This summer, from July through September, about 90 volunteers from Taiwan came through Presbyterian Churches in Taiwan. Each team consisted of about 20 people and stayed 2 weeks, working both in Sendai and Ishinomaki. Total of 4 teams came. In the team, there were many people from various ages – college students, carpenters, pastors, business persons – and they did powerful works here.
Many months and days have already passed, and even in Japan, especially in a place like my hometown far from Tohoku, people rarely talk about the disaster and TV does not broadcast the news about disaster area and people living there. Probably because of this, people may be misled that the recovery works have been finished. There is even an atmosphere in which people may tell you with surprise, “You are going to volunteer now?” In such a situation, Taiwanese volunteers came all the way to Tohoku across the ocean.
Under the scorching sunbeam, they earnestly did their volunteer work while getting dark sunburn and their sweat falling like cascade.
The sight of their hard works encouraged me and touched my heart deeply.
When I went to the airport to see them off, I could not say but the words of thanks.
There are ones who said “I will come here again.” with immaculate smiles, one who regrets the farewell with the encounters made here with tear-filled eyes – everyone possesses kind hearts…what a wonderful people. I believe they are praying for the people in Tohoku in a far land of Taiwan.
Some of them emailed us with their thoughts as below.
Dear Japanese Friends:
First of all, we thank God for letting us work together and giving us the opportunity to participate in the reconstruction of the 3.11 Earthquake, with our little strength though.
It’s been two months since we left Sendai, but those people we met in Shichigo and Ishinomaki have been also kept in our minds and prayers. We still concern about the re-vitality of the farms and harbors, we miss the families of those houses where we worked for, and we cherish the memories of those days when we worked together with Emmaus’ staff and volunteers from different places of Japan.
It is such a profound experience. We come as volunteers to give; however, we are finally the ones that truly gain.
Therefore, we hereby offer some words to convey our feelings and wishes. Some are reports, some are diaries, and still others are lyrical essays. We thank again for all and all from God.
‘It is not what to do, but how much love!’
Walis Uyang 瓦歷斯‧武樣
I remember that day before setting off, our pastor told us, “You will go to a place where God wants you to go, see what He wants you to see, and be seen.” This lesson accompanied me during my two-week trip in Japan.
We went to Oginohamamura in Ishinomaki with the task of cleaning up a trail of Hayamahime Jinjya Shrine. Although I was working for a shrine (where a specific deity was worshiped), I worked willingly and happily. For I deeply knew that it was for God’s sake that I came, and it was God’s people that I dedicated to. As long as I worked with a true heart, God would definitely make good results of it, and the gospel seeds would also been spread, then sprout someday.
It is really my pleasure to have this opportunity to come to Japan and serve the residents with other co-workers sent by God. I can even remember the pastor in Emmaus told us while we were leaving, “It is not what to do, but how much love.” I am so touched that I find an answer in it, which also corresponds to the lesson that our pastor had told us while setting off, “You will go to a place where God wants you to go, see what He wants you to see.” I came with love at mind, and back to Taiwan with much more love.
Thank God, the cooperation with all of you my dear Japanese friends is the most unforgettable memory for me.
Yes, indeed, “It is not what to do, but how much love!”
‘Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy!’
Jingle Chang 張芳菁
I did a lot of farming work during the time as a volunteer in Japan. While I was kneeling on the ground, sweating into the earth, pulling up weeds, turning up the fertilizing soil and picking up rubbish, this was the very first time I got such close to the earth.
At the beginning, it’s harsh to get used to the exposure of the hot sun, I sweated and squatted for hours with legs sore, numb and painful. Especially looking around to the rest of a large farmland, I got inevitably losing patience and felt confused, “So… this is why I come to Japan for? To pull up weeds and pick up rubbish?” However, just at the moment while I was confused, I turned around, and then I saw the tidied land had just been ready for planting and growing new lives. Suddenly, a biblical verse popped up, ‘Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy!’
There were endless rubbish and debris, speechless tiredness and damage after the tsunami. Nevertheless, there were still people persistently plowing on this “rubbish farm” with their time and sweat; until someday, it becomes a valuable “golden farm.” At that moment, I only regarded my work to be very cheerful. Then my tiredness had gone promptly as my sweat dropped away, while the burning sunbeams had somehow turned into gleams joyfulness.
