My three years as a volunteer What I am thinking now

Original Japanese written by Junko Hata, volunteer 
The English below written and arranged by Heeday, based on the original Japanese
The English edited by Rev. Dr. Henry French, ELCA

From the Project:
Five years have passed since the East Japan Earthquake of March 2011. Looking back on those five years, this “Voices” series presents the voices of those who have been walking together with us, one by one.

The first speaker is Ms. Junko Hata, a volunteer at “Support Center Shinchi Gangoya,” a support base located in a temporary housing complex at Shinchi Town, Soma, Fukushima.

“My three years as a volunteer—What I am thinking now”

Junko Hata, volunteer at Support Center Shinchi Gangoya

Over the last three years, I have been serving “Support Center Shinchi Gangoya” as a monthly volunteer. During this time, I have been mainly involved in weblog work, some clerical work like the management of photos and documents, as well as visits to temporary houses. I also help our Wednesday café, massage therapy, among other activities. I spend time with the residents of temporary housing in those activities, and such time is more precious to me than anything else.

Five years have passed since the March 2011 disaster, and three years since I began to be involved as a volunteer. Now, at long last, I am learning what it means to serve as a volunteer. Now my honest feeling is, “Thank you all for letting me serve as a volunteer.”

In this fifth year after the disaster, I think of the days when I first came to Shinchi.

I wrongly assumed, back then, that I knew what the affected people wanted and I thought I was giving them what they needed. After serving them in person, however, I found out I knew nothing. I was just complacent. In my bullet train ride back home, tears kept flowing from my eyes, and I wrote an e-mail to Rev. H, an Anglican priest at the Tohoku Diocese. He replied, “Junko, you have learned something precious. Helping someone means just being with them.”

Then, I had no idea at all what he meant by that. After serving at Shinchi every month over the last three years, however, I think I am learning what the priest meant. Just being together might sound like something anyone can do. Actually, however, truly being together is a difficult thing to do. Also, without a base like Shinchi Gangoya, being together would be impossible.

Deacon Lanson (*) sowed many seeds.
I read in a book that St. Francis of Assisi, when he rebuilt a broken church, carried each stone by himself. St. John’s Church, Isoyama, located in Soma, Fukushima, was devastated by the 2011 disaster. In the coming years, the church will be rebuilt and its activities resumed. I am convinced that my Support Center’s work should be part of the foundation of the rebuilding. With many thanks to all those Anglican Church people for standing with me, I am determined to keep serving the Support Center, with firm faith in the future of St. John’s Church.


(*) Deacon Anna L. Lanson
The mission of St. John’s Church, Isoyama began in the summer of 1920, when Deacon Anna L. Lanson opened a Sunday School retreat in a forest setting. After a period of sickness, she came to Isoyama to recover. She was then the principal of a girls’ school called “Aoba Jogakuin.”

While Deacon Lanson was back in the US on furlough, Deacon Carlsen, who founded a day-care facility named “The House of Sowing,” took her place. After Deacon Carlsen passed away, Deacon Lanson resumed her evangelical work in Isoyama.

Then, in 1928, the first baptism in Isoyama was held at Hoshimi So, Deacon Lanson’s residence. In 1932, the first confirmation took place there.

Then, in 1936, the sanctuary and parish hall of St. John’s Church was built, and the church was consecrated on the holiday of St. John, December 27th, of the same year. Some of the 56 members of the Sendai Seikokai (Anglican Church of Sendai) moved into this new church in Isoyama, to launch it. (Based on a commemorative publication of the 80 years of the Tohoku Diocese)