by Ise Nozomi, pastor
Okayama Church, Higashi Chugoku District
Children whose homes were damaged during the floods and landslides that struck western Japan in 2018 were invited to participate in a camp in Taiwan from July 29 to Aug. 3. The camp was organized with the cooperation and collaboration of the Kyodan’s Higashi Chugoku District, and the YMCA Setouchi.
A total of 21 persons participated in camp activities, including 16 children from Okayama Prefecture (13 from Mabi and 3 from Nishi Hirashima) as well as 5 staff members.
The camp had three main purposes: 1) to provide a time of refreshment for the children, 2) to express our appreciation to the 20 Taiwanese carpenters who volunteered to help us in Nishi Hirashima following the devastation, and 3) to fellowship with the Taiwanese people.
On the second day, the group visited the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan’s General Assembly, where the children presented colored message cards to the two pastors who had come as volunteer carpenters and then sang some songs for all those present. Four Taiwanese children and five Changhua YMCA staff joined the group on the third day before heading off to the camping site. Although, as predicted, those present faced the encumbrance of a language barrier, this did not turn out to be a huge problem for the children. Indeed, due to the desire to play with each other, the children soon found ways to surmount the language barrier. Actually, for the adults present, witnessing the children’s keen abilities to discover and use various methods to communicate was a rich learning experience.
I heard children say things like: “I’m the only one having fun in my family; I wish I could have brought my mom and other family members, too.” I also watched children search for souvenirs they could take back as gifts for their family members rather than for themselves. As they demonstrated such concern for others, I felt as though I was getting a glimpse of just how much these children had been sacrificing since the disaster hit.
Engulfed in the warm hospitality provided by the Taiwanese people, the children smiled more each day. I believe that the opportunity these children had to meet personally those who had previously been, quite simply, people overseas whom they knew were praying for them but had never met in person, made the children realize that they were not alone, thereby giving them a true sense of being supported. I thank everyone who gave us this opportunity, those who have remembered us in their prayers, and the Taiwanese people who so graciously welcomed us. (Tr. JM)