【December 2016 No.390】A Christmas Message “Light in the Darkness”

by Umesaki Koji, moderator Kyushu District

 

As the 2016 Christmas season draws near, I would like to share with you some of the unprecedented events I experienced in our district during this year, and about the “light in the darkness” that I saw with my own eyes.

 

On April 14, at 9:26 pm, the Kumamoto region was stuck by a tremendous earthquake, measuring 7.0 on the intensity scale and 6.5 in magnitude (richter scale). The violent quake came with no warning, and people spent that terrible night in fear and confusion. When the full extent of destruction was finally revealed in the first light of day, we naturally felt bewildered. But somewhere in our hearts we were already thinking about what must be done first, or what needed to be cleaned up first. In other words, everyone was thinking, “The earthquake is over.” “There might be some aftershocks, but they will gradually end.”

 

We live in an earthquake-prone country, but no one anticipated that the sudden violent earthquake, which caused such devastation, might be followed by another, even greater, tremor. Yet this is exactly what happened 28 hours after the first quake, at 1:25 am on April 16. The second earthquake measured 7.0 in intensity and 7.3 in magnitude. Furniture and utensils that had just been painstakingly picked up and returned to their places exploded across rooms once more. Many homes that had thankfully withstood the first shock suffered heavy damage or collapse in the second.

 

This immediately made people aware that the situation was truly unpredictable. All of our trusted, experience-based earthquake rules were suddenly swept aside. Also swept aside were the fruits of our initial recovery efforts, which were achieved by rousing ourselves with great effort. “Every effort is useless.” Many people felt dispirited, losing their will to fight like a boxer matched against a far superior opponent.

 

Churches, members, and pastors were all tossed about and impacted by this giant force, just like every other building and people. But the work that was done by pastors in the earthquake region in the first days after the two powerful tremors was truly remarkable. Even though they were themselves victims of the disaster, they set aside the needs of their own families to search out church members, offer them comfort and encouragement, and try to meet their needs. They also provided crucial life supplies to the many people who came to disaster shelters or opened their own doors to welcome, serve, and comfort displaced neighbors. These efforts surpassed all bounds of expectation.

 

One of these pastors was particularly worried about a church member, an elderly woman, who lived alone. He was able to confirm her safety after the first big tremor, but could not reach her after the second. He drove toward her place through streets still rippling from aftershocks and reached her high-rise building, only to find the elevators stopped. He raced up to her apartment on the 10th floor, came back down with her on his back, then carried her to his house. This pastor was already in a state of psychological and physical exhaustion, but he could not help but run into a dangerous building to assist someone else.

 

In another case two church members, a husband and wife, became trapped in a room that somehow had escaped collapse while the rest of the house crumbled. Their home was in the most heavily affected part of town, which was quite far from their church. Roads were badly damaged and people assumed their neighborhood could not be reached. But their pastor packed food and water onto a motorbike and, by weaving through debris and finding alternate routes, found his way to their home. After this, he returned to them many times to offer encouragement. The supplies he took them were the very same things that he needed at his house, where water service had stopped and food was in short supply.

 

When I recall the many actions of these pastors, who “while suffering themselves, reached out to the suffering,” I feel strongly that these were all the works of “those who know the One who came.” It is precisely because they receive life from the One who could not abandon suffering people, and who came to be wounded and abandoned while ultimately bringing people to forgiveness, that they had no choice but to “while suffering themselves, reach out to the suffering.” The gift of Christmas was revealed through them, in all its pain and beauty.

 

The destruction from the earthquakes is still very serious, and the impact will continue to be felt for a long time. There is no light visible yet at the end of the tunnel of sorrow and pain, so the darkness is still deep. But there are people who have been given life by the Light who came into the darkness. These people, like the pastors above, inherit the beautiful commission and continue the work. (Tr. DM)

「闇の中の光」

 

九州教区総会議長 梅崎浩二

 2016年のクリスマスを迎えようとするこの時に当り、私は、九州教区総会議長として、今年、教区内に経験した未曾有の出来事に 於いてこの目で見た「光」、「闇の中に輝く光」について皆様に報告したいと思う。

