As a disciple of God, it is our duty to show God’s love and support to those who are not aware of such things. But I did not know how much it would affect me. Before I went on this mission trip, I believed that all mission trips were basically reading God’s Word and trying to make them convert to Christianity. Boy was I wrong!! “Actions speak louder than words” was all about this mission trip. We showed God’s love through our ACTIONS only.
The day that we entered Ishinomaki, Thursday, June 20th, I was actually surprised at how well the town had actually developed. Before entering the town, I thought that it would be a very small town with no buildings of any sort left, and that their industries would not be up yet. To my surprise, it was the exact opposite. It was a fairly big town with many new buildings although there are still many empty spaces where there used to be buildings. We were briefed on what we would be doing for the next few days. Visit those in the temporary homes, work in the fields of a nearby fishing town, and help prepare for their upcoming big concert.
At 8:30am next day, the physical labor workers (or those who were able to work in the fields, in our case) left for the nearby coastal town of Yoriki. We were given gas powered weed-wackers with a gigantic saw-looking blade and told to cut down as much weeds as we could. When I first walked onto the site, I honestly just wanted to scream “NOPE!!!!” The weeds were at least three feet high. This ended up being an easier job. For our next job, we traveled about 300 meters uphill on a tiny street, were given shovels, and told to clear the side of the road, which was absolutely CAKED with rotting leaves and water, making it super heavy. This was 100 times tougher than cutting weeds! We managed to clear the roadside, throwing the leaves over to the bushes. Boy, I slept well that night!
The day after, for me, was the day I was looking forward to the most. We were going to a middle school! I was in charge of recording the event. Students were singing and playing instruments. I felt and saw the joy and happiness in every one of the students. After, we headed straight back to Grace Mission Tohoku, and got ready for another big event that night, a music concert. We helped set up the community center, prepare dinner (oden with rice) for about 200 expected guests. It was an amazing time! The concert started and it consisted of two Japanese singers and a Korean singer, pianist and saxophonist. All of the music was touching so many people’s hearts. That was one of the best parts of the trip- seeing so many people happy at one time and enjoying the moment, conversing with each other. By the time that the concert was over, no one wanted to leave.
Our last day at Ishinomaki was Sunday. Our mission team attended 11:00 AM Worship Service to the church nearby. It was about the size of two of our little classrooms put together. The service was all in Japanese, so I really did not understand much that was going on.
However, listening to a service in foreign language really didn’t bother me as we were all feeling the same thing in our hearts! After the worship, the church served lunch and we began to play games of bingo. It was another wonderful bonding time with people. While we are playing bingo, I met many people, listened to their stories and what has happened in their lives since the devastating earthquake and tsunami.
One woman I was talking to told me that her daughter was killed in the tsunami while she was in school. She didn’t know what to do first. But God does His work in mysterious ways, and now she found Him and she has a new hope in life! Her story made my trip all worth it! To add to my joy, I also won the bingo game!! I received a melon as a prize and I gave my winning prize, melon to her (melon was the most expensive prize.). She was surprised and asked why I was giving her the fruit. I shared with her what I learned from the Ohana Group at our church many years ago; “God is love, God loves you, pass the love forward.” That day, I made a new friend!
We also had an opportunity to tour around Ishinomaki and surrounding towns. The water in Ishinomaki was over 20 feet high, about a quarter of a mile inland, where it then hit a hill side. You could never tell that Ishinomaki ever had so much damage because the town had come together to rebuild. One of the hopeful stories we hear was about a simple lamp. This lamp was found in the rubble of the tsunami still lit, floating around. To remember such the tragic event, the town placed the lamp in a little box, keeping it lit 24/7 with little wood chips that people collected in the rubble. It is still lit. We also were able to go inside the damaged middle school. Though the building was still there, the lower floors were totally destroyed. Loose wires still hanging around the hallways and rubble was still in the class rooms.
It was also during this time that your donations were being put to use. In a little town called Shizugawa, there is no convenience store for people to buy their food or necessaries. They are barely making it through, even two years after the tsunami. Rev. Becky and I decided to use the money that was donated to help those people. We were able to provide fresh fruits and vegetables. We bought 1,000 cucumbers, 500 tomatoes, boxes of cherries, and rented four vans/cars to help distribute the food across the town. People receiving bag of goods were lit up with joys and thanksgiving.
We are all the branches of God! Each branch has different responsibilities and different functions. I am blessed that I was able to visit my homeland with your loving support and prayers. I’ve learned history, experienced the culture and got the taste of brotherhood. Your continuing love, compassion and prayers for those whom which we helped will bear much fruit, the fruits of the Spirit! Thank you very much.