Answering Complications with Compassion for Fishermen in Japan
Isolation can create unforeseen complications.
In a well-known biblical account, Jesus and his disciples withdrew to an isolated area, but were followed by crowds who sought healing and teaching. The disciples urged Jesus to send the people away because it was late and there was no food to be found in that remote spot for so many.
But Jesus put the responsibility to address the need for provisions directly upon his disciples, saying, “You give them something to eat.”
The disciples found only five loaves of bread and two fish. Jesus blessed the food, and with this small inventory, fed a multitude of 5,000. The complication was solved by action and Gods’ blessings.
This is something The Salvation Army World Service Office (SAWSO), its partners and supporters strive to do daily – to deliver in greatest measure what we can, with what we have, to those in greatest need. To remove the complications that hinder the rebuilding of hope.
For example, in the isolated Japanese city of Kesennuma, commercial fishing and related industries account for 85 percent of jobs. In 2011, a tsunami destroyed large sections of the city, including the port, and took a huge toll on the livelihoods – and hope—of local fishermen. In the widespread destruction in Japan at that time, the small community had a difficult time making its voice, and its needs, heard.
The Salvation Army Japan Territory became the first non-governmental organization to directly assist members of the local fisherman’s union to identify their priorities for recovery. The prime concerns included planning productive use of the remaining fishing boats and preparing for impending harvests of oysters and wakame, a seaweed that is a Japanese staple and a large source of income to the union.
Supported by the Salvation Army World Service Office (SAWSO), The Salvation Army provided ten sets of the diving tools necessary to complete this work to replace the fishermen’s equipment that had been washed away by the storm.
The union also needed a place to process their marine harvest prior to shipping. To this end, The Salvation Army provided temporary tents as operating centers in 15 port locations. These structures are already being used for the processing wakame and other marine products.
In addition, The Salvation Army replaced four 2-ton trucks used to carry the products such as wakame, konbu seaweed, oysters and scallops from the pier to processing stations to market. The trucks also carry tools and machines to help rebuild and organize fishing nets and farms.
A representative from the Kesennuma Fishermen’s Union summarized the importance of the help they received saying, “We called on The Salvation Army because very few people were able to help us. The Salvation Army listened to our need for trucks, diving equipment and tents. We use the equipment donated by The Salvation Army every day to harvest oysters, wakame and other seafood. The union members are so grateful because it allowed us to go back to work. Due to the support of The Salvation Army we have now recovered almost ninety-percent of the wakame harvest income we had before the tsunami.”
Through this experience, we learned that delivering life-sustaining supplies may be complicated at times. Delivering the life-sustaining blessings of God’s love and mercy is not.
Lieutenant Colonel Joan Canning is the Executive Director of The Salvation Army World Service Office (SAWSO). SAWSO’s vision is to “create a world where people live in safe and sustainable communities in which differences are respected, basic needs are met, and all enjoy opportunities to learn, work, and worship in freedom.” Learn more at www.SAWSO.org.