SENDAI, Japan (BNc) — Teams continue clean-up work in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami that struck eastern Japan Mar. 11, and funds still arrive for people to put their lives together, but the question bears asking if many have forgotten the enormity of the disaster in Japan in the weeks following the tragedy.
Hundreds have died in recent weeks from tornadoes and floods in the U.S., but in Japan the toll runs to over 15,000 confirmed dead and 8,600 missing. The total number of dead may top 20,000. Destroyed buildings number 125,000.
One team, consisting of 7 Japanese, 5 Americans, and 1 Canadian, worked in Ishinomaki over a nine-day period during Japan’s national Golden Week holidays (Apr. 29–May 7).
Assessing their team’s work, assistant English teacher with the Mito church, Kendon Murrell, wrote May 20,
I remember how satisfied we were by the end of the week, feeling that between the park and this woman’s house we had accomplished so much. After one last look at her yard and home, we turned to walk down the street, and we were immediately reminded that there is an incredible amount of work yet to be done. Everywhere. What we did was barely a drop in the bucket.
The team’s objetives were to clean up a children’s park and an elderly woman’s home.
I can still see the pictures uncovered in the debris, the faces of a happy woman with her companion in a time long-forgotten now. The child’s shoes, the wallet… Everywhere there are reminders of someone’s life swept away. Living room furniture, items from a store (still sealed in their packaging), clothes, books… We worked slowly at first, picking through the debris, sorting into piles of burnable wood, metals, etc. We also watched closely for personal items that people may want to retrieve. By Monday afternoon, the park was looking good! Children were playing and laughing in the park, and the aroma of a wonderful barbecue wafted through the neighborhood, trying it’s best to cover the stench contained in the trash piles, and drawing residents to the joy and encouragement found in having community together.
The Mito church plans weekly visits to Ishinomaki, according to Atsushi Tsuneki. “They will leave Mito soon after the cell group “Well of Grace” (5-7 p.m.) on Sundays. Then staying until Wednesday. We’re thinking this becomes the pattern of every week. We want to prioritize our worship together in Mito, being filled with enough spiritual power and love, then send out the mission relief team,” he wrote May 22.
Meanwhile, funds still arrive for this work, albeit, one suspects, at a slower pace. (No receiving churches have yet confirmed the slowdown.) One church in Brazil, however, is sending about $1200 for Japanese relief efforts.
The Park Avenue church in Memphis, Tenn., continues to receive and remit funds for the effort.