【October 2015 No.384】U.S. Church Leaders Visit Tohoku Disaster Area

U.S. Church Leaders Visit Tohoku Disaster Area

 

by Sato Masashi Coordinator, Kyodan Tohoku Disaster Relief Center – Emmaus

 

en members representing the United Church of Christ (UCC) visited the disaster-stricken area in northeastern Japan from Aug. 5 to 10. The trip was sponsored by “One Great Hour of Sharing” (OGHS), the office responsible for collecting the annual OGHS offering received every March from UCC churches across the U.S. and disbursing the funds to projects overseas. OGHS has been sending part of its funds to support the Kyodan-sponsored disaster relief work in the Tohoku area. Arrangements to host the group were made through the combined efforts of “Emmaus” Kyodan Tohoku Disaster Relief Center and the Tohoku District World Mission Committee, with assistance from the Reverend Jeffrey Mensendiek, a missionary. During their stay, they visited Asian Rural Institute, had a field study at the temporary housing units in Sendai, visited Tohoku Gakuin University and the Aizu Radiation Information Center, attended worship on Sunday, and visited the Kroehler House in Aizu. It was a busy schedule filled with very meaningful encounters.

 

 

On Aug. 7, the group went directly from their hotel to join the morning “Radio Exercises” at the Shichigo Chuo Koen Temporary Housing Units. This is an activity that Emmaus Center has supported every morning, along with a time afterwards for tea and sharing called “Ochakko.” The number of households in Shichigo Chuo has now decreased from 60 to 11. That day three elderly women came out to the gathering hall. One of those women, Takako San, had endless thoughts and feelings to share; the pain of having lost her husband to the tsunami, the loneliness of losing community and being separated from friends. She shared her anxiety of what life would be like if she moved into a high-rise apartment provided by the government. In her former life by the sea, she lived in a rural setting where she never locked her door. She was anxious about facing the changes in her living environment. Yet at the same time, she shared the stress of continuing to live in the temporary units and not being able to envision a future for herself. Takako San emphasized how much it meant to her that people from Emmaus Center has continued to visit the residents of the housing units. The members of the OGHS group were pleased to hear how Emmaus Center has been able to accompany these families in the midst of the ongoing challenges they face in their lives.

 

 

That night a “Welcome Gathering” was held at Emmaus Center. Three speakers talked about their work, representing 1) Izumi: the Kyodan Tohoku District Nuclear Disaster Relief Task Force, 2) EIWAN: Empowerment of Immigrant Women Affiliated Network, and 3) Tohoku HELP. Afterwards, there was a time for questions and answers. Concerning the thyroid tests provided by Izumi, the group raised questions about what kinds of opportunities for further testing are available for children who test A2 positive (confirmation of a tumor measuring less than 5mm, or a pustule measuring less than 20mm), and what Izumi does to advocate on behalf of the victims. The questions raised were very specific and to the point. Concerning the work of EIWAN, there were questions regarding how many migrant women EIWAN was able to interact with since the disaster. The group also shared that the UCC is involved in similar projects to support migrants in the U.S.. The session was concluded by making two concentric circles, and praying for all those who live in and work for the people of the disaster-stricken area in the Tohoku area.

 

 

On Aug. 8, the group visited the Aizu Radiation Information Center and had an opportunity to hear the witness of two young mothers, one who had evacuated voluntarily from Fukushima City, and the other a resident of the Aizu area. Members of the OGHS team listened with open hearts, tearing up at times, as they were touched by the stories of the two women. It was clear that the participants were left speechless as they heard the stories of those who live with the post-disaster realities caused by the Tokyo Electric Company nuclear explosions.

 

 

Japan as a whole is trying to forget the stark realities that resulted from the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster four years ago. In such circumstances, it is crucial for those of us involved in disaster relief to work constructively together and network together. This visit from the UCC was a living reminder that we are “the one body of Christ” (1 Cor. 12:27). I was encouraged and touched by the need for us to reach beyond national boundaries to network together as the one body in Christ. (Tr. JM)

 

8月5日から8月10日にかけて、アメリカ合同教会(United Church of Christ)のOne Great Hour of Sharing部門(OGHS)の方たち10名が被災地を訪問され ました。毎年3月に、OGHSは全米の各教会から献 金を集めています。その一部を、教団が行っている様々な被災者支援活動のために捧げて下さっています。受け入れは、Jeffrey Mensendiek宣教師の協力のもと東 北教区世界宣教協力委員会および被災者支援センター・エマオが担当しました。

アジア学院訪問に始ま り、仙台での被災地フィールドスタディ、東北学院大学訪問、会津放射能情報センター訪問、主日礼拝出席、クレーラーハウスKroehler House訪問などかなりのハー ドスケジュールでしたが、濃い出会いが与えられました。

7日(金)朝、ホテルから七郷(Shichigo)中央公園仮設に直行 し、エマオが毎朝お手伝いしているラジオ体操・お茶っこに参加しました。60世帯規模がすでに11世帯に減っている中 で、3名の女性たちが集会所に集まっていました。その内の一人、たか子さんの話しは尽きませ んでした。津波でお連れ合いを流され亡くなった痛み。被災者が結局バラバラにされている寂しさ。復興公営住宅というマンションに移っ たとしても、そもそも家のドアに鍵を閉めて生活などしていなかった中で、生活環境も大きく変えられてしまうことへの不安。仮設に残り 続けていても、これからの展望が見えないストレス。でもそのような中で、エマオが仮設に来てくれていることが支えになっていること。 たか子さんの話しを聞き、バラバラになっていく被災者に寄り添うエマオのような働きこそが、私たちの望んでいることだとOGHSの方たちは喜ばれてい ました。

その後、エマオで歓迎懇談会Welcome Gatheringを持ちました。放射能問題支援対策室「いずみ」Kyodan Tohoku District Nuclear Disaster Relief Task Force “IZUMI”、Empowerment of Immigrant Women Affiliated Network (EIWAN)、東北ヘルプTohoku HELPそれぞれから発題を受け質疑の時間を持ちました。「いずみ」が行なっている甲状腺検査 について、A2判定(5ミリ以下の結節(しこり)や20ミリ以下ののう胞を認めるもの)以上だった子 どもたちが再検査をする機会はどのように提供されているか、行政への啓発(advocate)はどうしているかな ど、かなり具体的な質問がなされました。また、EIWANが行なっている移住外 国人女性への支援活動に関しても、実際に何名位の女性たちと出会うことが出来ているかなどの質問も出ました。UCCでも同様の活動を行 なっていることを学びました。最後には、日本で働く友の輪とそれを囲む輪の「二重の祈りの輪を作り、被災地を覚えて祈って下さいまし た。

8日(土)に訪問した会 津放射能情報センターAizu Radioactivity Information Centerでは、自主避難してい る方や会津在住の方が母親として証言をして下さいました。OGHSの方たちは本当に親身 になって二人の話しに涙を流しながら聞いていました。東京電力福島第一原子力発電所事故の影響の前に、言葉も出ない様子でした。

地震・津波・原発事故による東日本大震災がいま日本では風化されつつあります。そのような中で、各支援 活動が有機的に繋がるネットワーキングが必要不可欠です。今回の訪問を通し、まさにキ リストの一つの体(一コリ12:27)として、このネットワークの輪が国境を越えて広がっていくことの大切さを痛感しまし た。

 

東北教区被災者支援センター 専従者 佐藤真史