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Japanese artistís exhibit reflects gratitude, message of hopecomment (0)

March 22, 2012

Japanese artistís exhibit reflects gratitude, message of hope

An abstract piece of pottery — a lopsided hurricane lamp with holes letting out the inner light — sits in the middle of the art exhibit.

The artist, Shiro Ogasawara, beams as he points to it and explains it was in the kiln when the magnitude-9.0 earthquake hit Japan on March 11, 2011. The tsunami waves came soon after, wiping out most of the town of Ofunato and washing his kiln away. He found it months later, blocks from his destroyed home and buried in mud, with just a few items intact.

Surrounding the lamp in the exhibit are pieces Shiro has made post-tsunami to offer encouragement to his community. One drawing depicts the Chinese year of the dragon and says, “Let’s hang in there this year and do our best.” Another dragon drawing is meant for the entire world, specifically Tohoku Care, saying, “We are thankful for your help and support.”

“For each phase of our recovery process, Tohoku Care has been there for us,” the retired schoolteacher and community leader said about the International Mission Board’s (IMB) Japan disaster response ministry.

“Initially our emotions went up and down,” Shiro said, noting that Ofunato lost around 460 people in the disaster. “I was depressed but received encouragement through the prayers of volunteers. Looking back, meeting Tohoku Care was God’s leading to bring us together.”

IMB missionaries first met Shiro and his wife, Ritoko, when they were delivering relief supplies such as clothes, toilet paper and blankets. The Ogasawaras had a tent set up as a distribution site for their neighborhood and quickly became the contact point for IMB relief efforts in Ofunato.

“The first time Tohoku Care came, they asked if they could pray. It made my wife cry,” Shiro remembered. “Every time they came, she wanted them to pray. Because of her tears, I knew she needed emotional care as well as physical.”

Ritoko said those prayers eased the pain in her heart and helped her start moving forward. The couple invited Southern Baptist disaster relief teams working through Tohoku Care into their home for tea as a way to say thanks. Ritoko served them in cups Shiro dug out of the rubble from their old house. The visits meant so much to the couple that Shiro drew diagrams of where the workers sat and wrote their names. The diagrams decorate their wall.

“We’ll never forget the relationships we have made. When people hear the name Tohoku Care, something warm rises in their hearts. We will never forget the help that we have received,” Ritoko said. “If we didn’t have this disaster, I would never have met Lana [Oue]. The disaster brought us together.”

IMB missionary Lana Oue pats her friend on the hand in appreciation. She and her husband, Tak, have spent a lot of time sitting around the table with the Ogasawaras. Their relationship has advanced in the last year from simply providing relief supplies to friendship to sharing stories from the Bible.

“Several meetings back, our friends brought us a New Testament,” Shiro said. “I opened it and read it and asked, ‘What does it mean?’”

Shiro’s art now reflects what he reads from his new Bible. He points to a drawing of cherry blossoms. He felt cherished and loved after reading 1 Corinthians 13:13 and drew the flowers. He takes the drawing off the wall and hands it to Tak and asks the Oues to explain the passage.

The men pull out their matching yellow New Testaments and start a deep discussion. Shiro marks the verse with a red pen and jots down a few notes so he can go back to it later when he has more time to think.

Lana said the Ogasawaras have not made a decision to follow Jesus but have taken the first steps, studying the Bible and asking questions. In the hardest-hit tsunami areas, missionaries say less than 1 percent regard themselves as evangelical Christians.

The Oues pray their friends will one day share the gospel with their neighbors and fellow tsunami survivors.


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