Miyako Church in Iwate Prefecture was founded in 1909, but 82 years after its construction, the sanctuary was flooded to a depth of two meters by the tsunami resulting from the 2011 earthquake. The new sanctuary was built in October 2015, and the attached kindergarten, called “Hikari Yochien,” which previously had been located some distance from the church, was also reopened in December 2015 on the neighboring lot. This small church of ten members has an average worship attendance of about 15 persons. Kitamura Yoshikatsu is a church member who is working with children and their parents who are having difficulties.
by Kitamura Yoshikatsu, member Miyako Church, Ou District
I have worked for seven years as a member of the counseling support team at the Miyako City Board of Education’s Child Development Support Center in Iwate Prefecture. At the time of the earthquake, I was just getting ready to move on to my next destination after finishing counseling at a school near the seacoast. I had stopped by my house to check on it when I saw kindergarten children hurrying down the road in front of me. The tsunami soon followed, stopping just at my garden, but most of my hometown below me was destroyed. I went to help out at the evacuation center in the elementary school. There was quite a contrast between the adults, who were very preoccupied with the emergencies of the day, and the children, who seemed so surprisingly lively. I gradually began to understand, however, that during such times of emergency, children adapt themselves to that environment in ways like this. It has been four-and-a-half years since then, and I have learned from the counseling sessions how these children have lived during this time.
A mother living together with her son Ken (a third-year junior high school student) complained to me, “By afternoon, Ken becomes quite agitated at school and has to leave school early. As he can't settle down, I end up having to leave my job early as well. But when he sees me, he gets even more hyper. I'm the only one, however, who can quiet him down, and so I'm now at the breaking point both mentally and physically.”
She eventually came to the realization that such behavior was related to the earthquake disaster and began to talk about that day. “I was not able to leave my workplace, and my son's aunt was the one who came to pick him up at school. She carried him on her back as they slugged through the ooze to the nearby evacuation center. He spent the night there, and it was the next day before we could meet.” She then added, “He recently said as he clung to me, ‘I feel strange when I see the sea, and by evening I want to blow off steam.’” It was the first time she had told this story to another person. As we discussed this, we came to see that Ken was maturing both physically and mentally, and as he felt more settled in his environment, he was finally beginning to be able to express in words that frightening experience. It appears that he is gradually settling down and is able to feel comfortable in school again.
Another example is a mother who came to consult with me about her daughter, who was in the sixth grade. She said, “Yuki has recently been getting some of her energy back, but she has been absent from school now for three months.”As she spoke of her family, she said, “In the area where our family home is, the tsunami destroyed houses all the way up to our next-door neighbor's house. My own mother was deeply hurt by some of the neighborhood people who had lost their homes, and she suddenly died a couple months later of overwork. A year later, my father also died from an illness he already had prior to the disaster. During this period, I, as the only child, had to take care of my parents and my father-in-law while running around this town of rubble for my job and household errands. I don't really have clear memories, but I do recall hearing that Yuki had to go in to see the school nurse several times.” The mother also said that when she was young, before having her own family, she had had a stress-related illness and that her mother had said, “I can cure you by myself, without depending on doctors and medicine.”
“I lived a life practically smothered by my mother but did get better. As I look back,” she said, “there are many things that connect my daughter’s present situation to the situation following the disaster. After she stopped going to school, I thought that the best way to help her was to relate to her as my mother had related to me. But I sometimes feel unsure about that, so I suppose the reason I came to see you was to confirm whether that is the best way or not.” I patiently listened as she related the series of deaths that followed in the wake of the disaster and the various problems that came one after the other. I could see how these two were trying their best to protect themselves from the onslaught of those consecutive shocks.
The body and mind of a child changes rapidly. If adults fall into difficulties caused by something like an earthquake, children have a sense of impending crisis, because children seek security from adults and depend on them to provide it. When children can no longer endure a sense of impending crisis and begin to express this in various ways, they finally get the attention of the adults in their lives. I sensed that as Ken's mother expressed her realization that his problems stemmed from the earthquake and tsunami disaster, a light came on in their relationship and a sense of security was reborn. Likewise, I also felt from Yuki's mother that something like a warm spring breeze was blowing into the winter they had endured. To their children, sensing a “light” and a “warm spring breeze” from the important adults in their lives is life itself.
We humans support each other as we listen to and are listened to in our interpersonal relationships with each other. This is true not only in times of disaster, but in ordinary life as well. In this age of consumer goods and overflowing information, is it not still true that the way opens only through direct relationships?
