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I came across this post by Rebecca Scholtens on World Renew's Global Volunteer Blog and just had to share it. It's a beautiful reminder that work teams are still ministering in Japan, more than a year after the tsunami.

Hi all! Konnichiwa! It's a breezy Thursday here in Yamamoto-cho as I (Rebecca) write this blog. It's a bit late, but here's an update on the last few days.

On Sunday night, we regrouped with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) team. Monday was a day off so we had plans for a bit of touring. Cal and Edie Cummings, the two OPC missionaries, picked us up Monday morning, as Morris and Yui were still on holiday, and took us on a tour of the country side.

When you're living in Yamamoto, you get used to open fields and empty houses. You hear the stories about loss of homes, cars, fields, family, and friends. However, the gravity of the situation really comes crashing in when you see an elementary school only 500 meters from the ocean and it's the only building standing for miles around. The temples and cemetery next door have been reduced to rubble. The glass in most of the windows is gone. The remaining glass is on the third floor windows where the only survivors were found. The gym floor is torn up and buckled, mimicking the waves that destroyed it.

For people like Ashley Groenwald (also on the Japan July team) and myself, this was particularly hard to see as we both have spent time teaching. It was difficult to imagine counting your students only to find out Timmy, Suzy, or Will not there and may never be coming back.

The rest of the tour had a similar atmosphere. Bridges were bent and roads were raised and snapped in half. On the highways, the only sign of destruction are bumps while you drive. However, along the coast, the main roads have been rerouted around massive cracks and enormous spaces in the pavement.

The rest of the day was a little more light-hearted. We stopped at a ramen and soba restaurant for lunch before heading out for Matsushima, a gorgeous coastal town sheltered by hundreds of tiny islands. After a bit of shopping and ice cream, we made our way to an onsen, a bathhouse. For most of us this was quite a new experience but all the Canadians were still game. After the initial awkwardness of taking a bath together was over, we settled in to relax. It was glorious to be able to take our time after having only five minute showers at the centre to accommodate all nineteen people in the residence.

The day ended with an awesome meal at a conveyor sushi restaurant. Just grab a plate and dig in! It was delicious and cheap; a fun end to a nice, relaxing weekend.

Tuesday came too soon as we all headed out, either to the paprika farm or the strawberry farm for another day of work. But, it was nice to settle back in a routine and do some good, honest labour again. We ended the day as well with a trip to a local community centre with an onsen, as we are now quite addicted.

Wednesday was a little more tedious and less labour intensive as we picked rocks out of a reclaimed field at the paprika farm. The job needed to be done and the company of the whole group together made the work easier. The fun continued into the evening when we held a party for Morris and Yui as a thank you for all their hard work. It was also a nice wrap-up to almost two weeks together with the OPC team. As a bit of a last hurrah, we even went to the ocean for a late night dance in the surf. The tide was coming in and together with the lack of light, it made it too dangerous to actually swim, but we all had fun jumping over waves and playing on the beach.

Compared to the weekend, the work days this week have been nice and quiet. There was one very particular high point. On Tuesday we were singing while working to pass the time. Sara translated the text for “It is Well with My Soul” and we sang it to the owner of the farm, who was working with us. As we were singing, we realized just how appropriate that song is for the survivors of the tsunami. It is impossible to say why such things happen and this song sums up perfectly the only explanation we can give:

“Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say;
It is well, it is well with my soul.” 

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