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It’s Sunday evening and we have been in Ishinomaki since Thursday night. For the first few hours I was a bit concerned we wouldn’t have much to do. Boy was I wrong! We have been busy non-stop from the moment we wake up until midnight making many new friends and having conversations with so many awesome volunteers, both short-term and long-term, who are working to build community and restore hope in this broken city. We are staying at the Grace Mission house and there are volunteers constantly streaming in and out of this house from all over the world.

Grace Mission Tohoku house (where we are staying)

On Friday we spent time with a family who survived the tsunami and is living in temporary housing. It was an honor to hear their story and to ask (very delicately) a few of the questions that I had been wanting to ask such as: what is it like living in temporary housing? What are the needs of your community? How is your 7-year old son coping with what has happened this past year? The sweet mother (who is my age) shared that her grandparents were killed in the tsunami and her mother died last September (not sure about her dad). I cannot imagine losing three immediate family members and having to live in cramped temporary housing…and on top of that, her husband is unemployed!

Yesterday morning and afternoon we attended a takidashi event to serve a hot meal to people in the neighborhood. It was great to see the neighbors pitching in to help cook the delicious meal and also enjoying an exciting game of bingo.

The takidashi event was held in this tent

It was so good to see people in the neighborhood chatting and enjoying being together in safe, warm environment.

The neighbors enjoying a hot meal

Matthias’ former professor from Tokyo Christian University is here for the weekend with his wife and three daughters serving as volunteers – they performed music and are helping in so many ways. I hadn’t seen them in a few years and we’ve really enjoyed catching up and telling funny stories about life in Japan.

The beautiful Short daughters

With the Shorts and Julian, a volunteer from Maryland

Last night we stopped by to see members from the Be One Network and enjoyed the grand, party-like atmosphere. There were around 100 people there from all over the world, including a few short-term missions teams. We had a great time enjoying dinner and chatting with all the wonderful volunteers gathered to serve the people of this city.

A few things off the top of my head: you wouldn’t easily be able to tell that there was a horrific natural disaster here last year. Things are still quite messy and the roads can be terrible in some places, but for the most part, the city has been cleaned up quite well. The people in this area are a delight to talk with – the older people are especially very sweet to talk with and open in spirit. We talked to two older ladies yesterday at the takidashi event who lovingly and sweetly held my hand as they said goodbye. I’ve noticed that because of the tsunami it is much easier to talk with total strangers, especially since there are so many foreigners in this city and the people here are getting used to seeing them everywhere. It feels like an alternate universe within Japan…not exactly the Japan I am used to.

I realize more and more each day how small we are and that we are kidding ourselves to think we can do anything on our own, apart from teamwork and working hand in hand with others. We are excited to be a part of this amazing, ever-growing Christian community in Ishinomaki but we don’t know what our role could be in helping to rebuild. I always want to know, “What exactly can we do here to help?” but we don’t have the answer to that question just yet.

We are here in Ishinomaki mainly to network with as many people as possible and also to find out if there might be any options for housing. We may or may not find the answers to these things during our time here. We would like to do a home stay if possible until we find long-term housing but we don’t know if we can find anyone willing to host us before we leave Ishinomaki on 4/13. If we cannot find a place here in Ishinomaki we’ll have to get an apartment a bit outside of the city and commute. We trust God will show us the way and lead us where He wants us. In the meantime, we are having a wonderful time here and thank God every day for the privilege of being able to come back to Japan long-term this July. More updates to come soon!