By Goh Yixiong
“Shiyou ganai” is a mentality that pervades the Japanese society. This allows the Japanese people to maintain dignity and not show weakness in the face of adversity. When confronted with unfavourable circumstances, the mindset is one that is resigned and almost fatalistic. Though stoic, behind the strong fronts, they are broken inside with many deep-seated sorrows especially in the wake of the recent Tsunami.
Some time in July, Matthew Teoh and I headed to Miyagi prefecture with OM Japan to help with the disaster relief efforts. The devastation there was shocking despite 5 months having passed. The work that our team of 7 different nationalities assisted with, included clearing debris, distributing supplies and visiting families in hospitals. Being the younger members in the team, Matt and I were usually tasked with debris clearing in Ishinomaki.
After a few days of interacting with the locals and learning more about their culture, I felt burdened. Reaching out to such a closed people can only happen by God’s grace. Feeling compelled to share what I was experiencing – in between aftershocks – I posted on my CG’s Facebook group wall.
Here is an extract: “I can’t quite sleep, so I thought I’d share some thoughts here.
I was at Sato san’s house in Ishinomaki, helping to rip out his flooring. We worked in total silence. It is culturally rude to make too much noise while working. It’s especially hard to get to know this very reserved Japanese elderly, when I can’t even talk to him, nor share the gospel. But the verses that kept popping up in my head were John 13: 34-35. Despite not being able to talk much with him, simple acts of love like offering him a facemask or water went a long way. After a few days of working at his house, he eventually warmed up to us and he became cheery and relaxed around us. He was also open to us praying for him.
It’s not in a Japanese to share his thoughts or show his emotions. The Japanese can talk about lost loved ones without much expression. But when we give out supplies and ask about their well-being, they pour out their stories to us. Although most of the time I don’t really know what they’re talking about, just standing there and smiling mean so much to them.”
We exchanged our sayonaras with them on our last day at Ishinomaki. I opened my arms to embrace Sato san. He bowed to shake my hand, giving me a “side-hug” instead. As we drove off, he stood on the broken road till we were out of sight–something he had never done before. I know that Sato san was very appreciative of our help. By God’s grace, may he come to receive Christ.
Everyone can see God’s love for us if we love one another. His love in us is a love that transcends language barriers and social backgrounds. Let us love those around us, even the seemingly unlovable. God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son. Why can’t we love just as God loves us?”
P.S. I am grateful to my parents who supported my decision to go for these trips. I encourage you not to hold your child back should they feel burdened to go.