The trust that he has earned with survivors has enabled him to mediate quarrels, which are common in the stress and tight quarters of temporary housing, and to advocate on their behalves for needs that can and should be met by government authorities.
The Center, for its part, has become a veritable hub of local community life. This simple one-room facility, which has tables and chairs for 20-30 people, stands on a residential plot whose owner, though not a Christian himself, so appreciated Rev. Nakazawa’s work that he offered to lease the land to him for 10 yen (US¢12) per month.
The Center offers a place of worship for part of each Sunday, but serves primarily as a meeting place for volunteers, as an event space for the broader community, as an after-school drop-in center for youth, and as a tea-and-conversation house for people seeking respite from the stresses and confines of their temporary housing units.
Rev. Nakazawa leads John Nduna and Noriko Lao (UMCOR) on a walk through Shizugawa’s remains, near the Shizugawa Christian Center. (June 13) The blue post seen at frame left marks a tsunami evacuation spot at 30 meters above sea level, but last year’s tidal wave crested several meters above the top of this post.
Public authorities plan to carve terraces out of the hills overlooking the devastated town site, where homes will be safe from another tsunami, but this is expected to take another 5 years.
Rev. Nakazawa is concerned that the stress and despair that accompanies displacement will lead to much more suffering in those 5 years. In addition to such problems as domestic violence and suicide, there has also been a spike in “karō-shi” among able-bodied persons who have literally worked themselves to death for family and community.
The community’s painful awareness of this seldom-reported after-effect of the tsunami was evident from the words chosen by several people who waved to Rev. Nakazawa as he guided visitors through Shizugawa: “Please take good care of yourself, Sensei (Reverend)!”
(David McIntosh, NCC-JEDRO staff)