Shaken But Not Stirred

A year ago today, I had an experience that brought these scriptures to life in a way that goes beyond that of just a nice thought on a greeting card that some people might think they come across like if not being specifically applied in a context. However, for me, they are permanently associated with March 11, 2011 and the weeks and months that followed from there… Thus resulting in my frequent comments that I’m “shaken, but not stirred“.


Colossians 3:14-16New King James Version (NKJV)


14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.


Philippians 4:6-7New King James Version (NKJV)

 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.


I was kind of in low energy mode that day for some reason and with a long day ahead of me, I had decided to skip Spanish class that morning and even go to shuwa (sign language) circle a little late that day with a 2 hours English lesson coming up in the evening which a teacher should probably be alert for. I had just turned off my computer and was preparing to head out the door when the shaking started. I paused momentarily and wondered whether this was one of our “normal” quakes that I could just ignore (yes, those were normal here even before the big one, just not as frequent) or whether this would be a bigger one and I should go to one of my safer spots I’d been thinking about. The shaking continued and got stronger, so I chose the latter and went to crouch down between my couch and my kotatsu table.

I put the tower part of my computer on its side so it couldn’t fall over and laid my computer screen flat on my kotatsu table. Then the shaking got more intense and I could hear things moving around in my kitchen. I prayed about whether I should stay put or go outside and if my building would be ok and felt I should stay where I was, so I did. I paused to take note of whether the shaking was just back and forth or a bit of up and down as well and there was no up and down, so I figured it may be ok and just stayed there a while and prayed for others in my building, neighbourhood and city (and Japan in general) as things continued shaking. Interestingly, no one is recorded as dying in that initial big one in Ushiku and the only person who died in the neighbouring city of Ryugasaki apparently fell and hit his head while running to what he perceived was safety.

One of my best friends, Jolene, managed to reach me by phone after trying multiple times and asked how far I was from the water. I think she was relieved to know I was pretty far inland since there was a major tsunami warning. She was kind enough to email my dad and tell him I was okay and I later called her back to ask if she could post on my facebook wall that she’d talked to me and I was okay thus far since I didn’t know what the power situation would be like and when I’d go online and update things myself.

Pastor Dave from North Doug (my main sending church which is also where my parents attend) called me on my landline to check on things and was glad to know I was okay and then agreed to call my parents in the morning to let them know I was okay.

I then wound up talking with my friend Dawn down in Shikoku via landline for a while too (yahooBB to yahooBB is a free call) and during that conversation noticed my fridge was a few inches further out from the wall than it was supposed to be. Thus, I decided at some time between aftershocks, perhaps I should take my microwave off the top of the fridge and place it on the floor where it would have nothing to fall off of. I still keep the microwave on the floor in case we have another big one. I know some people who lost their microwaves in the quake as a result of them falling off of things.

I eventually remembered I still had Lonnie’s really old Toshiba laptop sitting around, so slow as it was, I plugged it in and turned it on so I wouldn’t have to worry so much if the power went out because I could still turn it off properly. Then I could go online and update my status on facebook personally for anyone who might be worried (and saw people were relieved to see Jolene’s post about me being okay) and then skype message with my parents (that machine couldn’t handle calls; it was a ’95 that had been upgraded to Windows ’98) when a friend of the family called them franticly at 3:00am asking if I was okay. Apparently she couldn’t wait another hr. and a half until they’d be getting up anyway to do papers. Thus, I was able to make it clear up that regardless of what Dad had made of the map he looked at, I was not THAT close to Sendai (and had never even been to Sendai at that time).


     That was just the beginning. The next day I went out walking and wandered around, managing to find Yamaya open so I could buy some food there.  There was another nearby grocery store that was only setting up a bunch of bins OUTSIDE the store and rationing non-perishables to people in a long line-up. I saw nothing worth bothering with there, so I just wandered some more and talked with people in line to see how they were and let them know there was also another store they could get other stuff at so that they could have supplies from both places. Most of the damage from the quake here in Ushiku was just cracks in walls, fallen roof tiles and things that fell over inside people’s houses. Aside from that, my neighborhood was still standing and I was very thankful that despite the lack of consideration in the warmth department, those engineering the design for Japanese houses have done a good job with earthquake resistance. It was probably over a six here and in some countries, the houses would be flattened by that and there would be many deaths. Even without a tsunami and with a smaller quake than the 9 we got up in Sendai, Haiti had more casualties in a smaller space than Japan did as far as deaths went. The stores were all out of bottled water, so I was very thankful that the well my building uses was still running. However, the city water was off for a few days, so some of my neighbors had that to deal with as well.

As I was wandering by some neighbourhood houses later that afternoon, I saw an older lady picking up roof tiles outside her house and asked if I could help. She figured she could do that herself, so I asked how other things were and she said she didn’t have water. Then I knew what I COULD do. Often, God blesses us and supplies us with things that aren’t for us alone, so I was able to fill some containers in my bathroom with water and take her some. When I met her again a few months ago, she still remembered that even though we don’t really know each other. That gave me the idea to fill containers with water and take them to some others I knew in the neighbourhood. Turned out one neighbour I stopped by to check on also had a well and didn’t need my water. I don’t know if that caused her to go check on people she knew or not. I just know that I was thankful for that well water at the time because even if it’s not always the most wonderful water, at least I HAD water.

For the next few weeks, our church was using the lower floor for services as some things on the upper floor were being fixed. It was pretty wild that Sun. to see everyone who still showed up to worship God together in the midst of that. I don’t remember now if it was that week or a few weeks later that some random woman in the area showed up and some of the believers got to share Jesus with her.

I had heard about the potential for a nuclear incident and what precautions to take when going outside if that happened, so when Ishida-san (from my shuwa circle) called me on the Tuesday morning after the quake to let me know it had happened, I knew to stay indoors as much as possible and keep my windows shut. I also knew I needed to contact a friend of mine who was at the airport in Narita that day seeing some friends off to let her know it may be wise not only to not go back to northern Ibaraki right away, but that if possible, staying further south for a day or 2 while the situation was assessed may be wise and arranged for her to stay with another friend of mine near there. Thus, 2 of my friends who were previously strangers wound up becoming sudden friends and roomies for a couple weeks.

After a couple days of seclusion, I decided I couldn’t be very helpful to people if I was hibernating in my apt. all the time and could be a lot more useful in a place where I could at least go out and see people- even if it was elsewhere in Japan and most of the help would be sharing hope and such. Thus, I took a friend’s suggestion and went down to Fukui to stay with Jolene and her family and got to do things with the kids, spend time with friends and share my testimony of God’s peace in the midst of chaos at their English Cafe at the church that Friday night. However, when I first left Ushiku, I wasn’t sure how long I was going for and had to pull everything out of my fridge and take it with me so stuff wouldn’t go bad.

I wound up staying in Fukui for about a week and then went to Mie-ken to see Laura and got to meet up with Junko and her sister at Jesus Life House Osaka that Sunday. Then Monday morning, I headed back up to Ushiku to resume life and activity here with some slight adjustments to schedules of local shops and such that were now closing earlier.

Things are mostly back to normal here and in other less affected parts of Japan, but in the more affected regions, it will be a long time before life is much like anything resembling “normal” again. Could see that the times I’ve been up to the region since the disasters. Please keep these people in prayer. Their hearts are very precious, but they have endured much and many are still in need of hope, peace and healing.



By Deborah Ruth Trotter
Ibaraki, Japan
Photos by Rebecca Barnes
Hiroshima, Japan

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