These past two months have been particularly devastating for the nation of Japan in terms of natural disasters. This week our beloved country has experienced Typhoon Jebi in western Japan and a 7.0 earthquake up north. Earlier this summer, constant heavy rains led to major flooding in southwestern Japan. Some areas had as much as 3 inches of rain per hour, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency. Over 200 were killed in flood-related incidents.
In the spirit of spreading hope, Nozomi Project is sending 10% of our July and August sales to help the flood relief efforts. On July 22, 2018, a team from our Ishinomaki community went down to volunteer in a city near Hiroshima called Kure. They joined the Hiroshima Christian Volunteer Center, which has been helping to coordinate the relief efforts with the needs of the communities.
After they came back, we caught up with Chad, who helped coordinate the trip. We’re always honored to partner with him! He shared that the flood evidence was reminiscent of the 2011 tsunami up here – tall floodwater marks, piles of trash, people in great need. Positive aspects of the trip were similar, too: stories of hope, people serving each other, and beauty in brokenness.
Each morning of the week-long relief trip, the team met to discuss the day’s location and assigned tasks. Each day brought a different assignment depending on the needs of the community. The first day they shoveled mud and debris into bags. Another day, they hauled dirt bags away in wagons and onto trucks. There’s a temporary trash dump for the neighborhood; they drove dirt bags there once they’d been hauled onto the trucks.
Tatami mats (last picture, above) are usually about 3 x 6 feet, a couple inches thick, and cored with wood chips or rice straw. They’re covered with dried woven rush, with cloth along the edges… in other words, they’re great sponges. Any tatami mats touched by floodwaters were soaked and completely ruined. This picture was taken in a neighborhood that had a couple rows of houses, most having tatami-covered ground floors.
Each mud-saturated tatami mat is so heavy that two grown men struggle to carry one mat together. When showing some of our Ishinomaki friends pictures from this relief trip, this picture of tatami mats actually got some of the most significant reactions.
The work was hard and hot. Right after the rains stopped, a huge heat wave caused health difficulties for survivors and a lack of volunteers. Chad told us that at some points, the volunteers were instructed to take a 5-minute break for every 10 minutes of working to avoid heat stroke!
In every disaster we see, we look for stories of beauty in brokenness. We asked Chad what kinds of things inspired thoughts of this theme during the Kure trip…
There’s a man who has, on his own, been slowly working to mud out his home. He’s a bit of a hoarder, so his first floor is full of things that have been ruined by floodwaters. The team was assigned to his house one day. He looks at them a little warily when he sees that their vests identify them with the Hiroshima Christian Volunteer Center.
“I’m not a Christian…”
“It’s ok, we’re just here to help anyone who needs it.”
Some local people came out to volunteer. One neighborhood sent a whole group. They want to serve their own community.
A father-son duo is volunteering together. The teenage son isn’t always the most cheerful when told to do chores at home. But here, he serves joyfully. The father sees this, smiling with pride.
Even in the face of disaster, the Japanese overwhelmingly display admirable qualities of patience and courtesy. They aren’t selfish or panicky. Chad has helped during numerous disasters, and he’s noticed this time and again. The people of Kure are no different.
If you are interested in donating to the ongoing Japan relief efforts, you can do so here: https://nozomiproject.com/collections/additional-donations-1
Chad is pictured below on the left. Eric (pictured below, right) is planning to lead another team from our community in several weeks.