Sunday’s Message for August 8, 2021 – Live in Love

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I was torn on how to convey the message that is given to us in the scripture I read from Ephesians.  After all, being kind to one another, forgiving one another, putting away all bitterness, wrath, and anger should just come naturally to us shouldn’t it?  One would think so but does it? 

It is quite easy to be angry back at a person who is unpleasant, unkind, cranky, and short-tempered.  After all, they were the ones that were angry first, right?  But is that the way we should be?  In the children’s message written by Lois Parker Edstrom; she says that our first reaction might be to be angry back at that person that has the attitude and is unkind to you.  But one should stop and think before we respond.  She shares this quote from the philosopher Philo; “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”  We don’t know what hardships and troubles others have.  We don’t know of their illnesses and hurts and problems.  The scripture from Ephesians states that we should be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.

I am sorry to say but lately it seems that kindness and forgiveness have been forgotten.  People just seem to be out of sorts, angry at each other and the world in general.  You are more likely to hear negative comments about just about anything long before you hear a positive comment.  Granted we have been through a tough time and it isn’t over yet.  Everything that has happened related to the pandemic and our country has turned us into people who don’t look for the best in others most of the time. 

George and I have been watching the Olympics most evenings.  It is good to see the athletes compete; they are all so talented in whatever sport they are participating in.  I have seen runners who fell down at the same time because one tripped up the other, get up and finish the race together rather than get angry with each other.  I have seen losers from one country go over and congratulate winners from a different country.  Overall, the sportsmanship has been phenomenal.  We could learn a lot from these athletes that have been competing against each other.

The other night during the Olympics, there was a story presented to use up some empty time.  It was the most moving story I have seen for a long time.  It was the story of two towns, one in Japan and one in California.  I would like to read that story to you.  As you listen, think about kindness, think about forgiveness, think about what happened to these towns and how they took tragedy and made it into so much more.  

In April of 2013, a mysterious boat washed ashore in Crescent City. Having drifted upside down, the inside of the boat was engulfed in barnacles. Experts were called to examine the dingy and determined it was tsunami debris. They also discovered some Japanese characters after removing some of the barnacles. The characters read Takata High School. A quick search showed the high school was located in Rikuzentakata, a town that was all but leveled by a tsunami two years prior.

For being so far apart, Rikuzentakata and Crescent City have a lot in common. Coastal communities along the Pacific, they have vibrant fishing industries and thousands of towering trees. Rikuzentakata was known for a mile of shoreline thick with more than 70,000 pine trees. A 9.0-magnitude earthquake on March 11, 2011 created a tsunami that destroyed those trees, along with the entire community. These two Pacific communities now share a tsunami disaster within their histories.

In 1964, it was a 9.2-magnitude earthquake from Alaska that sent a 21-foot wave crashing over Crescent City’s downtown. More than 280 buildings and homes were destroyed and 11 lives were lost. Most of the downtown area had to be rebuilt after the tsunami, earning Crescent City the nickname Comeback Town, USA.

The Rikuzentakata tsunami took the lives of nearly 2,000 people, including 22 Takata High School students. Somehow, this little boat survived tragedy to float the Pacific for years before finding its way to America. Students at Del Norte County High School were drawn to help. They began restoring the boat. They found the boat had a name, Kamome, which means seagull in Japanese. Others made national and international phone calls to see if they could return the boat to the students of Takata High School.

Kamome was part of the high school’s maritime science class, giving Takata students a hands-on appreciation for the ocean. The boat had been just one of the many losses the community had to rebuild. But in such a difficult time, Takata High School received a call that students across the ocean wanted to help. Crescent City was inspired not only by Kamome’s travels, but the strength of Rikuzentakata. Del Norte County students and staff, as well as Crescent City officials, worked tirelessly to establish how to return the boat. The two communities collaborated, along with U.S. and Japanese embassies, to return Kamome.

In September of 2013, Kamome boarded a ship for Japan and in just under a week, found its way back to Takata High School. This exchange formed a bond between Rikuzentakata and Crescent City. Takata and Del Norte County High Schools became Sister Schools in 2014 and students from each school have traveled to visit the other. The students share their cultures during these visits, exploring language, cooking food and experiencing traditions.

The students at Del Norte County High School demonstrated that a simple gesture can make our big world seem smaller and friendlier. And that kindness from a stranger goes a long way. Takata High School students and the Rikuzentakata community have shown true resilience, rebuilding their lives after tragedy. These two unlikely places have built a strong connection that is strengthened by every visit and cultural exchange. And it is all because of one little boat’s voyage across a vast ocean.

Officials from both communities continue to build the relationship, resulting in the mutual signing of a Sister City Agreement. The story continues to develop as relationships grow and strengthen. The California State Senate and California State Assembly both recognized the Sister City relationship in open session in January of 2019. Mayor Futoshi Toba of Rikuzentakata, who lost his wife in the tsunami, stated that this relationship has given him hope for the future of his community, and especially his children.

Travel opens your eyes to new worlds and new ways. It is an opportunity to recharge, and sometimes, to heal. Travel builds connections to places and people you never expect. A tiny boat from Japan showed Crescent City just that.

That is the story of the boat Kamome; who brought two towns in two different countries together. 

A couple of highlights from the show were that one of the pine trees in that large grove in Rikuzentakata survived the tsunami and is a shrine to the people of their town.  The boat Kamome is now in display in the town.  One of the Japanese students that visited Crescent City was telling the students of Del Norte County High School that she lost her grandmother, her parents, an aunt, and a sibling in the tsunami and that the bond she has with the students in Crescent City is helping her heal.  The townspeople of Crescent City took a redwood sapling to the townspeople of Rikuzentakata to plant.

A comment from someone who saw the show during the Olympics had a good way of conveying the meaning of these communities who have bonded. I quote.

“This is such a wonderful story of hope not just for everyone in these two cities, but for society at large as well. We cannot let the fear and hatred that many politicians have of other countries and different societies. We are one species and the sooner we realize this and start realizing that if we really want to move forward we should be doing it together and not despite each other. This, I believe is what makes the Olympics so special. While there is a competitive spirit to see who the best is on that day, there is also so much respect for fellow athletes regardless of where they are from and this is pure magic! There is nothing like watching someone who just won a gold medal, sincerely congratulate everyone else who participated because they know and understand that everyone there, even the person who came in last worked their ass off to get there and that deserves a ton of respect.

Thank you to everyone who was involved and for the people that wrote and produced this story. It moved me to tears and gave me hope for the future. Our future together, with respect for each other. We are on the verge of starting to see what the scientists have been telling us for years and the only way that we will truly make it through the future, is together, not apart. Thank you again! I’m looking forward to hearing more stories like this in the future.”

That puts it so well.  Our future together, with respect for each other.  Isn’t that what God wants from each one of us is to have respect for each other and for us to have a future together?

Amen.

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