The Words of the Taupier Family
My parents are national messiah for St. Lucia so I lived there for most of my life. Generation Peace Academy (GPA)' has been going to St. Lucia for the last few years as part of their overseas service project module. I am now studying in Korea, and I met GPA at the CARP Assembly during the True God's Day celebrations. Roland Platt, the director of the GPA program, invited me to go to Japan with them February 6-13 to visit local churches and participate in volunteer relief work. I thought this was a good opportunity for me to give back to our mother nation, which has done so much for us.
We went to help with tsunami relief volunteer activities in small villages near the city of Ishinomaki.'- Last year's March 11 tsunami devastated the fishing villages near Ishinomaki. It took away all the houses and boats, and with those the fishermen's source of income. Many of the villages and towns near the city have received help but the small isolated villages near the sea remain the same.
Picking up debris left over from the tsunami of March 11 last year was arduous work, but there was strength in numbers.
The site where we volunteered was a small fishing village about two and a half hours from the city. Volunteers rarely go to those isolated villages and the vast empty debris-strewn land was testament to that. On our way there, I was curious as to what we would be doing. We passed several houses for refugees who have nowhere to call home anymore. I thought that we might help build or paint houses. We learned when we arrived that we would be cleaning up debris left behind where houses had stood. We were to pick up every little bit of plastic, metal, wood or brick that had been left behind and sort them for recycling. We were starting from the zero level. The ground first needs to be cleared before houses can be built. This required patience. The man in charge of the volunteer project explained to us that picking up even the smallest piece of debris was a way of taking care of the landowners' hearts. Seeing bits of debris remaining might remind them of the tsunami. With these words, I gained determination to pick up even the smallest piece of debris on the ground, or even those buried a bit. This was a way to help. I was grateful that the man in charge helped me make the connection between the physical work we were doing and helping to heal the Japanese people's hearts.
I felt blessed and grateful to be able to help substantially, in action. Many people even in Japan would love to help but don't have the opportunity. I felt as if we represented those people. Going to Japan, seeing the barren area full of debris and the refugees took me by surprise. It is easy to think that everything is fine in Japan now and that people are back to living almost normal lives, but that is far from the reality.
Mr. Kato, a member of our church that has been working with the volunteer program in Ishinomaki for eleven months, shared a few stories about people he's helped. Some people lost their family and all their relatives, and with them all hope of living. Other people are still waiting for loved ones to come back. One woman's grandson had been working at a shop when the tsunami hit. He is probably dead, but she believes he will return someday. From time to time, she comes to pray on the site where the shop once stood. In another case, a woman in a sinking car handed her baby to a rescuer that was on the roof of a building saying "kodomo onegai shimasu" (please take care of this baby). A rescue worker walked down the roof to where the car was in the water and pulled the mother to safety. He told her that the baby needed her too. Other parents were not as fortunate as this mother and sacrificed their lives for the sake of their children. These parents have entrusted the care of their children to us. Groups unrelated to our church are involved in helping children in orphanages and bringing hope to suicidal tsunami victims.
Mr. Kato is in charge of organizing all Unification Church volunteer work in the tsunami-hit area. Groups of our members go to these sites consistently. During the summer, young people dedicate a week to volunteer in the Ishinomaki area. Because of the regular help offered by our members, the church has built a good reputation in those areas and with the on-site volunteers.
A comeback! A year after the tsunami, remarkable progress has been made in the central populated areas to clear up the devastation. GPA supported this effort.
Visiting the Ishinomaki memorial for those who died in the tsunami was another experience that left a deep impression on me. We went with a few Japanese CARP members that had taken part in the volunteer work. We sang a few songs and then prayed. Almost everyone was in tears. We could only begin to understand a small portion of the suffering that the Japanese people had to go through. GPA and Japanese CARP members shedding tears together for Japan was beautiful. I hugged a few of the Japanese and said a few words of encouragement. They responded with that warm Japanese smile. I sensed that God felt comforted and felt hope from that smile. Some Japanese later said that seeing us share their sorrow as family members was a touching and healing experience for them. I felt grateful to the Japanese members for all they have done for our church and once again admired their strong faith and amazing efforts.
We went to the Sendai church and our members welcomed us warmly. I realized through speaking to second-generation members there just how little freedom there is in Japan. Most university students in Japan hide the fact that they are our church members. They live in fear of being discovered and persecuted or even kicked out of school. That is hard to believe, given that the Japanese church is always growing. One CARP member working with us was very careful not to appear in any photographs or video footage related to the church because this could ruin his chance of realizing his dream, which is to be hired by a company in Japan and eventually become that company's president. This made me grateful for the freedom we enjoy in Korea and the United States. Let us show gratitude by helping the Japanese in fighting against this discrimination. Let's demonstrate our strong support for them. We are family. Isn't it natural for family members to help one another?
Prayer at a makeshift memorial. The writing says "Fight on! Ishinomaki."
Lastly, we held a demonstration in Shibuya against the unjust abductions and confinement of Unification Church members in Japan. Through her work to canvass the support of U.S. legislators against these ongoing human rights violations, In-jin nim has set the example of caring for people beyond just our nation. Through GPA, which In-jin nim has also given much thought and support to, we wanted to show that same spirit. The GPA choir sang songs for an hour, and we held a banner proclaiming to the world that Japan must stop the unjust kidnappings and coercion of our members. Even now, some members are missing and are probably being detained against their will. I felt as if this were but a seed, a very small seed of what is to come. Let us continue giving our support. Motherland Japan, we love you!