Sunday, 23 June 2013


Recently a priest, Fr. Richard Helmer, from Diocese of California, visited the Let Us Walk Together Project with his son, Daniel and his friend Fr. Shintaro Ichihara, chaplain of Rikkyo jr. high and high school. Fr. Ichihara has visited and volunteered with the project many times so he knew a lot about the area and the disaster. On a Saturday morning a couple of weeks ago my fellow coworker joined these three kind men. We went around the Ishinomaki area seeing the various disaster sites.  

One of the sites was a high school.  When the earthquake happened on March 11 they had 30 minutes before the tsunami came. In Japan earthquakes are common so every school has drills and well defined rules for what to do if they are to come. If they do happen then everyone is supposed to leave the building immediately. While tsunamis happen they are not as common so there are not rules on what to do. So on this day when the earthquake happened and the principal was away the teachers had a hard time deciding what to do. They finally decided that they should evacuate the building and seek higher ground. So all the students formed a line and exited the building walking along the big hill by the school. One of the teachers went back into the building to make sure everyone had left. He didn’t have enough time to make it out before the tsunami came so he went to the roof and watched as the tsunami took 10 teacher's and 74 of the 103 student's lives. That teacher has not been able to talk since the disaster.

Now that school is a memorial site. It’s a place where there is no laughing; all the talking is done in whispers. There is a alter where people have left flowers, pictures, and some of the former students favorite food. I want to ask you to keep the family of these students and teachers in your prayers. I especially want to ask for your prayers for the teacher who watched it all happen.

Thanks for tuning in,

P.S. For more information about that trip please read Fr. Richard's blog.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Birthdays, Food, & Magical Places

Last weekend I was able to celebrate one of my fellow YASCer and friend Jenny's 23rd Birthday. Jenny and her husband Doug are missionaries at Asian Rural Institute for a year. ARI is a farm, school, and community in Japan . People from all over the world, especially from countries that are deemed "third world," come to learn sustainable agriculture and how to live in community. At the end of their schooling they return to their homes to teach others what they have learned and to incorporate it into their local community development work. The ARI community is made up of those participants, staff members, long term volunteers, and short term working volunteers. It is a revolving door of people coming & going and learning & sharing. It is truly a fascinating place. My friend Nicole, who was a volunteer last year, refers to it as "Never Land." Every person I have met from there have been exceptional people.

birthday dinner crew
We celebrated Jenny's b-day rather American style. We had dinner and then got into shenanigans which may have involved fireworks and new variations of s'mores. It was the best 23rd Birthday celebration I have attended. HAPPY BIRTHDAY JENNY!

Last weekend the participants were going to Tokyo for a home-stay. So I was only able to talk to them for a little in the morning while we were planting seeds. Even that 30 minutes was great. The rest of the day was rather lazy. For lunch I helped cook in the kitchen with Doug and new friends. That afternoon a small group of us went and sat by the river. I don't remember the last time I just sat by a river and took everything in. It was a much needed sitting.

During dinner I sat next to a man from Myanmar. He was a participant at ARI many years ago. Now he is a teacher's aid. We talked about food and religion. Those happen to be two of my favorite topics. He shared stories of his life as an organic farmer and the struggles that came with it. We also talked about the social problems that arise when different religions live among each other and do not take the time to understand one another's beliefs. It can lead to a lot of conflict. After talking with him I am adding Myanmar to the place I will visit someday.

Sunday consisted of church and a road trip to a strawberry farm. It was the last day of the strawberry season so a friend of our friend invited us to pick as many strawberries as we could carry. I carried a big box of strawberries all the way back to Sendai (4 hour trip with 3 train changes). I now know how to make friends with people on trains, offer them strawberries! By the way I made my first ever jam with these strawberries. If I ever need a job I think I could give making jams a try.

The entire weekend was great! We had so many conversations about food, life choices, God and our place in this beautiful world. Yet another fantastic weekend at ARI.


Doug chillin' in a tree...whats new

Kelly pondering her field


Introducing, Strawberry-man!

The birthday girl, the box of strawberries and I