We finished day one of our retreat in Sendai – a day of worship, messages, discussions, and hot springs. Yes, I said “hot springs”. Our retreat is being held at Hotel Zuiho, a hot springs resort. To be clear, this is an extravagant, upscale, luxury resort – one of the nicest I’ve ever been in. Under normal circumstances, we wouldn’t find ourselves here. But the resort has been active in the tsunami response. It provided housing for displaced community members, housed volunteer workers, and now hosting our pastors retreat at a significant discount. It’s at 80% occupancy, largely due to the help they are offering to the community. They’ve gone above and beyond and have been serving us with such graciousness. Hot springs are a common way that people seek out to relax in Japan. As we were planning this retreat, this was quickly established as a must, and these pastors are loving it!
The tone of this retreat is intimate and safe. We have 40 church leaders in attendance – mostly pastors and their wives. About half of them know each other, and for the others, this has provided a way for them to cross denominational and geographic boundaries. For most of the attendees, this is their first break since the tsunami three months ago.
Dr. Jean Dorlus shared powerfully and vulnerably from his own experiences after the earthquake in Haiti. Since Haiti is half a step ahead of Japan in its recovery process, Dorlus’ past year is their next year. He cracked jokes about his trouble with memory loss and paranoia, and the Japanese pastors laughed in agreement. Though a different culture, country, language, skin color, they understood one another. Dorlus shared about the process that God brought him through, from asking “Why did they die?” to “Why am I still alive?”
I spoke with one pastor’s wife, who was carrying a child, just three months old. If you do the math, that’s when the tsunami hit. Rema was born three days after the tsunami into a world of hardship and pain. They were without heat and food. As tough as those days were, the couple was grateful that the baby wasn’t born before the earthquake and tsunami. In the womb was the safest place for that baby.
This is just one story among many. As I speak with these people, I’m constantly reminded that although statistics are aggregate, loss is always individual and personal. My prayer is that everyone here, like that baby, would remain in the womb of God throughout this crisis. It’s the best place that anyone could be.
When pastors checked into their rooms, they were greeted by gift bags – homemade jam made by churches in Tokyo, books filled with prayers from churches in North America, books and snacks provided, etc. Whenever they say “thank you” to me, I remind them it’s not from me. “This is from churches all over the world. Your brothers and sisters are with you.”
Though I get to be here, this retreat is made possible by all the churches that support our work. Thank you. It’s just the first day, so we’ll have many more stories to share in the days to come.Tags: Churches Helping Pastors, Counseling, featured, JA01, Japan