by Ohara Muneo, pastor EsashiChurch, Ou District Ou District Moderator
We are approaching our second Christmas since that fateful day. We are saved by Jesus, and having entered into God’s love, we live day by day in joy. And no matter what kind condition we are in, by the invitation we receive from the Lord Jesus, we have the privilege of assembling in worship, reading the Bible, and gathering for prayer meetings.
But since the earthquake that happened at2:46the afternoon ofMarch 11, 2011, everyone has become completely silent. The more we seek for words, the more our experience becomes something that cannot be voiced. While puzzling about what to say, first of all I began to make my ears attentive, drawing close to the situation by becoming silent and listening.
A man in his late 50s asked, “Why wasn’t I swallowed up by the tsunami with the others?” As he cried, he spoke little by little about the circumstances. “My mother had an injured back, so after the great earthquake, I carried her on my back as I ran. I hurried towards the high ground of the park that had been designated as a shelter area. I ran and ran, finally reaching the bottom of the stone steps. By holding onto the railing, I had finally reached the top when the tsunami overtook me. The height there was about 2.7 meters above the road. Though out of breath, I had climbed step by step, relying on the railing. Supporting my mother with one hand, I grasped the railing with my other hand. At the moment when the tsunami came I had strength in both of my hands. My right hand was grasping the metal railing, but my mother was carried away by the withdrawing wave. I had not relaxed the grip of my left hand, but my mother was pulled off my back by the wave. I was saved by the railing, but my mother was pulled loose from my hand. I could not save my mother,” he said repeatedly.
A friend in his 40s said: “I was walking with a friend through the town ofKamaishi. A big metal company, the Nippon Steel Corporation, is located there. Along the road, the company has a protective wall about 2.5 meters high, with a fence above that, along the top. The tsunami came while we were walking along that wall. My body rose to the surface, and without thinking, I grasped the fence with my left hand. Since I was tightly holding onto the fence, I was not swept away by the withdrawing wave. But my friend, who had been walking shoulder-to-shoulder with me, was not able to reach the fence because I was in his way,” he told me. He was saying that if he had not been in that place, his friend would have been able to reach the fence with his hand and perhaps would have been saved. There is no more bitter thought than “if I had not been there.”
However, numerous persons among those who survived hold the same kind of thought. For that reason, not one survivor listening to a story thinks, “Oh, it’s good that I survived!” Being a survivor is a bitter experience, because the survivors are questioning, “Why that person and not me?”
What kind of advice can you give to a person like this? I was not able to give any. I could only listen silently while thinking: “What would the Lord Jesus do in this situation?” I could only offer a listening ear. The next time we met, it was essentially the same. I could only shed tears together with him or, while sipping tea together, continue to listen silently. That was the case not only at the beginning when, of course, it had to be that way, but even now after a year and a half, it is still the same. Undoubtedly, as a minister, I should probably say to each person in that situation, “God has seen fit for you to survive,” communicating consolation and encouragement. Whether you say it is fortunate or no matter what else you might say—either way, even now, all we can do is provide a listening ear.
When wrestling with grief, it is said that really crying or sobbing is important. Everyone goes through hardships, no matter what the person’s position in life. But when grieving people are able to find someone who will cry together with them, shedding tears of anguish and pain, they are healed.
The words of the hymn “Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne,” number 443 in the Kyodan’s Hymnal 21, well up in me during these times of continuing to draw closer together. “Oh, come to my heart Lord Jesus, come. There is room in my heart for Thee.” I continue to pray from my heart that together with those who have begun to speak in the midst of their hardships, we may welcome the Lord Jesus, for whom there was no room so he was laid in a manger. (Tr. RMT)
４０代の友人です。「別 の友人と釜石の町を歩いていました。新日鐵（Nippon Steel Corporation）という大きな製鉄会社があります。
この寄り添いを続ける 時、私の中に讃美歌21の４４３番「冠も天の座 も」の歌詞が沸きあがるのです。「おいでください、イエスよ、