Today, 3/11, we have felt the burden and the privilege of walking with our Ishinomaki friends through the remembrance and the pain of two years ago. We are thankful for so many who have joined across the world to pray with us. We posted messages and photos today up on the wall for everyone to see — amazing reminders that Ishinomaki is not alone!
It has been a really special time of having a continually-running 24-hour prayer event going on here, while at the same time most of today (and continuing into this evening) having an open area where community friends could come for company, prayer, or to just have a safe place to be.
I have spent several hours yesterday and today being with Nozomi Project friends. Whereas last night there was a time for some laughter and lightness, today has felt entirely different. Heaviness. Waiting. Dread. Around 2:30 those of us all meeting together formed a circle, prayed, and sang several songs, stopping at 2:46 pm for a minute of silence to remember the long moment when all of the horror began. There were sirens going off across town to remind us not to forget — who could? Our childrens' schools had a special assembly in which they did an early minute of silence all together; and then at the end of the school day at the exact time once again remembered together.
This afternoon I had on my heart Chi., one of my Nozomi Project friends. Her husband is often away for work, and I know how shaken she had been during the big earthquake scare we had in December. So Yuko and I decided to briefly visit her at home. She had just helped her kindergarten daughter fall asleep for a nap; her fourth grade son wasn’t home yet. She cried at the door, remembering too vividly two years ago. They have rebuilt a home in the same place as their previous one that had been washed away. From their front door, we could see the path where the tsunami had come. She couldn’t help but remember.
Yuko and Chi wondered how our friend N. might be doing today. N. had tried in vain to hold onto her mother-in-law’s hand as the tsunami waters ripped them apart; the water washed away her home and her family member in a swoop. We know the loss of her loved one must be felt more keenly today; her father has recently passed away as well. Chi shared with us that her next-door-neighbor on that day had tried to hold dearly onto the hand of her fifth-grade son; she could not. I imagine that a mother can never physically forget the feeling of her son’s hand being pulled away from her own. It is a bitter day for many.
As we parted ways at the car, we looked down and had a laugh at Yuko’s black shoes, with white fancy socks bunching out.
She had gone to the temple that morning with her father to remember her sister and sister’s unborn baby who had died two years ago. Hurriedly she had dressed to come and join our time of prayer, forgetting to take off her fancy dress socks. Life up here has a funny way of mixing the pain with the mundane.
Several friends and I had a very early dinner with dear neighbor sisters, who insisted on feeding us, knowing that we were in and out of gatherings and caring for our own children. I tried to pray for the food and ended up crying; we ate their delicious food (I never thought I would say boiled radishes and octopus are delicious – but they certainly were!); and they commented on how their family has swelled to include so many of us in the past two years. It was a sweet interlude in the midst of this day.
We discovered that a sealed letter had come to Nozomi Project for our friend Yuri. She had not had a chance to come and meet us this weekend because of their own family commitments. But when we circled back to the meeting place of prayer, we saw her husband, son and daughter waiting in the car. I went and hugged them. Her sixth grade daughter had not slept for the past two nights, unable to forget the memories of two years ago. The family had spent the last two days at temples and family gatherings, lighting incense for their 3-year-old who had been lost in the tsunami. Talking to her on the phone on Saturday, she said the hardest thing is knowing that her three-year-old is still wandering around trying to find the right path to God and to heaven. I told her that in the deepest place of my heart I believe that he is with Jesus right now – that God loves the littlest and least and has welcomed him home…
I was so happy to go inside and briefly hug Yuri in person, pray together and pass on this unexpected letter. It was from a christian american in Osaka who had bought a necklace made by Yuri. He sent her a wonderful letter of hope with some of his handmade postcards. God’s timing was so sweet in showing such care for her on this particular day!
Eric is at the center now with thirty or so others, meeting and praying with youth from the community and others who could only join in the evening (today was a normal work/school day here). There were quite a number of high schoolers who have become a part of Be One. Others from across Ishinomaki continue to stop by – wanting to know that they are not alone today.
I truly believe that greater things are yet to come for this city; that God does have special plans for these that we love so much.
About Nozomi Project
Nozomi, translated 'hope' in Japanese, is a social enterprise bringing sustainable income, community, dignity and hope to the women in Ishinomaki, Japan by training women to craft unique jewelry products. One-third of these women are single mothers and grandmothers; most of these women and their family members lost their livelihood when the tsunami crashed through half of their city in 2011. See the video intro below...