: "Serving Our Neighbors"|
You've arrived at a disaster zone with your working boots, gloves, and shovels – you're ready to start cleaning the debris and being a part of the recovery efforts in Japan. But what if the relief work wasn't what you were expecting?
Pastor Yoshiyuki Nishioka from Shimoyamaguchi Church visited CRASH Japan headquarters to share his experiences as a volunteer. He recently led 15 of his seminary students on a 2-day trip to one of the disaster zones in Miyagi prefecture. The team visited a house that suffered serious damage, from both the tsunami and the recent typhoon.
The owner of the house and his wife had been emotionally scarred from witnessing the devastation of their home in a matter of seconds. They were scared to rebuild the house out of fear another disaster would damage it.
Pastor Nishioka and his teammates received specific requests while reconstructing the house. Flooding had reached the top of the roof, and the walls were no longer usable. While it may have been most efficient to take down all of the walls at once, the team was told to leave certain walls alone. Those walls belonged to rooms that had once been filled with many memories.
"I was very frustrated at first," Pastor Nishioka shared. "We had a team of 16 people who were all capable of doing heavy lifting work - we could have been more productive," he recalled. Pastor Nishioka then paused, and reminded himself what it means to truly serve. "Serving means to love our neighbors. Volunteering is not doing what we want to do for others, with our plans and agenda – true service is extending our hands to meet the needs of others in accordance with their time and priority."
For two days, the team neatly cleaned and restored the walls of the house following the requests of the owner. Their focus was not on productivity. Instead, Pastor Nishioka and his team listened to the owner and his wife to meet their needs with care and sensitivity. The owner and his wife thanked the team after, and told Pastor Nishioka that their fear had been taken away. They had received peace in their hearts to move back into their house.
Jesus Christ calls us to be the salt of this earth (Matthew 5:16). No one eats spoon-fulls of salt by itself. When salt is dispersed, however, it serves many good purposes – sprinkled salt keeps meat fresh, and enhances the flavor of any dish. In the same way, Christians are to be the salt of Jesus on this earth - sprinkled and sent out to serve so that people may see God's love in words and action.