Schools start back up on Monday, May 9, following Golden Week holidays. Since most shelters are in schools, they will close at that time. Those who cannot return to their homes will be moved to other shelters, which will remain open an undetermined period of time. Earthquakes currently occur about every 2 hours, so people are still fearful. Water is running in most areas, but many water pipes broke (no wonder when you see the above picture!) contaminating the water supply for the foreseeable future. Food and water is being delivered to grocery stores but run out within hours. Gasoline is available in many areas. Quite a few older people have not been able to clean up their homes, because they are not strong enough and need help. At our four concerts this week, we passed out fliers with contact info for the Kyushu Christian Relief Center at Harvest Church, where volunteers are pouring in from around the country and around the world to meet such needs. At one shelter, we passed out mats to people who were only sleeping on a blue tarp or blanket. There are reports of the Noro virus spreading through shelters. There are reports of radioactivity coming up through cracks in the ground.
Needs are greater in rural areas but harder to get to. The Kyushu Christian Relief Center is sending out teams well over 2 hours each way to these areas with supplies and able hands to move debris. There were over 40 volunteers staying at the Relief Center (with limited running water and only two bathrooms!) but many others stayed in nearby hotels. The hotel we stayed in had running water but no drinking water in the building. There were cracks throughout the walls in our hotel room.
Pastors from all over Kumamoto gathered at the Relief Center this week for the first time since the earthquake to talk about needs in their churches and communities. I sat in for part of the meeting, hearing one pastor talk about his home being severely damaged and his family now living in a shelter. It gave me renewed vision to connect with the artists of Kumamoto, and on Tuesday and Wednesday, I was able to connect with some of them: a classical guitarist, a singer songwriter, a DJ, a pianist, and a outdoor event organizer. They are all doing volunteer work to encourage people in shelters.
Those who find themselves unhurt, with minimal damage to their homes, and supplies of food and water, feel it is their responsibility to respond in some way. A teacher was running one of shelters we visited. PTA moms were running another. Many people in Kumamoto are giving everything of themselves to care for others.
(Photographs by Riz Crescini, CRASH Japan, who we met last week.)