26. The Water Child

Tremendous pain and suffering can give birth to life and beauty. For reasons I am just beginning to understand, pain and suffering in this world are catalysts for creation, especially for creating beautiful things. In the mud, in the devastation, in the dark, we crave something with beauty and hope and light. And we will do anything we can to hold on to it. This is the unmistakable power of art. This is the tool in the Creator’s hands, which he has lovingly put into our hands. May we always have the strength and wisdom and love to use it. …

25. Finding Hope in Hard Things

During the month of March on this podcast, we’ve been telling story after story from March 11 and the terrible earthquake that struck Japan 10 years ago. The trauma that people experienced will impact them their whole lives. So many were lost, and there is nothing we can do to bring them back. Some things in this world can never be fixed. So, what do we do with that? Do we just despair? If we don’t make a conscious effort to do otherwise, this trauma will not only ruin our lives but the lives of everyone around us as well, and I’ve seen that time and time again here in Japan. …

24. The Cathedral

Japan is no stranger to devastated cities. As I traveled giving concerts through city after city ravaged by the 2011 tsunami in Japan, my thoughts eventually turned to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. No other city in the history of the world quite compares with their destruction. …

23. Our 3/11 Story

For the past couple of months, I’ve been sharing stories of my experiences after the 2011 earthquake in Japan. For this episode, I want to go back to the very beginning. I want to start with Day 1, the day the day the earthquake hit and how we got involved in the relief movement. I hope you’ll find it useful as we all think about how God may use us, all of us, especially as artists, in the tragedies and traumas of the lives of everyone around us. …

21. Be Still and Know

What’s that noise? Where am I? Heavy creaking in the ceiling above my head jolted my sleep-numbed mind into consciousness, as my eyes flew open to darkness. Nigero! Okiizo! “Everybody out! This is a big one!” someone behind me yelled. That was all it took. I blindly fumbled for my flashlight, always kept near my head for emergencies like this, and then grabbed my jacket. The floor moved chaotically, making it hard to keep my balance. But somehow I reached the door frame, grabbed it, and pushed my way outside. …

20. Fragments of Hope

After the 2011 earthquake in Japan, Christians started art organizations to provide jobs and build community, and, just as important, to bring beauty back into a shattered world. They made jewelry, decorations, bags, and clothes. In the city of Ishinomaki, a small group of women made jewelry out of broken shards of dishes and teacups found in the rubble. They called themselves Nozomi Project, or literally, Project of Hope. The people at Nozomi pick up the pieces of their lives by making beautiful art, one necklace, earring, and bracelet at a time. …

19. The Bike

On March 11, 2011, the world changed. Like the old photographs I occasionally found scattered amongst the debris, all the color was gone. Gray mud from the ocean floor coated everything, and gray dust constantly blew through the air turning our white masks black. Even the sun remained hidden behind the dull clouds, refusing to penetrate our colorless purgatory. …

18. Go Away!

“Go away! Leave us alone!” the voice thundered. “Too . . . many . . . volunteers!” We had just entered the high school gymnasium of a temporary shelter in the city of Iwaki. I turned to see a young man sitting on a cardboard box. He appeared to be slightly handicapped, with one leg shorter than the other. But it was his face, full of rage, that I noticed most. Time after time, strangers barged into this man’s “room.” In that brightly lit flourescence, he had no privacy, and he was obviously sick of it. Startled by the greeting, but not sure what to do, I followed the volunteers walking in front of me and placed the box I was holding with the others. The volunteer team proceeded to lay out big blue tarps, line up chairs, and set up buckets of freshly drawn hot spring water, still warm to the touch. …

17. Whispering to the Wind

As I walked through a garden on a hill overlooking the town of Otsuchi, Japan, birds flew overhead and the wind blew in gently from the sea. Leaves rustled on the trees, and the sweet aroma of flowers wafted through the air. I looked down to see goldfish swimming in a pond, and at the top of the hill I found a white glass-paneled phone booth. …

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