Sunday, August 7, 2011

Trip to Tohoku

This past Friday, we returned from a ten day trip to Ishinomaki, Japan, within the tsunami disaster area. When we first arrived, to my fresh eyes, there did not appear to be that much damage, but our driver who was making his fifth trip up was telling us about how bad it was. As we drove further into the city, there were more signs. Then we crossed the river.

The river was lined with sand bags in the event of it overflowing its banks, and the far side had far more damage. There were no active stop lights and policemen were directing traffic. Buildings were missing huge chunks of their bottom floors. Boats laid grounded hundreds of feet from the river. Rubble was everywhere.

It is really hard to describe what it was really like. As we drove in further in, the destruction was found to be untouched. One day we drove towards the coast, and we came across ginormous piles of rubble, scrap, and debris like a common landfill back home. It is something uncommon to see here in Japan. Vehicles left behind look like a toddler's favorite toy sent to hell and back in a trash compactor. Foundations laid bare with no traces of former homes. It was interesting to see how some buildings remained while others did not.

We worked with a group of volunteers called Team Kobe, and most of our work was spent shoveling dirt out of drains along the sides of roads in different neighborhoods. While uneventful, it afforded a camaraderie among the volunteers and our group, helping build relationships. We honestly did not get the chance to talk with the residents that much, but we were able to pour into the lives of the volunteers and plant some seeds for the future. As our DTS leader told me today, "When we are still going up there in five years and building houses, those people are going to have to ask themselves the question, 'Why do they keep doing this?' And the simple answer is Jesus." Something like that.

Unfortunately for myself, I developed a great case of strep throat in Ishinomaki, which incapacitated me several days, but it ran its course before we finished working there, so I got to get my hands dirty for a couple of days. We also prepared a huge feast the last night and invited the Team Kobe people "over" (to our end of the evacuation center) for dinner. We were able to serve them a semi-traditional American meal and just love on them, which was a huge blessing for both parties. One of our team members ended up staying up talking with one of the volunteers for four hours about Christ! Even though the guy did not accept Jesus, I heard he said "pray for me everyday to have an encounter with Jesus." The people are hungry for truth, for life, for answers, and Jesus has them all! He will get him!

Another small blessing we had was a festival in Ishinomaki. One night they lit lanterns and put them in the river for the lost family members. The next night was a fireworks show, and it honestly was the best fireworks display I have ever seen in my life! We Americans have a long way to go and a lot to learn about how to do fireworks from the Japanese... I took a couple of pictures during the show and some video, but after a half hour (and half way through the show), I decided to just sit back and enjoy. Many of the people with me said the best part of the show was my reactions. I am not going to lie, I acted like a little school girl. What can I say? They were pretty, and they were cool. I got excited!

Here are just a couple pictures from the trip. No one really has that many pictures of us working. We all were working...

One of those "toys"...


The pool house at the evacuation center (formerly a middle school). Most of the clocks in the school are stopped at 3:50, I believe marking when the tsunami hit.


The tall building against the mountain is the middle school where we stayed.

Most of the area visible in this picture is continuing life as normal.

David Crabb (left), Spencer Lamer (right), and myself sitting in the park as we waited for our "Be Blessed" lunch at a local yakiniku restaurant. To get an idea of what this meal was like, watch this.

Derick Domae, a Japanese American who has been serving with YWAM Tokyo for a little over two years, led our team. This was his fourth trip up north (I think). He is such a great guy! I love him.

Another blessing of the trip was multiple hours in a car to see the Japan countryside. I was fortunate to get to ride in the front of the van with Dave McDaniel, the DTS leader, for the ride back. I also love that man, and I look forward to running with him in the future here in Japan!

When they say that Japan's land area is only 25% inhabitable, they do not lie. Most of the island is mountainous, and houses are packed into the plains right up against the mountains.
Since I said it in one of my captions, I will be returning to Japan next spring as staff for the DTS! It is a two year commitment, and I look forward to the time. I will have to make another blog post in the future about my future plans, so be watching in the future! Wow, I just said "future" too many times...

1 comment:

  1. Just watched the buffet video, then continued to watch Austin's others.WOW!I especially enjoyed the Phillipines. Raw meat? and wasthe ice cream good? lol, Zaxbys is great here !:)