Restoration of Disaster-affected Communities in Ishinomaki: a First-hand Account

by Robert K. Fujimura, coordinator from the U.S.

 

Ishinomaki was the city most severely damaged by the Great East Japan Earthquake, and the Kyodan Emmaus Support Center in Sendai established a center in Ishinomaki to assist survivors of the disaster. I was hired by the Kyodan, through the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), to work at Ishinomaki Center for four months, around the first anniversary of the disaster. I learned about the operation of the center by working together with the staff and volunteers and translated work reports in Emmaus blogs from Japanese to English.

 

At Ishinomaki Center, a staff member nicknamed “boss” is in charge of selecting the work for volunteers each day from the list of projects. Each week new volunteers arrived on Monday and left on Friday evening, but many repeated. During the cold weather we often painted private houses, mostly outside, and cleaned the first floor, removing damaged walls, floors, and mud. As the weather improved, we removed weeds and roots of dead bushes from gardens in order to plant vegetables and flowers. We also helped restore small businesses by removing their damaged machines, for replacement with new models, and by cleaning shops.

 

Most of the volunteers were college and high school students and young adults. We were back by four o’clock and had a meeting to report on the day’s work. We usually had enough volunteers to do two projects, and each group reported on what they had accomplished. After the meeting, the volunteers had a period of sharing. Each volunteer reported on his/her experiences and thoughts. The volunteers were mostly non-Christians and from all over Japan. The sharing of views on the effects of the disaster and on participation as a volunteer induced each to think about the future course of his/her life. It was a good chance for me to learn the thoughts of Japanese young people. At the end of these sessions, I often prodded them to think further.

 

Generally, I gave the prayers at the meetings prior to and after the work, and at the dinner. Unlike traditional Christian prayers, I gave a short prayer to the God who is in each of us. Occasionally, when there was a pastor among the volunteers, we asked him to offer a prayer. A Korean pastor who is fluent in Japanese came to Emmaus frequently. He worked as hard as the younger volunteers and shared his experiences and Christian belief.

 

During my stay, two groups from the U.S. and a lone U.S. citizen came at different times. One group was from the Japanese-American UMC in Sacramento, California. An immigrant from Japan fluent in both English and Japanese was among them. Another group was from First UMC in Cedar Park, Texas. These were mostly high school students, led by a few adults. They earned the travel expense in part by cleaning a football stadium. The lone U.S. citizen was an Iranian-American who came to Japan for a few weeks and wanted to do volunteer work at the disaster area prior to leaving. She found she has a cousin who is a UMC missionary in Kobe. That missionary had visited Emmaus Center and called me to introduce her. It was only a few days prior to her coming, but we accepted her. She was friendly and once cooked Iranian dishes. All of the U.S. volunteers were cheerful and enthusiastic workers. They became friends with the Japanese volunteers instantly. Some Japanese were happy to have a chance to speak English.

 

The hosts of the houses where we worked were very sociable and spoke to us about their experiences during and after the disaster. They were grateful to us for working diligently and cheerfully; they served us drinks and snacks during the breaks, which we had at least twice a day. Often they even served us hot meals for lunch. Some of them worked with us and talked while we worked.

 

The boss is an excellent cook and made a variety of dishes for dinner each evening, Monday through Thursday, for the volunteers and staff. For the last two months, I also volunteered to cook once a week. I made dishes that were on the menu at my grandparents’ restaurant for laborers, where I worked more than 60 years ago. Boss found a meat market downtown that had large chunks of beef and pork.  I cooked a different one each week. I also cooked a large portion of fresh corn beef that my wife Shigeko brought over from America.

 

We had not been successful in holding regular programs for our neighbors and the people in temporary housing projects. When Shigeko came, she interacted with people in three temporary housing projects and gatherings of neighbors near our apartment, but she was able to participate in their programs only as a neighbor and not as a member from Emmaus. Near the end of my appointment, two young women were added to the staff. They were assigned to interact with people in the temporary housing projects. Rev. Sato of Sendai Emmaus, who is in charge of the affairs of Ishnomaki Center, had identified a temporary housing project where Emmaus could participate in their activities, and these two women established a program there. They had the concert in early July by the same singer who had performed at the Center previously, and it was well received.

 

The goal of Emmaus is to revive and maintain the communities that existed before the disaster. Most of these people are elder citizens, and they will need the continued support of the volunteers. I jogged regularly by the vacant lots and rows of houses. One morning I saw two rainbows over a damaged vacant house. The rainbows were a symbol of hope that the survivors of the disaster would revive their communities and that the volunteers will keep on coming to assist and encourage the people.

