SMJ Camp Held for Junior and Senior High School Students
by Kakiuchi Chieko, group escort, Teacher, Miyagi Gakuin, Tohoku District
This summer, thanks to support from the Special Ministry to the Japanese (SMJ) organization in America, students from areas affected by the East Japan Disaster were able to go to the United States. Eight junior and senior high school students from Miyagi and two junior high school students from Fukushima were given the opportunity to participate in a discovery camp that took place in the outskirts of New York from July 19 to 31.
This was the 32nd camp held by SMJ for Japanese children living in the U.S., with a total of 35 campers and leaders living together for two weeks. Children between 11 and 16 years of age cooperated in a wide range of activities, including daily morning exercise, worship, Bible study, art work, sports, swimming in the sea and piggyback races that were part of the competitions between groups.
It was the first time that one of the participants had seen the sea since narrowly escaping death by going up onto the roof of a house when the tsunami swept into eastern Japan in March 2011. Swimming in the sea every day and catching 23 sea bream when we went sea fishing produced beaming smiles of joy.
When all of the campers gathered for a talent show on site, two members of our group had the chance to talk about their experiences of the tsunami and the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident and were able to convey their thankfulness for the support that came in from all around the world after the earthquake. Young children from the local New York area were also present and listened attentively.
During these two weeks of camp, we overcame our various differences while discovering each other’s personalities and forging ties. Here are some excerpts from comments written by participants. “Among all the activities, the best memories for me are of the times when we had to cooperate with other people in the group competitions, such as during orienteering and the talent show. I felt very happy when differences such as nationality and gender became unimportant as we worked together towards one goal.” “During the camp, we went swimming in the sea every day, and also tried rock-climbing and sea fishing. Up to now, I have always worried about how other people saw me and what would happen if I couldn't succeed, so I always looked on fearfully from a distance. However, as I saw the local children trying everything with a positive spirit, I wanted to be like them, so I gradually decided to try various things as the opportunities presented themselves, without worrying about little things. Also children at the camp, who said they were interested in Japan, tried to study Japanese. I was very happy that it wasn’t just that we could learn a lot from the local children, but that we could also give something to them. All the people that we met and spent two weeks with at this camp have become friends for life.”
After the camp, our students had homestays with American families and also had a good time sightseeing. During Sunday worship, they were able to give an eyewitness account of the earthquake disaster, and the congregation prayed for the affected areas.
On the day before we returned to Japan, members of the Japanese-American United Church (JAUC) and SMJ held a farewell party for us. As we had direct contact with the kindheartedness of the people who had prayerfully remembered the disaster area and made this opportunity a reality for us, all the participants were filled with thankfulness.
In conclusion, I thank the Lord for these wonderful encounters, and I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation to all those from SMJ, JAUC, the Kyodan East Japan Disaster Relief Project, and the Christian Schools Council on Cooperative Mission, whose support made everything possible. (Tr. SN)
この度米国日本人特別牧会（Special Ministry to the Japanese）のご支援により、東日本大震災被災地の宮城から八名の中高生、福島から二名の中学生 が七月十九～三一日までニューヨーク近郊で行われたディスカバリーキャンプに参加する機会をいただきました。
SMJ主催による米国在住日本人の子供達のキャンプで三二回目の開催となる今年は、キャンパーとリーダー計三五 名が一つ屋根の下二週間を共に過ごしました。毎朝のラジオ体操、礼拝、聖書の学び、アート作品の作成、スポーツ、海水浴、グループ対 抗の騎馬戦等盛り沢山の活動に十一～十六歳までの子供達が協力しながら取り組みました。
キャンプ場の全てのキャンパーが集うタレントショーでは、津波と福島の原発事故後の体験を二名の参加者 が証をする機会が与えられました。幼い現地の子供達も静かに二人の話に聞入っていました。震災後世界中から頂いた支援に対する感謝の 気持ちを伝えたいという思いが届けられました。
このキャンプは様々な違いを超え個性を発見し絆を深めた二週間となりました。以下参加者の感想を引用します。『中でも一番の思い出はグ ループ対抗のオリエンテーリングやタレントショーのような誰かと協力して活動したものです。国籍、性別など関係無く一つのゴールを目 指し協力していくことが私には嬉しく思えました。』『キャンプでは、毎日海で泳ぎ、ロッククライミングや海釣りにも挑戦しました。今 までの私なら、(どう見られているかな？出来なかったらどうしよう)などと思い、怖気づいて遠くで見ていたと思います。現地の子の大らかで何事にも挑戦する姿に憧れを抱き、 私も小さいことで悩まずに、目の前にある様々なことにどんどん挑戦したいと思いました。また、キャンプで日本に興味を持ち、これから 日本語の勉強を頑張ると話してくれた子もいました。私達だけが現地の子から様々な学びを貰うだけでなく、相手に与えることも出来たと いうことがとても嬉しかったです。キャンプで出会い二週間を共に過ごしたみんなとは、一生の友達になれました。』
最後にこの素晴らしい出会いを与えて下さった主に感謝し、SMJ、日米合同教会(Japanese American United Church)、日本基督教団東日本救援対策本部(Kyodan East Japan Disaster Relief Project)、宣教協力学校協議会(The Christian Schools Council on Cooperative Mission)の皆様のご支援に心より御礼申し上げます。（引率 垣内知恵子 ,宮城学院中学校教員）