Voices from FUKUSHIMA Vol.10 Rev. Akira SATO

What Was this Suffering for? 

Through this earthquake/tsunami disaster, I learned the strength that the elderly have. It is written in Romans 8, verse 18 that “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Some of the elderly whom we traveled with, said to me, “This is a breeze compared to the sights of people breeding and burned to death that we saw at the Great Tokyo Air Raid 70 years ago. I can get through this. I am all right.” I really thought that experiences in life is the strength, and that the purpose of our suffering is for the persons whom we are going to meet in the future.

We can’t measure suffering in metric numbers like 5 cm or 50 grams, and neither can we say that someone is suffering more than others. Also, it cannot be said that our suffering is greater than yours. However, if we are able to live through this catastrophe and there exists a future, I want to tell someone I meet there: “During the Great East Japan Earthquake, I thought we were finished millions of times. But somehow, we were able to live through it. So, I am sure that you can get through this, too.”

It is reported that around 200 to 300 towns disappeared in Chernobyl. I always have wanted to meet a pastor there, and to ask how much suffering they went through, how they survived through that disaster, what kind of support they received, and what led them to where they are today. My one wish is to ask people who went down the same path as we did.


The World that Awaits Jesus Christ

In addition, verses 19 to 22 say that the whole creation is keenly waiting for the Savior Jesus Christ. I thought that the world and I are also in need of salvation by Jesus Christ.

Last year and a year before last, I visited Israel, the stage laid in the Bible. During the pilgrimage, my mind was congested with a question, “Where is Jesus?” I especially wanted to put him on a time machine, and ask Our Savior who tamed the raging waters in the Sea of Galilee, and stand at the Pacific Coast of the Tohoku (northeastern Japan). Then, I would ask him to point at the chaotic Pacific Ocean and give an order, “Never again become like a concrete wall that destroys nursery schools and nursing homes.” And to the ground, cracked open and/or caved in, with manholes risen up, “Do not crack open. Do not shake. Otherwise, I can’t sleep at night.”

This may be hard to believe, but when there was a second aftershock about a month later, the second floor window opened. It was locked. The vertical vibration of the aftershock unlocked the aluminum sash, and the horizontal vibration opened the window. It wasn’t the job of a robber. Our neighbors’ windows were open as well. Soon after, I put on my hazmat suit and went to measure the amount of radiation with a dosimeter, and it increased again in my house with our windows open. Locks didn’t help. We need someone to control and calm the ever-shaking ground. The whole creation -the world, nature, and human beings- is patiently waiting for Jesus Christ.

Individuals’ Sufferings 

The verse which I particularly turned my thoughts towards was Psalm 119, verse 71. “It was good for me that I had to suffer, better to learn your judgements.” According to another translation, it is written: “I was happy that I had to suffer.” That is, it has a significant meaning to be hurt or to suffer. Although our pains from this catastrophe is nothing compared to those that Jesus Christ experienced, it is an underlying fact that these were what we had never experienced before.

For many of the elderly said that their days do not start without reliving the whole experience before their eyes. When they wake up, they begin with “Where am I?”, “Oh yeah, that’s right. Because of my near death experience after the earthquake, I had to move in with my relatives. It began with them telling me “It must have been so rough for you. I am so sorry for you,” which eventually turned to “When are you going to leave our house?” I get deeply hurt from that, and, therefore, I decided to move multiple times, for I felt as if it was easier to live in a place without telling anyone that I am the victim of the disaster. That is why I wake up in an apartment in a town unknown to me.” It takes a few minutes to get there, and “There are not many people I can talk to. That let us watch out for dementia becomes the slogan among us the elderly.”

I did have a misunderstanding about children… I assumed that since this catastrophe was experienced by them at such a young age, there was less of a mental toll. However, a young mother said to me, “It’s not true. Even my naughty boy is crying under the futon every night.” There are some kids who are unable to go to school and keep biting their nails all day long at home.” These kids experienced unbelievably excess amounts of stress. There is a lot of news going around that these kids evacuated from Fukushima are getting bullied in school, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. There are some kids who were told to bleed their nose if they were really from Fukushima. But they would have done any differently if their position was reversed.