so much for my goal of updating every other day! (We have pretty limited internet access and we've also been super busy)
Well, it's been quite a week. In some ways this feels like the longest week of my life and in other ways it feels like time is flying. All my days are blurring together and I had to actually count on my fingers to see how many days we've been here! We actually arrived here a week ago today, but it feels like that was ages ago.
Day 2 of debris cleaning was really tough on me and I've since decided that I will probably not be doing that kind of work again. Maybe I'll try it again sometime, but for now, I'm just taking it slow and doing other kinds of work in the mean time. I find it hard for me to not be critical of myself, comparing myself to the other female volunteers, particularly the Japanese women. They make me feel pretty weak. But... I don't know their stories and maybe they're only here for one or two days and are able to give it their all while they can, but since we're here for a whole month, I need to be careful not to wear myself down. It also makes me feel better when the team of 8 guys (grown men) from the States share about how hard it is on them as well.
The rest of our volunteering time has been photo cleaning. We have a team of two ladies from Taiwan here since Tuesday and so it's worked out well that they wanted to do some 'lighter work' as well. Today is their last day though so they decided to go out and do some debris removal. I was given the option of taking the day off so I did. I must be honest and say it's hard not to feel guilty about staying back today, but I know it's important for me to rest when I can and make sure I'm taking care of myself in all of this.
I've really enjoyed the photo cleaning work. It's also a pretty emotional task, but in a different way. I guess it's just a better fit for me than the physical labor. We've actually done photo cleaning in two different places and the procedures/set up were as different as night and day! The first place basically we just wiped down albums and swept the dry dirt out of the pages and pretty much left them "as good as we could get them" but there was still a lot of water damage to the pictures and some of the albums even had mold growing in them. (Of course, some of the albums were so old that it could have been there before the tsunami) And the little albums we took the pictures out, wiped them with "wet wipes" and put them in new little albums. This place had tables set up and people could walk through the gym and look through the albums and claim them if they recognized them.
One of the biggest blessings happened on our first (and so far only) day there... as we were cleaning some pictures, a lady came in and asked about some pictures that were cleaned the day before (She had come in and found them so they were cleaned and dried for her) to pick them up and while she was asking Bobby about them, she looked at the very pictures he was cleaning and called her grandfather over and said "these are ours too!!"
I couldn't believe it. The chances of her finding her pictures there were slim to none, and on top of that, the chances of the owner of the pictures we were cleaning finding and claiming those ones were even slimmer. But, God knew that I (perhaps I could say we!) needed that to keep us going. This lady and a few of her family members were looking through the gym for about 2 or 3 hours and actually ended up finding a great deal of albums. It was incredible to witness.
The other place we have been cleaning at has a whole different system. We don't get to see the people claiming them because we're not sure where they go when we finish cleaning them. They label all of the albums and each picture is carefully labeled as it's being washed. They also take before and after pictures of some (not sure how they decide which ones) and scan them and do touch ups and repairs to make them look like new again.
It was neat that it was our first day that we experienced the reclaiming because it makes the jobs we've been doing since them seem a lot less tedious. It's hard to think about the amount of effort you out into this without knowing if they will ever be claimed again, but because we met this one family, it keeps me going. Unfortunately there's just piles and piles of loose pictures that will probably never be claimed, but I know that this too is a special ministry and I need to put my whole heart into it.
Today I'm enjoying a quiet house, did some laundry, will do some reading and will help with some things around the house. Next week it looks like I'll be "kitchen manager" which I am looking forward to... except I'll need some meal ideas for big groups... there will be about 30 people here within the next week I think so it'll be quite a task! We don't really have an oven and only have 2 burners so this could be fun! :)
I should get going. Thanks again for praying for us. We can't say it enough how good it is to be prayed for. Until next time...