And now, I just want to talk about the day we volunteered, what I learned about the tsunami, and how recovery is going…
Shichigahama isn’t the only place that is still rebuilding, but I think it’s the closest to me right now. It’s a coastal area that juts out into the Pacific a little. And the tsunami hit it hard.
The specific area we worked in was residential, though you couldn’t really tell because so many houses had been torn down completely (by the tsunami or by workers post-tsunami). Before there were over 100 homes in the area. Now only about 10 want to return. People moved elsewhere, maybe they’re fearful of a similar experience happening again, or maybe, God forbid, they didn’t make it.
Someone told me that this area would have had at least a 30 minute warning before the water started to really come ashore. For those who were home, there was some time to get out and get on the highway. I was also told that once the water came ashore, it traveled much faster than a car could on a highway. It sounded like the water caught up to many people trying to escape.
The earthquake had a magnitude of 9.0. The strongest I’ve felt since being here was a 6.4. That was scary enough. The waves reached 40.5 meters in height and came up to 10 kilometers inland in Sendai. Someone told me it stopped just 6 miles away from Meysen. This is the most powerful earthquake recorded to ever hit Japan.
Wikipedia says (and their info is from “Damage Situation and Police Countermeasures… March 12, 2012” National Police Agency of Japan. Retrieved 12 March 2012.):
On 12 March 2012, a Japanese National Police Agency report confirmed 15,854 deaths, 26,992 injured, and 3,155 people missing across twenty prefectures, as well as 129,225 buildings totally collapsed, with a further 254,204 buildings ‘half collapsed’, and another 691,766 buildings partially damaged.
Here’s the full wikipedia article (yes, I trust it): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011_T%C5%8Dhoku_earthquake_and_tsunami#cite_note-npajproperty-27
I cannot fathom what any of that must have been like… What it must have felt like when the earth was shaking so much that things around you were crashing and breaking. What it must have felt like to watch the powerful water flow wherever it could. What it must have felt like for a home full of memories and possessions to be wiped out. What it must have felt like to lose someone.
My new friend Bethany was just starting her first year in Japan when it all happened, and she was able to write about it on her Kindle while things were really out of the ordinary here. Her blog is a beautiful testimony to how God was always present and active…if you want a first hand account of what life was like for a Meysen teacher post-tsunami, check this out:
And here is a video of how Meysen was able to to help:
I remember watching the tsunami explode in the media online. It was my last semester of college, and I’m sure I was in the midst of 136 projects and papers, but it kept my attention and I prayed for Japan a lot. My school is great… I think every professor prayed for it in their classes, too, and that helped keep it in my head that there was something bigger than a busy final semester happening out there. We all cared. And though I prayed, I never once thought I’d ever be able to do anything more than that to help. Fast forward one year.
One of the first things I thought when we arrived at Shichigahama was how open it was, and that the reason it was so open was because something hugely overpowering…something much stronger than a large well-built house… just kicked its butt. And then all I could think about was how forceful that earthquake must have been. How powerful all of that water was. How quickly people can be knocked down on the ladder of who or what’s in control. And sometimes we have some control over how nature affects us, but really it can take on and demolish anything that man can make. Just ask the Titanic. Nature is a force to respect.
However, nature’s power can be measured. At least humans have come with up with systems they use to measure it. Maybe that’s why we sometimes think we’re above it…but I digress. I looked up synonyms for unfathomable and realized that that isn’t the right word to describe nature at all. Sometimes we don’t grasp all it is or does, but we can measure it. On the other hand, we could never ever put God’s power on a scale. So God’s power IS unfathomable.
So God is unfathomably more powerful than (seemingly) unfathomably powerful nature. I’m not getting into a discussion about why bad things happen if God is good and in control… I was completely focused on God’s character: He is immeasurable, eternal, boundless, and incomprehensible; He is almighty and omnipotent.
And that’s what I learned first.