I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to write this–it’s just been a lot to process. When I finally said something, I wanted it to be something substantial.
As you all know, we have had quite a week. At 2:45pm last Friday, I was 15 minutes from meeting a few missionary friends to travel to a women’s retreat, and Keith was about to take the kids to piano lessons. We were all upstairs, all together, when the shaking began. At first, it felt like an ordinary little earthquake–we get them all the time–but then it kept going. And then it got stronger and stronger, and the pictures on the walls started threatening to fall down, and the enormous antique Chinese cabinet was wavering forward as if it might thrust itself to the ground. We stayed as calm as could be expected, telling the kids to stand in the door frames by us. And we really didn’t know if that’s what we should do, keep everyone on the second floor like that. (It’s not.) But this thing just kept going and going. The quake lasted for about 2 and a half minutes, and it was strong. And it was scary. I have NEVER been scared during an earthquake. I’m not easily scared, I don’t think. But 8 year-old Claire started crying about a minute in and began to get hysterical, and sadly my initial maternal instincts started to melt into my own panic as I wondered if our house was about to come crumbling down on top of us. I actually had a moment where I thought, “Well, this is it, Lord.” And I started praying and peace returned just as quickly as it had fleeted.
Then it was over. The boys were laughing and saying how cool it was, and I was trying to crack jokes to help Claire (which worked). And we tried to go about our regular business. But something just felt off. The ladies started to arrive who were coming with me to the retreat, and they were also very shaken up. But our fourth lady, a pastor’s wife from Tokyo, we quickly realized must have been on the train when it happened. And sure enough, I got a Facebook post from her that she was stuck on a powered-down train who-knows-where and had no idea when she would be able to get off. We drove to the nearest train station, hoping the trains would start back up and she’d arrive eventually, but she never did. Two hours later, we got another message from her that she’d had to take an emergency exit off the train, walk down the tracks and climb the ladder from the tracks to the platform. And she was at a station which was only about a half mile away. But it took us nearly an hour to get there because of traffic. All the while, we’re still having little earthquakes, aftershocks, every few minutes, which was very unsettling. And I’m just wishing I had stayed home, but first, my friend needed rescuing. So we got her, and then I think we were all just in such shock that we didn’t even know how to discuss what to do next. I think probably I wasn’t the only one who was yearning just to go home to my family and curl up on the couch in my husband’s arms. But I couldn’t say it for some reason. I don’t know if it was my shock or just I was in survival mode or what, but I just kept going. And so did the rest of them. So we drove nearly 3 hours to the place where the retreat was to be held, arriving terribly late, and ate dinner at Chili’s, a strangely ordinary thing to do on such a day. It wasn’t until we checked into our hotel room after dinner that we turned on the news and saw the extent of devastation in Sendai. Now 3 of us are missionaries–our life’s work is here in Japan, our hearts are forever-binded to the hearts of our Japanese friends. But we were just in such shock–all we could do was watch the television and check our Facebook over and over again. I am ashamed to say that we four godly women failed to pray together that night. We should have, and I’m embarrassed that we (or at least I) just let the tsunami sweep right over us as well. We just went on with the retreat and it was well and fine as far as retreats go, but my heart was about to beat out of my chest I wanted to get out of there so bad.
But then I went home and I have prayed much since then, believe me.
My precious 8 year-old asked me so earnestly, “Mom, WHY would God let this happen? NOTHING good can come out of this!” Fortunately, I had been struggling with the same question (don’t we all?), and was greatly comforted by the words of John Piper HERE. I tenderly shared with Claire how God can use even the most horrific of circumstances to make the most beautiful things happen. I shared with her experiences from my own life where God used unspeakable pain to open my eyes and help me really see Him, and to cause me to sing His praises forevermore, which is simply the greatest joy of my life. Without all that pain and suffering, I am absolutely convinced that I never would have recognized the abysmal desperation in my soul for Him and Him alone.
And so that is my hope for the Japanese people: that one-by-one they will have similar epiphanies to the one He so graciously granted me at a ridiculously young age: that we are useless and empty and purposeless without Him. Here in Japan, they don’t know that! You have to understand, these are some of the most intelligent, affluent, kindhearted people you have ever met. They don’t FEEL their desperate need for God like a starving mother of 4 in Ethiopia might. And so they’re not crying out to Him. But the Word of God says that He is just waiting for them to cry out to pour His compassion upon them. Family, friends, whoever reads this–PRAY that God will make them desperate for HIM! Just a couple weeks ago, I was headed to Tokyo, and the train line I needed to be one was shut down because of a “human accident.” That’s their code for “someone jumped in front of a train.” I am so sick of hearing about the 100 suicides a day here in Japan, feeling so helpless to do anything. They’re hurting inside, but in this culture, they’re not allowed to feel, and they’re sure as heck not allowed to share how they feel. And so they don’t. And many of them can’t take it–they either just shut down emotionally or they jump in front of a train. And it’s TIME FOR US TO START PRAYING. Even more than they need for their devastated towns and villages to be rebuilt (and they do!), they need revelation of their need for the only Living God who can fill their souls! The Japanese people are considered to be the hardest people group in the whole world to minister the gospel to–missionaries call Japan “the missionary graveyard” because people don’t last here. It’s too hard to reach them, and people give up. You see, the Japanese people think/say they’re just fine, for the most part. But they’re not. Love them with me. Pray for them with me! Allow your heart to be moved by their apathy towards the Living God. He is just waiting for them to cry out to Him!
As you all know, for the safety of our children, I am trying to raise money to come back to the States for a little while, just until all this blows over. But Keith has to stay. And us not being here will free him up to do a lot of ministry, so please be in prayer for him that God will give him exactly the tasks that are right for him. He so wants to be of help to the Japanese people during this time, and our absence will actually make that easier for him.
I love you all, and I hope to see you very soon!