Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Sunday May 13 A Long Hike, A Fellowship Lunch, and Still So Much Pain

Am bunking in the guest house next to the Huddleston's with a Helping Hands team of college students from Memphis. The guys: Rusty, Trace, Taylor, Cody, and Wes. The girls--Laura, Rachel and Holly--are staying at Beth's apartment. I'm up and dressed at 7:30 before anyone else (the sun rises at 4 am) and outside Chad and Jennifer are already up and meeting a neighbor out walking her dog. I think I'll hike up the hill, I say, and they say, take the road that turns right at the veterinary hospital.

Within minutes, still on the paved road, yet I was "lost" in the play of light filtering through the trees.
The streams are still fresh a day after a spring rain had swept the hills. At the top was a temple complex--the building and gardens quintessentially harmoniously Japanese.
Continuing around the corner I could see the inland sea to the east past the Watano Ha neighborhood. Around the next corner was a large concrete tori'i gate, crucial to Shinto mythology as the perch of the rooster while the goddess of sun and sky, Amaterasu, was drawn out of her cave. Leading up the hill were broad concrete steps, but I turned across the road to the fire road leading downhill instead. Then side path to the right, my own soft footfalls on cedar sprigs.

Met a group of older hikers out collecting seasonal sprouts for cooking. Coming around a bend on the downhill tral opened to a vista of the harbor and the bridge across the river that bisects Ishinomaki At this distance you could see that what should have been a bustling port was largely bare of the factories, warehouses, and infrastructure that made it thrive. Also striking was the huge 3-stories high, six blocks wide mound of collected debris waiting for processing. Another one was visible by the breakwater, and likely others yet out of sight.

By the time I got back to the house it had been 2 hours and the guys had folded up my futon mat and sleeping bag for me.

Potluck lunch at noon in the Huddleston's house with at least a dozen kids,
then a sharing/worship time. We sang in Japanese and English and read Bible passages that were especially poignant as they related to the suffering and losses of the people around us. Jonathan talked about a 'gift' that he suggested believers had available to offer the people who were still troubled by unresolved pain and loss. He said Christians have forgotten the language of "lament" found throughout the Old Testament Psalms. These are Psalms that cry out to God in pain and despair, and even anger, asking "why?" and "where are you, God" (see Psalm 88). Jonathan explained that here was a starting point to open our hearts to theirs. Eric's wife Sue had just come from meeting with two families in the neighborhood where they are planning to build a house. Both had lost their wives (many funerals are held a year later if no body has been found) which was hard to think about with this being mother's day. One man was just now getting his home/auto repair shop cleaned and fixed up for him to move back into and reopen, but he didn't know how he could do it because returning to "normal" is more painful than operating in survival or recovery mode--every moment he is at home and work will remind him that his wife is not there.

All these stories bring it home to me that there is more to do--that all the pain and all the stories have not yet come out--that there are still years of healing and trying to find answers remaining.

Then we break up into groups of three to share and pray about what it means for God to be calling us to be His heart and hands. Eric says most people he talks to still don't "get it"--why we're here. The best they can come up with--they ask "are you doing this to keep something bad from happening to you?" which opens the door to try to explain God's love for us and that same freely-given love and unconditional grace that we have to share. And hope--Eric reads Isaiah 52.7--"How beautiful on the mountain of God are the feet of those who bring the good news of peace." And the hope of reunion and of seeing the faces someday of friends we've lost. Someone (maybe it was Jonathan again) talks about taking his kids to karate class and watching the dedication and focus and code of honor in karate and he thought that maybe Christian discipleship just might be something Japanese people could grasp. Cameron mused that if and when someone becomes a new Christian, it's only the beginning for me as well--because now they're watching me and I have to model what it means to live and walk as Jesus walked.

Later, outside, watching the kids play, Jonathan characterized three levels of pain he's seen--the daily struggles of living with loss of job and house, the personal losses of loved ones, and the buried pain that can't be spoken and has yet to be faced.

The Memphis team invited me to the karaoke place to celebrate Holly's birthday with them.
I've never felt so old--out of 25 or so songs, I only knew "Uptown Girls, "She'll Still Be a Woman to Me," and "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." I guess I really should have sung along with the radio more.

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