Right to the Hirota Bay of RikuzenTakata of Iwate Pref. there is Ohno Bay across the peninsula. A small fisherman’s village called Otomo cho was hit repeatedly by the tsunami and they were hit from two sides by the tsunami and it ripped apart their lives and either washed their homes away or those that were left standing were filled them with debris in the March 11th tsunami. Some people have chosen to remain in their homes, and did not go to the evacuation centers, but remained in the area with friends or relatives at first and then worked to repair their homes and decided to stay on in what remained of the village. They lived through the ordeal of little food, no water, no electricity, no gas, no phones and no supplies for over 5 months. They were told that unless they were in the evacuation centers and then after in the temporary housing, that they could not receive any aid at all. Those that moved into the evacuation centers right after the disaster, and then to the temporary housing after that had and still have lots and lots of aid and goods that were and still are provided. However, for those in remote and isolated places, the helping hands were, and still are, scarce and seldom.
An American mom with four kids married to a local Japanese man has been offering her aid since the day of the disaster as soon as the road became passable, not only to those people in the temporary houses built across from their house, but also to the people living and forgotten small town of Otomo-cho. Driving down to the coastal village takes about one and half hours, her Japanese husband along with his American wife, their kids (4-11 years old) and a mountain of goods donated from her multi-national friends, not only from Japan but also from abroad.
At first the donations were from her family; water, food and household items from their home such as toilet paper, towels, dishwashing detergent among other things. They themselves went through the hardship with frequent earthquakes and time without gas and electricity for weeks as well as no stores to buy anything nor was there gas stations open for gasoline for the car. Her husband was also unemployed all of last year, so they understood a little of the hardships that many people have been going through. Luckily the water was ok in their area and so they packed the water in whichever bottles, pots and pans they had on hand and delivered them to the village, together with whatever food they could supply from their home. That was how it had started. The American mom, like a Good Samaritan, offered her helping hand to those needed in the coastal village. At first, the villagers wouldn’t accept the tall blond foreign lady, being conservative and cautious of strangers as most of the local people in East Japan are. However, she has a friend there, a teacher and colleague that she taught H.S. with many years ago in Iwate Pref. Slowly Joni, the mom, has been gaining their trust and friendship with the help of her friend, and most importantly with the presence of her beautiful Japanese/American kids. It would have been so difficult to shut the door in front of the kids’ angelic smiles.
Since then, her church friends in Japan and overseas, and those who were acquainted with her on the Internet, like myself, have been sending Joni donation gifts, clothing, blankets, vegetables, seeds, cameras, material and yarn for the ladies to begin their hobbies again, as well as a sewing machine and other household items. The needs often change with time, and the churches and friends have been wonderful about adapting to the changes and sending those things that are most needed at the time.
There have been some friends that have come to visit her in her village and who have wanted to help. They have come along on the trip to the coast to help distribute the aid. They have to visit each home that is spread out now and cross the path that the tsunami took. It is really good for the people in their homes to get a special visit and to have people that take time to have a chat with them and ask how they are doing, for many are feeling very forgotten and lonely. She and her family now are accepted by the villagers and they look forward to her family's visits. Taking the children has been really good also, and though they are often crammed into the car since it is loaded with supplies, the smiles that they bring are very healing to the villagers’ hearts. Most of the villagers are very elderly and it is still very hard for them.
It very well be that the visits and the smiles are just as important, if not more, than the supplies that they are bringing.
As you can imagine, to continue these supporting activities get tiring and difficult. What drives Joni and her family to continue being a Good Samaritans? She says that it is the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37) that gives a clear picture of God's desire for us to help those in desperate need wherever we find them. After describing how the Samaritan rescued a hurting man whom others had passed by,told His hearers, "Go and do likewise.” That is what she and her family are trying to do. It also says in the Bible, " Do unto others as you would have them do unto you", she said that she knew that if it were her family in that situation that the help would be so appreciated, and so she tries to do the same to others. Their family is showing a little of God's love to these people and caring for them
She told me that it is their smiles, flashing and beaming on their faces appreciating that they are not forgotten and cared and connected. Knowing that there are people that care and that they are valued and remembered! She also said that their family has been so blessed in being able to help people and they have been very happy to be the hands and feet of Jesus during this time. We are indeed God families!