Since the Heart’s Home opened in Sendai, Japan, the missionaries there have been especially reaching out to the victims of the 2011 tsunami, visiting them in their “kasetsu” (temporary housing). Six years later, these people have been able to move into real homes, but uncertainty has been replaced by loneliness and isolation. Sylvie shares one of her encounters:
This morning we went to visit Mrs. Henmi, an eighty-four year old woman that we met in one of the kasetsu (temporary housing built for the victims of the 2011 tsunami). It has been a year since she has moved into her very own apartment.
We visit her often, but as she always forgets my name, every time we call to tell her we’d like to visit, it’s like meeting for the first time. Yet when we arrive to the parking lot of her building, she is already there waiting for us, bent over and supported by her cane. As soon as she sees us, all the memories come back!
We talk for hours about the “good old days” in the kasetsu – looking through her photo album and asking what has become of all our other friends from there. Like many, it was difficult for her to leave behind the others who were in her kasetsu. Even though she has everything she needs in her new apartment, she is alone: “When we were there, everyone took care of everyone else, and no one every felt alone. Here it is so impersonal.” Her only company is her television, but Mrs. Henmi is one of the lucky ones because she has someone who comes three times a week to help her cook and her son doesn’t live far.
The time passes quickly and it’s already four o’ clock. Mrs Henmi suddenly interrupts the conversation to look out her window: “The crows will soon be flying away to go back to their homes, I see them every day at the same time.” And five minutes later, we see four crows take flight. She says: “Since it’s not always very interesting watching the television, I can spend hours looking out my window at the passing cars…”
Last year, the last time we met in the kasetsu, Mrs Henmi told me just how much I was like a member of her family. She is my Japanese grandmother! She is a woman full of love and respect, who only ever says good things about other people. After all that she has suffered, she teaches me so much about how to accept the unacceptable, to love that which is given to us in life. On the way home, I realize that these hours spent with her have not been “a waste of time”, but on the contrary, have helped me to become more human, more loving, and closer to God.