One Year On

This Sunday marks one year since the Great East Japan Earthquake happened. This past year has been filled with a lot of sorrow, death and sadness. But it has also been filled with love, hope, faith and humanity. I was caught up in the middle of the event as a full time missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was a traumatic experience that changed my life forever. It changed the life of millions. It changed Japan.

Serving a mission really changed me. It changed me in so many ways. A big thing during my service as a missionary was that earthquake. It gave me perspective that our mortal life is a fragile thing; but also that death is not the end. During the earthquake, I thought that my life was over. Everything was smashing and breaking, sirens were blasting and people were lost and confused. The news just got worse and worse as time went on. It was very hard for me to stay positive during the whole ordeal. All of us missionaries helped each other get through it.

There were many people we met in the street who needed help. We talked with them. They listened to us and we listened to them. We did our best to show love to our fellow man. I was amazed at how much the Japanese people care about each other. They banded together and prayed for each other. I still remember, clear as day, the many people we prayed with in the streets. I am truly moved at how much Japanese people care about each other. I had people come up to me and try to help me as a foreigner. I still get emotional today thinking about this wonderful attribute of the Japanese people.

I would like to share the words from a sister in our mission who was with us at the time of the earthquake. She remarked:

As we ran, the earthquake strengthened, preventing us from moving, and my companion and I clung to a pillar. I felt very scared at the time, but I also felt peace. For some reason, I felt okay.

That peace came to myself as well as thousands of people as the Lord comforted them. It is that peace that gave me reason to keep going when things got very difficult. One of the lowest points in my life is when I was told that I would never be able to return home to Fukushima. That is one of the times I needed that peace the most in my life. I received that peace from my Father in Heaven.

I was also blessed to be able to return to those areas affected by the earthquake and tsunami to participate in the cleanup efforts. It was a blessing to be able to talk to the people that lived there. I was moved out of an affected area and didn't stay, but these people stayed through all of the hardship. I have so much respect and love for these people. I was also blessed to return to Fukushima on my way back to Australia. It was a sacred day where I was able to reunite with many people. We all shed many tears together as we talked with each other about the experiences that we had.

But today as I struggle in coming to grips with everything that came as a consequence of this disaster. I know that I need to look forward. I need to turn to the Lord more in my life. Elder Dallin H. Oaks recently visit Japan and remarked the following:

Let us remember that the kind of tragedy you have just been through is temporary. It is a part of this world. The things that we teach ... are the things of eternity, the things that are not temporary, the things that are everlasting, those things that each of us can count on to be permanent.

ELDER DALLIN H. OAKS (February 2012)

And that is just it. The challenges that we face in life are just temporary, it doesn't mean that they are insignificant or meaningless though. But what we need to see and understand are those things of eternity, those things that surpass death and sadness. We need to see and understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Our Saviour knows us perfectly and wants us to become happy like He is. And Christ will help us, whether we know it or not. I KNOW that Jesus is REAL. He LOVES US. Isn't that wonderful?

Lastly, if you can spare the time, please watch this video. It truly is heartwarming to receive something back from Japan.