Japan Quake Rpt: Robinson Aug ’11
Relief Work in Rikuzentakata
On March 11, 2011 the fifth largest earthquake in recorded history occurred in Japan. It was an earthquake so powerful that the main island of Japan has move 8 feet eastward. The resulting tsunami killed thousands and wiped whole cities from existence. One of the most devastated cities was Rikuzentakata (陸前高田).
Rikuzentakata is located on the coast of Iwate prefecture which is in the northeastern corner of mainland Japan. What once was a small fishing town of 26,000 now looks like a wasteland where no town ever really existed. Over 80% of the homes and buildings including the train station are gone. What is left is a single pine tree where once stood a famous forest of over 70,000 trees and a shellshocked population that is trying to find a way to continue on with their lives.
The relief work that I have been apart of began less than 10 days after the tsunami. The minister at Numadzu has a friend that lives about 2 hours away from Rikuzentakata. He told us about the needs of the people there so the minister and I traveled 12 hours north carrying food, gasoline, and various other items. What I saw there is still difficult to describe. It looked as if the city had been destroyed by a bomb. There were twisted cars and buildings and the remains of the victims were scattered around as workers were still trying to gather them. It is an image that will remain with me for the rest of my life.
Since that first trip the minister, another missionary working at another church near Numadzu, and I have been back a total of 4 times carrying various items to provide for the needs of the refugees as well as helping to clean-up some of the area. Each time the conditions of the area have been slowly improving. A full recover is still years away if ever, but currently there is less debris still left and even some businesses have reopened in temporary structures to provide for the needs of the people still left in the city. If you are interested in seeing more pictures or video of the city you can go to Rikuzentakata.org.
During our efforts we have come into contact with two families which we have now focused our efforts towards. One family owns a vineyard and bottling company that has been in their family for over a hundred years. Even though both the vineyard and the bottling plant were completely submerged the machines still work and the grapes will be ready for harvest soon. We have visited this family each time and our hope is that they will not only be encouraged by our presence but they will continue to be interested in why we are doing what we do so that they can become a branch of the true vine.
The other family that we have come into contact with is a minister and his wife. This church is the only church in the city. When the tsunami was approaching, the minister’s wife prayed that God would spare the church building since it was the only place for his people to worship. The tsunami stopped less than 15 feet away from the building leaving it completely undamaged. We spoke with them about the work that God has been doing through them for the people of their immediate surrounding area. We prayed with them and did what we could to encourage them. It is a difficult situation. During our last trip the minister mentioned that he now has trouble sleeping because the wave appears in his dreams. His wife also is having difficulty. Please prayer for these servants of God. Not only are they struggling to provide the hope of Christ in a country that is at times unreceptive to the Gospel, but they are also dealing with the trauma from the destruction they witnessed first-hand. Pray that God will grant them peace.
The people of this city are still in dire straits. They continue to need our help and yours. We plan to continue to make trips to Rikuzentakata and to keep in contact with these two families. Please continue to pray for our efforts and the people of Japan and also pray that will have more opportunities to share Christ with a people who so desperately need him.