by Hirata Nobuyuki, Kyodan associate staff member
Disaster Relief Center, “Heartful Kamaishi
We celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, with people who live in temporary housing in the earthquake-stricken area of Kamaishi. There are presently 3,124 units in 65 temporary housing complexes in Kamaishi, with 5,086 people who have no other option but to live in them. The rebuilding of homes is slowly proceeding, however, with 261 units in 15 neighborhoods within the city of Kamaishi and 232 units in 7 neighborhoods outside the city having been completed, and thus the move of people out of temporary housing into rebuilt homes is continuing. This process, however, will likely take at least two more years until all the temporary housing units are no longer needed.
Even in such circumstances, we were able to hold Christmas events at nine locations in the temporary housing complexes and also at one location in a new permanent housing complex, as a part of the activity of the “Occhako Salon” (a coffee-shop style ministry) of the “Heartful Kamaishi” project. Normally, we are not allowed to engage in religious activities in the temporary housing complexes, but Christmas is the exception to the rule. We celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ together with 111 people, with three volunteers coming to help us serve through music to add to the fun of the Christmas celebration.
The Christmas messages were given by Pastor Iiijima Makoto, Kyodan executive secretary, and Pastor Yanagiya Yusuke of the local Shinsei-Kamaishi Church. We sang hymns together and ate Christmas cake during this time of celebration. Participants gladly received Christmas presents, and we heard comments from the people who live in temporary housing about how “the true Christmas had come.” We felt that God had surely spoken to each person’s heart.
As life in the temporary housing drags on, the aging of the people living there also advances. Likewise, there are many single people among the residents. Thus, we will continue our “tea-time” ministry to these residents as long as they continue to come for a bit of respite from their situation. From January, we added three new staff persons at an additional four locations to increase our “Occhako Salon” ministry so that we can expand our positive impact.
We reaffirm our request for your prayers and support while we continue this ministry as time passes since the disaster and the flow of information flow from the disaster area decreases. (Tr. KY)