|Benjamin Summers' "Day at the Beach"|
|Saturday, 21 April 2012 03:25|
Stories from the First Year
Doing cleanup work with CRASH Japan isn't what one would usually refer to as "a day at the beach". But, on this particular day, it literally was. Our team of volunteers, most of whom came from New Jersey, traveled from the CRASH Japan Ichinoseki base to the nearby coastal town of Rikuzentakata. Much of the town had been completely wiped out and may not be rebuilt. In stark contrast, areas just beyond the wave’s reach seemed totally unaffected. There was little "middle ground", and not many structures were only partially damaged, as had been the case in Kesennuma.
We were assigned a project on the edge of the devastation, but also on the edge of a beautiful, blue seascape. We enjoyed a cool ocean breeze as we swept sand off of walkways and removed debris from the beach itself. Though no one swam there anymore, we were later told that the importance of this project came from the fact that locals taking their morning walks would see that things were being cleaned up and returning to normal. As such, our day at the beach had a deliberate psychological goal.
After we finished working, the team visited a church called Bethel Mission, whose building had survived intact; other buildings, only a short distance away, had been destroyed. There, Pastor Morita told us the story of his salvation. Many years earlier, an American soldier had given him a gospel tract. Morita was moved by the serviceman's efforts—this man had trekked out into the field in which Morita was working and had learned how to say "please read this" in Japanese. Morita eventually put his faith in Christ and went on to become a pastor. Amazingly, our team's guide and translator, Gilbert Zinke, ended up going to school with the children of that very same soldier.
On the wall of Bethel Mission's sanctuary hangs a beautifully calligraphed depiction of Psalm 46, which the congregation committed to memory some time ago. Pastor Morita told us that during the traumatic events of March 11, church members recited the following verses to each other: "Therefore we will not fear, though the earth gives way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea" (Psalm 46:2-3). Before leaving, we sang "Great Is Thy Faithfulness", and prayed with the pastor and his wife. Our day at the beach ended with a reminder of how the waves of adversity cannot move the rock on which our faith and hope are built.