On that day, Miyako Church was covered with mud. During these four-and-a-half years, our precious God has been listening to the cries and groans of our church and has led us in the decision to rebuild the church and the kindergarten Preschool and Kindergarten in a new location and next to each other. It is my prayer that the church and kindergarten will be more united in purpose and will be like a beacon of light and a warm spring breeze to the people who come into contact with us.(Tr. KY)
From Shinto no Tomo (Beleiver’s Friend), December 2015 issue
(Summarized by KNL Editor Kawakami Yoshiko)
北村嘉勝 きたむら よしかつ
Kitamura Yoshikatsu, member of Miyako Church, Ou District
私は、７年前から岩手県宮古市の教育委員会のこども発達支援センターの相談支援員として、親、先生、子ども本人の困難や悩みを一緒に考えています。2011年３月11日の 地震の時、私は、海近くの学校での相談を終え、次に移動しようとしていました。自宅に寄ると、目の前を幼稚園児が避難していきました。その道を間もなく津波が襲い、波は自宅の庭で止まりましたが、故郷である街は大半が壊滅しました。私は小学校の避難所を手伝いました。その 日の生活に必死な大人の傍らで、子どもは思いのほか快活でした。ですが後々、そうして非常時の環境に自分を合わせていたのだと知りました。あれから４年半のあいだ、子どもたちはどのように生きてきたのか、それは最近の相談にあらわれています。
やがて彼女は震災と関係があるのでは、と当日のことを話し始めました。「私は職場から動けず、Ｋは学校に迎えに 行った伯母に背負われ、ヘドロの中を近くの避難所へ。そこで一夜を過ごし、私と会ったのは次の日でした」 と。そして「Ｋが最近『海を見ると変になる。夕方騒ぎたくなる』と私にしがみつく」と言うのです。彼女は他人に初めて話したとのことでしたが、私たちは「身体も心も育ち、環境にも安心した今、Ｋさんはやっと恐怖の体験を言葉にできたんだねぇ」と話し合いました。それから彼はゆっくりと緊張が緩み、学校でも落ち着きが増しているようです。
また夏過ぎに「ここ最近は少し気力が出てきたけど、娘Ｙ（小６）が学校を休んで３カ月になる。」と相談に来た母親は、家族について語りました。「夫と私の実家がある地域では、津波で隣の家まで全壊。実母は被災した近所の人々に心を痛め、２カ月後、過労で突然死。その後、実父が以前からの病で追うように亡くなり、１年後義父も持病で逝去。この間、一人娘の私は両親や義父、生活、仕事のためガレキの街を走り回った。当時の記憶はあまりなく、娘のことは時々保健室にいることを聞いた記憶があるくらいです」と。さらに自身の若い頃の体験を話しました「子どもの誕生前、ストレスで倒れた私 に、亡くなった母は『病院の薬ではなく自分が治すから、大丈夫！』と言い切った。その後私は母に包まれるように暮らし、回復した」と。彼 女は「振り返ると、震災後の娘には、現在の様子につながる点がいくつも思い当たる。学校を休んでから、母が私にしてくれたように接するの が一番と信じそうしてきた。でも時々、私自身が迷って不安になる。『これでいい』と確認するために、相談に来たのかもしれない」と言いました。震災関連死が連鎖し、次々押し寄せる衝撃から自分を守るのに懸命だった親子を思い、私は聞くだけでした。
子どもの心身は刻々と変化します。子どもは大人に安心を求め、その関係を支えに生きていますから、震災などで大人 が困難に陥れば、自分の存在がおびやかされる危機感を抱きます。その危機感に耐え切れなくなってさまざまな表現になったとき、子どもの声 はやっと大人に届きます。Ｋさんの母が「震災と関係あると思う」と語ったことには、親子の間に「灯」がついたかのように互いの存在が見え、安心が生まれていくのを感じました。またＹさんの母からは冬を耐えた命に呼びかける「春風」のような温かさを感じました。子どもには、大切な大人からの「灯」や「春風」のような応答が命です。また子どもの声を聞く大人も、自らの思いを誰かに聞いてもらうことで、子どもとの暮らしを たどり直すゆとりが生まれます。
人は互いに「聴く―聴かれる」関係に支えられて生きます。その関係は被災地だけではなく、日々どこでも求められ、あふれる物や情報によらず、直接の交わりでひら拓かれるものなのではないでしょうか。あの日、宮古教会は津波のヘドロにまみれました。この４年半、大切な神 さまは私たち宮古教会の叫びやうめきを聴いてくださっていました。そして教会の移転新築と、離れた場所にあった幼稚園を認定こども園に衣替えし、教会と隣り合わせに新築する決断をも導いてくださいました。教会と子ども園がこれまで以上に一つとなり、出会う人々と「灯」を求め、「春風」の息吹に触れることを願っています。(信徒の友2015 12月号)