The Rev. Richard Helmer, on sabbatical in Japan, reflects on the 2011 tsunami and life there today. From his blog Caught by the Light:
Reflecting on our trip today to Shinchi, a small fishing and agricultural community on the coast south of Sendai, brings me to a series of fateful declarative statements that might read like newspaper headlines. The March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami killed 116 of Shinchi’s 8,000 residents. Entire neighborhoods were washed away. Fishermen lost their livelihoods in a matter of seconds, farmers forever their fields. Concrete bridges were carried hundreds of meters, flipped over, and laid to rest where children once slept. For the fishermen who wisely took their boats out to sea to protect them, their shrewdness was rewarded only with the Fukushima Daichi nuclear disaster, which contaminated and collapsed the local fishing industry indefinitely. A boat not fishing is as good as no boat at all. Farmers face fields not only poisoned by sea salt, debris, and sand from the tsunami, but potentially too radioactive to plant. If this together isn’t sobering enough, Shinchi is only one example – a tiny snapshot even – of the devastation that consumed hundreds of square miles of agricultural land, homes, and even entire towns and villages along the coast of the Fukushima and Miyagi Prefectures.
On the way back to Sendai, Shintaro and I discussed the uncomfortable implications of preaching on Sunday’s readings in the context of such devastation. How could we preach on the raising up of the sons of the widows of Zarapheth and Nain when children known and loved today will not rise again in this life? Maybe the response of the Body of Christ to the Japan earthquake and tsunami provides at least a partial answer. The restoration of the sons of the widows restored their mothers to life in community, ensuring them connection and hope for the future. The Church in Shinchi and throughout Tohoku has been doing precisely that — restoring one person, one family at a time to community and hope for the future with the Issho ni Arukou Project:
It simply means “Let us walk together.”
Read more as well as other posts on Helmer’s reflections on his experience in Japan.
Episcopal Relief and Development is assisting recovery with this project. Donate here.