Where has the time gone? I am sitting on my bed in Aurora, Illinois processing what has happened over the last six weeks while also fighting through jet lag. It feels like I arrived in Japan yesterday and I am already home. The last week of my trip was incredible and so fulfilling but it happened so fast I struggle to keep events straight in my head.
During one of our final days in Japan we visited the city of Ishinomaki to survey the damage and also visit Nozomi Project, an organization founded by two female missionaries that takes in women victims of the tsunami to help them channel their grief and PTSD into making beautiful creations out of wreckage. Specifically, these ladies create jewelry out of broken pottery and other family heirlooms they find in the still-existing wreckage.
Ishinomaki suffered nearly the most damage of any of the areas affected by the 2011 Great Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami. As of 2011 3,097 deaths had been confirmed along with 2,770 unaccounted for. The tsunami moved nearly 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) inland and inundated nearly 50% of the city. Unfortunately because the town is on relatively flat land, many people struggled to get to evacuation locations or high ground. One specifically gruesome story includes the Ishinomaki Okawa Elementary School that lost 70 of it’s 108 students and 9 of it’s 13 teachers. This was a result of the teachers inability to make a decisive effort to evacuate the children to higher ground before it was too late.
Because the disaster affected Ishinomaki so greatly many people have been left to deal with loss and pain on their own, resulting in PTSD and other severe maladies. While Ishinomaki is a hard working town it struggles with regaining it’s footing after the disaster.
Sue (last name omitted), one of the co-founders of the Nozomi Project, was able to expound a bit more on her inspiration and mentality in starting and maintaining Nozomi Project: “we realized, through prayer, that this was going to be a long-term effort in bringing people to recovery”. After moving and settling in, Sue and her husband became friends with many of the moms in the area through her children’s participation in the local schools. “We got a group of women together…and God helped us fuse together the two ideas (disaster relief and pottery making) to help develop Nozomi”. Furthermore, Sue stated “we thought, if we fail, we fail, but this was a way, in our minds, to gather women together and build a community where they could build hope and recover”.
Nozomi Project is a small but powerful community in the heavily inundated area of Ishinomaki. It has gathered women who struggle and hurt from the disaster to find a community in shared brokenness. Each of the pieces of jewelry are touched and/or worked on by approximately 8 or 9 women who each play a different part in the creation of the pieces. If you are interested, you can visit Nozomi Project here to learn more, shop, and help bring hope to those who have lost so much, yet have chosen the path of hope to rebuild their lives.