4月14日21時26分、熊本地方は震度7、マグニチュード6.5と いう凄まじい揺れに襲われた。何の前触れもなく突 如として起った激しい地震に、人々は怖じ惑いつつ恐怖の一夜を過ごすこととなった。やがて日の光に照らし出さされた惨状を目にしては、途 方に暮れる思いを抱いたのは当然であったが、一方では心の何処かで、何から手を付けて片付けるべきかと思案もしていたのであった。つま り、“地震はこれでおしまいだ”と誰しもが思っていたのだ。“あとに余震が続いても、徐々に収束してゆくだろう”と。

突然に起こり、激しい被害をもたらした大きな揺れに次いで、それをも超 える規模の揺れに襲われるなどとは、地震国と云われるこの国の住民にとってさえ思いも寄らぬことであった。だが、先の一撃から28時間後、16日1時25分にそれは来たのである。震度7、マグニチュード7.3。あの驚くべき一撃を上回る規模の激震であった。傷心のうちにも片付けた家具や什器 は再び吹っ飛んで散乱し、何とか持ちこたえてくれた、と安堵して眺めた家屋は倒壊・壊滅した。

人々は、最早、真に予測のつかない事態の中に置かれていることを思い知ることとなった。自らの頼る地震についての経験則は 一蹴され、悲しむ自らの心を鼓舞しつつ為した復旧の業も一蹴された。“何をしても無駄”。多くの人々は、さながら遥か格上の相手と対戦さ せられたボクサーの如く、戦意喪失と虚脱のうちに立ちつくす外なかったのである。

教会堂も、教会員も、そして牧師達も、他の全ての建造物や人々と同じ く、この巨大な力に翻弄され、傷つけられざるを得なかった。だが、2度の激震に相次いで襲われた震災発生初期、被災地域の牧師達の働きは 将に献身的なものであった。牧師達は、自ら被災者であるにも拘わらず、自らや家族の要を措いて、信徒を探し尋ねては慰め励まし、必要を充 たすべく努め、また避難所に身を寄せる多くの人々に貴重な生活物資を提供し、或いは近隣の被災者を受け入れて世話をし、安心させるよう限 界を超えるような努力を傾けたのである。

或る牧師は、一人住まいの高齢女性信徒のことが気がかりでならなかっ た。地震第一波の後にはその健在を確認出来たが、二度目の揺れ以降、連絡がつかないのである。彼は、道路が波打つかとさえ思われる揺れの 中を彼女の住まいへと向かった。高層マンションである。電気は無論、止まっており、エレベーターは使えない。10階まで階段を駆け 上った彼は、この女性信徒を負ぶって再び階段を降り、牧師館に彼女を運び入れた。この牧師は心身疲労の中にあったが、危険な建物に飛び込 んででも、この様にしないではおれなかったのである。

他の事例である。全損家屋の、なお圧し潰されずに辛うじて残った一室に 身を寄せる信徒夫妻があった。その住いは特に被害の激しい、教会からは離れた地区に在った。道路は著しく損傷しており、その地区に至る術 はないと目されていた。しかし、牧師はバイクに水や食料を積み込むと、脇道・う回路を探りながら遂に彼らの許にたどり着き、以後、繰り返 し訪ねて支え、励まし続けたのである。彼が運び続けた物は、水道も止まり、食料にも事欠く牧師館に住む彼にとって、喉から手が出る程に必 要な、その物であった。

数多く現わされた“傷ついておりながら、傷ついた者へと向う”牧師達の 働きを振り返る時、それらが全て“来て下さった御方を識る者の働き”であったことを強く思わされている。人の抱える悲惨を見捨てることが 出来ず、心痛め、傷つきながら、遂に人の許へと、然も傷つけられて捨てられる為に来て下さった御方に生かされているからこそ、彼等は“傷 ついておりながら、傷ついた者へと向”わではおれなかったのだ。クリスマスの恵みは彼等を通してその痛ましくも美しい形を顕したのだ。

震災の被害は今も深刻であり、これからもその影響は長く続く。悲しみと 痛みのトンネルに出口は見えず、従って闇は深い。だが、闇の中に来て下さった光に生かされている者達が居る。その者達が、かの牧師達の尊 く、美しい業を継いで今、働き続けている。