HE is always with us
Kuma Tseng 曾偉宗
At dusk, my Taiwanese partners learned a new song from Japanese friends. They sang it this morning while doing exercise with elders living in the temporary prefabricated houses. I’ve never heard of this song before, nor did I know the lyrics. But its melody seemed to convey such deep emotions that would evoke one with memories.
“Hope we can sing it out for our Japanese volunteers on the very last day when we leave.” My partners sincerely continued practicing singing this song.
Today, as usual, back to Emmaus center exhaustedly, rested at the 3rd floor and waited for the daily work report. Suddenly I thought of that song, and then I sat onto the chair, opened the piano cover, and played by heart. The melody drifted from windows, poured down the stairs until the entire center was greatly resonated with tunes, as if a sheer bliss from God that we all shortly enjoyed together. My partner was singing with the melody I played, gradually accompanied by Japanese friends’ voices. We sang some Japanese folklore such as Furusato (hometown), Akatonnbo (red dragonfly) and Momotaro (Peach Tato). Music shortened the distance between us and warmed each other’s hearts. Every now and then we feel tired out, why not rest for a while, and keep up our good work again!
With our hearts tied together, we will have more power to return hand-in-hand to our Furusato.
How have my father and mother been?
How are my friends getting along?
Whenever it is rainy or windy,
My hometown still comes to my mind.
God’s love always surpasses
Yutz Chang 張祐慈
September 1st, I spent all day picking up rubbish and debris at Arahama coast. The sun was ruthless, the sapphire sky was so clear without any cloudy embellishment, and the Pacific Ocean was so calm that it seemed nothing had ever happened here. Everything was too strangely perfect. It’s really hard to imagine this beautiful Pacific Ocean was exactly the messenger of death one year ago.
At that moment, I felt an unprecedented connection with this land. But it was nothing more but sorrowful pain. I stood at the location where the catastrophe took place, excavating with my hands the ruins and cruelness the catastrophe had left. And we knelt on the ground and picked up endless glasses, broken tiles, plastics stuff, household utensils and wooden materials…etc. Then I came to comprehend how long and difficult this path of reconstruction would be.
However, God’s love is always much more than we have grievously endured.
Since I was just a volunteer, no matter how hard I tried, I could hardly experience even little of the grief that this land had gone through. Nevertheless, when so many volunteers from different countries worked hand-in-hand, I saw as if God stretching out His hand to put together all the broken pieces back into the beautiful look that this land ought to be.
I deeply believe that God’s grace and mercy always surpasses our grief.
It is us that are truly healed
Taku Hsu 許芳瑋
As an interpreter between Taiwanese and Japanese volunteers, my tongue was instinctively switched on, and furthermore I have experienced God’s love and touches through the days of hot and hard working.
It was a 15-day trip to work as a volunteer. At the very beginning when I got this information, I was convinced that I must do, and undoubtedly I would go. It was the thought that I had firmly possessed from then on. Unlike my previous visits to Japan, this trip had somehow initiated my enthusiasm out of the long silence of heart. My life of team-work had gone for years, but this time, I had to work simultaneously for two large teams with different languages; moreover, the people whom I served were the ones had just gone through a tremendous catastrophe and had not recovered yet. However, through the interaction and learning in our daily work, it was ourselves that were truly healed.
Every day, God expands our senses to the most extreme, teaching us to walk steadily and firmly on this way of reconstruction. This place we tread on is not only a devastated place but also a way to the implementation of true love towards our neighbors.
I have seen the goodness given from God to His people. There has been no one to serve and be served. As a matter of fact, we all serve each other and we also embrace each other.
Novia Chen 陳芝吟
It has been three months since I came back to Taiwan, a V-shaped sunburn mark on my back is still visible to my eyes. The mark always reminds me of the trip, which is not only as a volunteer to help those victims but also a lesson of learning to love. Although I have no idea why God permitted such a catastrophe, I can still feel the fragrance of love giving off from the shattering difficulties. Furthermore, we seem to give at first yet we ultimately gain. By each encouragement of smiles and cheer-ups, I am so grateful for all that I have learned how to love and to devote myself.
With our eyes closed, the farms in Shichigo and the fishermen of Ishinomaki are like bonds tied with our minds. We pray for the farmland to regenerate flourishingly and the harbors to revive prosperously in the near future; most importantly, the bond of our friendship, our Japanese friends: WISH YOU PEACE!
Thank you again, our dear Taiwanese friends.