Tuesday, March 13, 2012

March 11, 2012 Memorial Thanks by Gabe and Steph

 [Gabe's thoughts]
March 11th , 2012 marked the one year anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunamai.  The people here in Ofunato, Rikuzentaka and all the cities affected by the disaster have suffered heartbreak from personal losses and the shared pain of those around them. Despite burdens that leaders, parents, students, teachers and even –especially-- little children, like our Violet, have borne as a community and a nation have bathed each other in faith, hope, perseverance, long-suffering, and Love.  
With regard to our little family, I wish we could say that we have given more love than we have received. But, we have truly been loved and supported every day since March 11th, 2011. We are forever grateful for Junko Mino, who took the time to think to hurry Stephanie and Violet to safety. We thank the nurse who saw me running up the hill to the hospital without shoes and gave me some slippers (which I wore until I could buy rubber workboots). We are thankful to all of the doctors and nurses at the hospital, only 5 minutes from our house where our daughter Violet was born, that worked without sleep providing refuge and medical care to us and all of the refugees with loving kindness. We thank the people that slept near us in the shelter who shared their food and blankets with us. There was one woman who was waiting to find her 4 year old daughter who was there with her family. You could see the fear on her face but she insisted upon sharing some bread with Violet. That night we saw a joyful reunion when her daughter finally arrived from nursery school. We thank our friend Funato-san who brought rice balls and diapers that she had in her car for her granddaughter, the following day. We thank our superiors (dear friends) at work who efficiently and calmly organized evacuations of our family and those around us when they also had no knowledge of the safety of their own families.  We thank Robert Bailey, our co-worker that evacuated fellow foreign teachers one of whom was teaching for Stephanie (who was still on maternity leave). We thank Mark Mino, Junko Mino’s husband who came  looking for us when we had no warmth, food, or water to ensure the safety of our daughter who was sleep deprived. Mark and Junko took us into their home and gave us clothing and food, friendship and much needed embraces. We ate Japanese curry and rice by candlelight and we slept in warm beds.  We thank Mark for also calling the USA to contact our families while driving an hour inland to get supplies. 
We thank the Reverend (retired) Shin Yoshida and his wife Yōko, who have been our adoptive parents, who came to find us at Mark and Junko’s home in Sumita. They came to take us into their home in the mountains of Tōno. There they provided us with clothing, food, warm baths, and most of all love.The Yoshidas took us in with no thought to when we should leave. They never made us feel like we were an imposition. Their entire family physically, mentally, and spiritually helped us rebuild our lives. We thank their daughters who sent food supplies and clothing. And we thank all of the Yoshida's dear friends and family from all over Japan who sent us supplies. We thank the Reverend Miura and members of Tōno church which traveled back with me and Rev. Yoshida to salvage things from the 2 story piles of debris and sluice that was our neighborhood.  We thank the city of Tono that donated food and diapers to us. We thank the doctors in Tono who provided health care to us and our daughter free of charge when we became ill.

We thank the search and rescue volunteers that came from all over the world to search. We thank the volunteers from all over Japan and  the world that came to clean an rebuild. We thank our dear friends who came to volunteer Lance, Naomi, Enzo and Sarah. We thank the Japanese Red Cross. We thank the volunteers from our sister city Sagamihara, Kanagawa. When I was without work but in possession of a car, I was able to volunteer in my town working with civil servants from Sagamihara and college kids. Everyday of work was like a soothing balm. We thank our city and the nation Japan for coming to the aid of refugees quickly and efficiently.  We thank our parents, siblings, family, extended family, friends and strangers too who prayed for us and donated gifts to us and to all those affected in Japan. We thank all of those who prayed .  We thank Dad (Roy) and Siri Craft for not being afraid to come and visit us (in May), and to all the people who sent supplies and gifts with them. Their presence here and their encouragement and support of our decision to stay here meant so much to us and to our friends.

This list is grossly non-inclusive of all of those who helped us and the country in which we reside. It never could be, as in every moment of every day in the last year there have been more people helping us, our communities and our country than could ever be counted. I apologize in advance as there is most assuredly someone reading this now who was not mentioned. Please forgive me. I thank you too.

[Stephanie's thoughts] 

Last year we were overwhelmed by the generosity of friends and strangers alike. We are so thankful for each and every prayer that went up on our behalf. For every note of encouragement. For all of your amazing and generous gifts of support to help get us back on our feet. We are forever thankful. Truly, there are not adequate words to fully express how grateful we are. Please know that each and every one of you will always be prayed for and remembered for your generosity.

We have had a good week so far. It has been a bit emotional of course. We had a very nice time celebrating Daichi's birthday on Saturday night at the Ozawa's house and had a lovely Sukiyaki dinner. Last year we were set to go celebrate with them on March 12th... This year we were more than thankful to see Daichi smile and blow out his 12 candles! He enjoyed opening some presents, mostly books. He loves to read. On Sunday we had a beautiful service celebrating Souichi Ozawa's Baptism and remembering our friends that went before us last year. Souichi's testimony was so touching and moving. We were able to read 1 page of it translated and then tried to understand the rest as he spoke it. He was very emotional but also seemed very hopeful. Their dear friends (Mutsuko's former colleagues surprised them that morning by arriving from a distant prefecture (Shiga) to celebrate with them. I know it meant so much to her and to him.  After the service we all had lunch together.
Following the service the Yoshida's asked to go back to our house to visit and let Violet play but we decided to go to the Camelia green house instead to let Violet run around. Rev. Yoshida thought the memorial would be too long for Violet since she had already sat through the morning service. It was a great idea. I was so impressed and touched that they put their own desires aside and put Violet's needs first. I assumed they wanted to mourn and remember their friends that were lost but instead they chose to spend it with us. We arrived just before 2:46 the official time of the Earthquake. We had time to let Violet run around a bit and then there was an announcement from the city saying that the sirens would sound at 2:46 exactly for a moment of remembrance. We went back to a small table and sat together with our heads bowed. I stood and rocked Violet as she clung to my neck and buried her head in my shoulder. She said "Hold me tight Mama." I whispered in her ear how much I loved her over and over and wept my tears of grief as silently as possible. Mrs. Yoshida shed her tears quietly as well. Gabe's shoulders shook as he quietly wept and covered his face. Rev. Yoshida bowed his head in what I can only assume was a silent prayer. When the alarm quieted we wiped our faces and remembered how thankful we are to be alive and how thankful we are to have such a caring and supportive family here and back home. It was just as the day should have been. We couldn't have planned it more perfectly. We then returned to enjoying God's beautiful creation of flowers and had sweet pumpkin pudding and tea. Violet ran to her hearts content and surprised Jiji and Baba several times by running up to them and shouting "I love you Baba! I love you Jiji" in Japanese. They seemed very happy to hear this. :) I felt that on this day we should have been doing something special to thank the Yoshida's for their unbelievable support but instead they were treating and taking care of us. They are such amazing people and I am humbled by their love and generosity. They show us such Godly love.
Last year we experience the most frightening moment of our lives thus far but we also learned in great abundance. We learned the meaning of the words friendship and generosity. We learned about faith and hope. We learned and experienced first hand the truest forms of LOVE.
Matthew 25:35 "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me."
 With love from Ofunato, The Crafts

Here are some photos from the last year
(from Steph's mobile device)

 (from Gabe's mobile device)


  1. What a wonderful write-up, Gabe and Stephanie. You have so much to be thankful for, and your perseverance has been inspiring.

  2. Alison Dacia Brown4:07 PM

    so lovely guys! God bless you :D