(Monday & Tuesday) I apologize these updates are getting later and later. There is only so much time in the day and my eyes can stay open for only so long. Being on the go is catching up with everyone to some extent. The Spirit of the team is good however, and we are hoping and praying to finish strong. It is a bright, clear and COLD Wednesday morning and our last day of work. We will be working with an organization called Samaritan's Purse today. This is the same group we worked with on Saturday for the Takidashi lunch in Ishinomaki. Today's efforts will be with the southern base team closer to where we are staying. They are actually our neighbors staying in other cabins on the same hill as us. We are looking forward to working with them, and they with us, given the size of the project they hope to accomplish. But I am getting ahead of myself. Let me tell you about the last two days.
The rain has moved out and both Monday and Tuesday were beautiful days, though we could tell the temperature was beginning to turn. We would call the days "crisp" back in Michigan, though it is hard to think of them as that since all the trees still have green leaves. Only the persimmon trees have an autumnal look to them. The leaves are dropping, leaving the bright orange fruit hanging on the branches. By the way, you should try them. We decided the flesh and taste reminded us of a cross between peach and cantaloupe. They are delicious!! The goal for Monday was to work with Pastor Hayashi from the Watari church to salvage what we could from the home of a member of the church. Yamamoto Cho is on the south side of Sendai which means we have to load up in the two vans for a 45+ minute ride to get there. :-P It will be nice for the future teams to work from the community center so they are closer to the homes and people they are working with.
We were going to be working with two men of Pastor Hayashi's church as part of the salvage effort, Mr. Higaki and his assistant, Mr. Tsuda. Both men have been attending the church, however neither of them have been baptized. I judged both men to be in their sixties. To be honest, we were a bit unsure about this project, but thought it necessary to build relations with the church which CRWRC will be working with. We arrived Monday morning and quickly realized this was not going to be easy. The only tools we had were some well worn screw drivers, a few small sledge hammers and chisels from Mr. Higaki's tool bag. We began de-constructing what we could. The tatami mats were taken out of the rooms and loaded in one of the vans. That in itself was a lesson. I had never closely examined a mat and thought they were thin and fragile which is why you never walk on them with your shoes. The thin layer on top maybe the visible part of the mat, but the approximately 3" thick of woven rice straw underneath is what make them so comfortable and long lasting. The interesting thing about Japanese demolition is they save everything they can from a house, from floor boards, wood trim, windows, wood beams, doors, you name it. If they think there is value to it, it is saved, even down to pulling nails out of the boards so wood can be reused. It was a bit difficult to wrap our 'western' minds around this concept and made the day seem like we were wasting our time with useless efforts. The lack of necessary tools didn't help either. We loaded what we could into one of our vans and Pastor Hayashi's truck and transported the salvaged material to his yard for temporary storage. Ken, Jeff and John went shopping to find some additional tools like claw hammers, pry bars, etc. to aid the efforts, while the rest of us stayed at the house to do what we could. Mr. Higaki is an interesting, fun character. He hands you a tool, points at something he wants you to work on and nods his head as if to say, "Yes, go take that apart." It was fun to see the relationship develop between him and the rest of the team, myself included. I did not work with Mr. Tsuda very much, but I do not think he was as enamored of the project as we were. We ended the day tired and frustrated because it appeared we were not getting anywhere. We talked about it that evening and agreed we had the desire to get the job done, but we needed tools. Thankfully this was already prearranged.
The three cabins near ours are being used by the staff of Samaritan's Purse (SP) for their southern base. We have been talking with lead staff for this base, Larry, and learning about their mission to re-build homes in the area. Ken called him to explain our situation and asked if we could borrow some tools for Tuesday. Larry generously loaned a generator, saws, drills and other tools for us to use which immediately improved our outlook for Tuesday. We met the SP staff at the base of the hill, introduced ourselves, loaded up and got on the road. Jeff and I quickly got the generator going and began cutting out sections of the floor to be salvaged. The ladies took the pieces outside and removed the nails so we could load them when the truck arrived. We also removed the beams used for the sliding doors and one large decorative upright beam which took a while since we wanted to make sure the roof wouldn't fall on us. More windows, doors, and a miscellaneous collection of items, including the aluminum carport which the guys knocked down by hand on Monday, were soon loaded on the truck. The productivity had a very positive effect on everyone's mood including Mr. Higaki who was pleased to see all the material we were taking out. The tools allowed us, specifically Ken, to spend more time talking with these gentlemen and witnessing to them. Both of them are what Ken calls 'Baby Christians'. He said it was good for them to work and interact with the team. John enjoyed asking Mr. Tsuda questions and listening to the reply, even though he couldn't understand a word of it. Mr. Higaki had been a jeweler at one time. He gave everyone on the team a small necklace and picture frame along with printouts of photos he had taken on Monday. We only wish we had something to give him in return.
We ended the day with one more trip to Pastor Hayashi's storage area. Mr. Higaki had asked, "When will we see each other?" on Sunday during coffee after the service. Working only a few days, this generous, kindly man had begun a friendship with all of us. I took him aside, and with Arnold's assistance told him his question had been in my mind, as well. We agreed that even if we do not see each other in this life, we will meet in glory to continue the friendship begun in this short time. We hugged, which is rare for Japanese, and joined the others to say the final good byes. There were hugs all around from Mr. Higaki and handshakes from Mr. Tsuda along with a few tears. It is amazing how God orchestrates the things he wants to achieve. Just like Sunday, we could not have planned this, but we now have a new friend and brother.
Thanks for your continued prayers. We are beginning to think of home. Looking forward to seeing all of you soon.
Written by Brian Van Zanten, Team Member for Japan Team 2