エマオ石巻被災者支援センター:一年後の現状

藤村咸治ロバート(バブ)

石巻市は震災被害が他の場所よりもひどかつた所で、日本キリスト教団東北教区はエマオ被災者支援センター 支部を開き被災者の援助にあたつています。私は石巻センターに教団にUnited Methodist Committee on Reliefを通してアメリカから来ました。二月から四ヶ月働きセンターの仕事をstaffと volunteers共に経験しました。それにエマオ ブログのワークレポートを英語に訳しました。石巻センターではボスと呼ばれているスタフがその日のvolunteersの仕事を約16ある中から選びます。Volunteersは一週間ごとに月曜日に来て金曜夕方に去ります、しかし度々来る方もいます。寒い季節にはおもに家の内外 のペイント塗りをしたり、津波にやられた一階の壁や床や泥のけをしました。暖かくなり次第に庭や畑の雑草や枯れた木の根を取り、野菜 や花の種を撒けるようにしました。又、小企業の援助として壊れた機械を解体してのけ新しいモデルの機械と換えるように出来るようにし たり、掃除をしたりしました。Volunteers はおもに大学や高等学生と青年達で した。私達は4時には戻つて来て、会を開き、その日の仕事のレポートをしました。通常volunteersの数は二つの仕事をするに十分いましたので各々のグループの代表がなにをしたか発表しました。其の後volunteersのシエアリングがあり各々が自分の経験や考えを述べました。Volunteersはキリスト教の信者の方が少数で全国各地から来ていました。お陰でシエアリング時間では、被災地の復 興, そのvolunteerとして参加した事に関していろいろな意見聞き、各々が将来どのように生きて行くべきか考えさせられま した。日本の現代の若者がどの様な事を考えておるか知る良い機会でした。終わりに私はよく彼らをもつと考えさせるような言葉を述 べました。私は通常仕事に行く前と後の会と夕 食の前のお祈りをしました。伝統的なキリスト教と異なり、お祈りは短く、各自の中に居られる神にしました。度々、他所から来た牧 師がVolunteersの中に居ましたのでその時は彼にお祈りを頼みました。時たま日本語の達者な韓国人の牧師で日本に教会を持つておられる方がエマオに来ら れました。彼は若いVolunteersと同じように良く働きました。シエアリング時間では彼の経験とキリスト教で信じておられることを話さ れました。私の居る間にアメリカから二組と一人Volunteersが来ました。一組はカルフォニア州 サクラメントウの日系アメリカ人のユナイテドメソヂスト教会からでした。その一人は日本からの移民で日本語も英語も上手でした。 もう一組はテキサス州シダパークのファストユナイテドメソヂスト教会からでした。この組はおもに高等学生で数人の大人に連れられ て来ました。彼等は費用の一部をテキサスのフツトボール場をゲームの後の掃除をして稼ぎました。一人で来たアメリカ人はイラン系 でユナイテドメソヂスト宣教師の紹介で来ました。彼女は日本に数週間居た後去る直前に来ました。其の宣教師はその数日前にエマオ 石巻をUMCORの者と訪れてきました。宣教師はイラン系の女性のいとこで、電話は二日前にきましたけれども承諾しました。人あ たりの良い女性でイラン料理をつくるつてくださいました。アメリカからのVolunteersは全員朗らかで熱心に働きました。彼らは日本人のVolunteersとすぐに友達になりました。数人の日本人は英語を話す機会が出来て喜んでいました。私達の働いた家のホストはとても社交的でよく彼らの津波の時とその以後の経験を話 して下さいました。私達が一生賢明に朗らかに働くのに感謝して休み時間に色々な飲み物や菓子を出して下さいました。休み時間は少 なくとも午前と午後に一回ずつあつて、時には昼食もご馳走して下さいましたある者は私達と一緒に話しながら働かれました。ボスは非常に上手なクツクで毎夕食,月曜から木曜まで、いろいろなご馳 走をvolunteers とstaffにつくつてくださいました。最後の二ヶ月は私も一週間に一回つくりました。私は私の祖父母の労働者む けのカフェで60年以上前に働きました。そのmenuの中から簡単に出来て珍しいけれども石巻にある肉部分をつかう料理をクツクしました。ボスがその肉類 の大きな塊を売つている店を市の商店街で見つけましたので毎週肉の異なつた部を料理しました。私の妻、滋子、がアメリカから加わ つた時、生のコンビーフの塊を持つて来ましたのでそれもクツクしました。センターでは近所や仮設住宅の人々にプログラムを定期的にはしていませんでした。滋子が来てから、私達の アパートの近所や三つの仮設住宅のプログラムに個人として歓迎されましたけれどもエマオの代表としては出来ませんでした。私の任期が 終る少し前に女性が二人スタフに加わりました。彼女らの一つの任務は仮設住宅の人々と交わることです。仙台のエマオ本部におられる佐 藤先生は石巻センターの仕事を担当しておられます。先生は石巻でエマオが活躍できる仮設住宅を見つけましたので、女性スタフはそこの 会でプログラムをする様になりました。七月の始めにはそこで以前石巻センターでコンサートをされた歌手に歌つてもらい好評でした。エマオの目的は石巻のcommunityが震災以前の様に復活するように支援することです。被災地で援助を求めて居られる方々は年寄りで此れから もVolunteersを求められるとおもいます。私は毎朝ジョギングを空き地や損害を受けた家の周りをしましたある朝一軒の空き家の上に二重の虹を見ました。虹は被災者達がVolunteersの支援を受けながらここのcommunityを復活させると希望を与えました.