Our Refuge and Strength


Where were you on 9/11? Ask any American, and they can probably give you a minute-by-minute replay of that morning 10 years ago.

Where were you at 2:36 p.m. on March 11, 2011? Ask anyone in eastern Japan, and they will have a story as well.

I was on my bicycle, with my daughter, Eryka, in her seat on the back, returning home from yochien (kindergarten). Eryka is six now, so if she shifts her weight just slightly, it can throw me off balance. I wondered what she was doing behind me. Then I realized it wasn’t her but the ground itself that was causing us to wobble! I stopped, snatched her off the bike and ran to a nearby parking lot, away from houses and power lines. Instinctively, I tucked her under me as we crouched down and cried out to Jesus. “O Lord, please make it stop!” Five minutes felt like an eternity.

My husband, David, had run an errand in Tokyo and, at the time of the earthquake, was providentially very near the Christian school that our older two children attend. He went to Josiah and Eryn immediately, and after we finally got in touch with each other, I went to pick them all up by car.

Later, we were glad to be safe at home but were horrified as we watched television coverage of the tsunami destroying the area where we had spent our summer vacation. Then an oil refinery burned. The next day a nuclear reactor exploded, which was only the beginning of trouble. The aftershocks, also, were frequent and frightening, more severe than other earthquakes we’d experienced in our 12 years as international workers in Japan.

After a very fitful night, I awoke on Saturday morning with Psalm 46 coursing through my whole being: God is our refuge and strength—even if the mountains fall into the heart of the sea! This psalm became our comfort and theme in the following intense days. We carefully monitored information and prayed to determine what we should do for our family. We felt at peace about staying put, at least for the time being.

Plans changed and activities were cancelled, but when our gospel choirs met again, the members were ready to be together, offer thanks to God and sing their hearts out.

As we were cleaning up after a session, Mari approached me quietly.

“Your friends and family are worried about you, aren’t they?” she asked, her eyes searching mine. Eye contact is rare in this culture.

“Yes, of course, they are. We get tons of e-mail messages. But they are praying for us—and for Japan.”

“Don’t you want to go back? Aren’t you afraid?”

I gazed and smiled at this sweet, young mother who makes a huge effort to be part of our gospel choir. Smiles are rare as well.

“Well, yes, we all feel afraid, don’t we?” I admitted. “But we are listening to the news and we get updates from our embassy. Right now, we don’t feel we need to leave. We want to keep living here. Jesus loves the Japanese people. I love the Japanese people more than before! We want to be with you now, to go through this together.” I touched her arm. Touch is rare.

She started to cry. My eyes filled, too. Tears are rarer still. As she dabbed her eyes, she said, “You know, no one would blame you if you went home. But it means a lot that you would say that.”

Many of our neighbors were surprised that we stayed. But would we be safer in America if God wants us in Japan? This is a time like no other. Not something we expected or anyone wanted. But it is a rare opportunity to show the love of Jesus to a winsome people who are like sheep without a shepherd.

Who is equal to the task? Not us. But our competence comes from God (2 Cor. 2:16; 3:5.)! He is our refuge and strength.

Past Alliance Life Issues


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