This story is too good not to share. I’ve basically copied and pasted it from an update sent to us from one of our Asian Access co-workers, who made an Easter visit to an evacuation centre in Japan. He had been there once before in his relief travels.
“The first surprise to greet my eyes upon entering the living area were the cardboard walls that had been constructed around each family’s living space. They were about 2 to 4 feet high, and afforded each household some measure of privacy, especially during sleep time.
“At first I thought, “How cool! It really is starting to look more like an indoor neighbourhood!” But then my next thought was, “Oh, man, they’re really settling in to live here for a good long while, aren’t they.” What a sad thought.
“However, Pastor Nakazawa told me to be prepared for other surprises, too. He said the atmosphere there was really different – and as I spent time there I could see what he meant.
“Since Roger and I first spent the night at this centre and invited Pastor Nakazawa and his family to visit also, they have been going back to that centre three times a week, on average. Pastor Nakazawa has become good friends with Mr. Sasaki, who oversees the evac centre living quarters, and he, his family, and any friends he brings are welcome inside at any time. This is a precious and rare opportunity, I think.
“So on Wednesday, we were joined by a team of 5 men and women from a sister church in Tokyo, and we all spent the night!
“That team prepared a special Japanese dish of grilled beef on Wednesday afternoon, then began to mingle with the residents in the evening. I saw some really good conversations developing as people began sharing their stories with their guests and again, in a couple of instances, were able to pray together.
“The next day was just as wonderful. In the morning several of us went down the hill to where Mr. Sasaki’s house used to be, right in front of the high school/evac shelter. Mr. Sasaki was trying to clear away the debris from where his garden was. unbelievably, even after all the damage and all the seawater that had flooded the area, we were uncovering green the green shoots of his vegetables, still alive! What a picture of hope, to see life springing up literally in the middle of destruction.
“While we were working we found a roll of train tickets on his property. Mr. Sasaki told us that he had found not only tickets but an entire ticket machine from the train station down by the beach, on the property where his house used to be, nearly a kilometre from the beach. Guess where he found his destroyed house? You guessed it – down by the beach where the train station used to be! The initial wave swept the train station inland, and when the water receded it pulled his house back toward the ocean. Strange.
“That afternoon was even more memorable. Pastor Nakazawa’s eldest daughter, Eiko, had spent three days baking sheet cakes (in their tiny countertop oven) for everyone in the evac centre, plus extra for the JSDF soldiers working there, 200 portions’ worth! She brought cream and canned fruit, and helped the children make whipped cream (which took one hour of beating by hand to accomplish!) and assemble the desserts. Everyone was having so much fun in the kitchen! It looked like preparations for a birthday party, rather than a sad day in an evacuation shelter 3 minutes’ walk from a destroyed town.
“Mrs. Nakazawa had also prepared 200 Easter eggs and put each one in a tiny gift bag with the message, “You are not alone! Let’s press on together.” We handed those out with the cake.
“The last surprise of the day was when Pastor Nakano, a Japanese pastor from Hawaii, his wife Reiko, and two others showed up to put on an evangelistic concert right there in the evac centre! One of the other ladies sang several songs, Reiko did a very tasteful, beautiful hula dance to a couple of them – and a couple of the old ladies in the shelter even joined in! – then Pastor Nakano gave a short, but very encouraging, gospel message. It was all very, very well received.
“I thought, “Am I really sitting in a Japanese government-run evacuation shelter? It almost feels like a church!” Pastor Nakazawa even led everyone in prayer before we ate our cake. Taken all together, it was simply amazing.
“Pastor Nakano and his wife Eiko (from Hawaii) have been to four different shelters to give their gospel concert and message, and they too said that the atmosphere here in Shizugawa was very different. At the other places, they saw many downcast faces and drooping shoulders. But here there were smiles and laughter, children playing and adults practicing hospitality, and that day, music and dancing and prayer.
“It would seem that God’s blessing is really on this place, through the ongoing ministry of God’s people there.
“The Nakazawas are dreaming of a church eventually being planted in Shizugawa as a result of the ministry being done here. Please join us in praying that this dream would come true, that as this town rebuilds, a thriving community of believers would also grow up in their midst.”