Uniformed school students clearly aware of our western ways form a line beside ours waiting to board the next train out of Tokyo.
I step into car seven of a speed train marked “Yamabiko 65,” quickly find a place to tuck my luggage and meander to my home for the next 3 hours. As the bullet train winds through the urban jungle at 200 mph I begin to speculate about the massive population growth that has taken place since my Grandparents lived here in the early 1950’s.
Skyscrapers fade to homes, to rice paddies, to mountain ranges, to industry in Koriyama where half of our team offloads to volunteer at local schools, and a community outreach. I pass the time between scenery changes by reading letters that my Grandparents, Max and Marjorie Inman sent back to the States while they lived in Japan. Engrossed in history and legacy I discover a nugget, a letter about a trip they took by train to Sendai. I realize I’m reading as if they are still here in what is now Hokuto, Japan, writing to me perhaps by email. I’m here to write about Convoy of Hope’s work, they were here to do something worth writing about. To help people in need and bring people hope after WWII.
Sitting next to me on the train are Ron Showers our senior director of community enrichment, Michael Redmon, vice president of global initiatives and David Speer who directs international community outreaches. Combined they’ve overseen outreaches and relief efforts that through the years have brought help and hope to millions of people. Several of those community outreaches have taken place here in Japan since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
Together we press on to Sendai, then Ishinomaki , then Akai where we’ll interview tsunami survivors we’ve helped, followed by Higashimatsushima where we’ve also brought relief and finally back to Koriyama where Convoy of Hope will hold another community outreach.
Taking in awesome sites and Max Inman’s letters at 200 mph I realize that we’re minutes from Sendai.
Will I report about people whose ancestors my Grandpa helped? Will I work alongside humanitarian volunteers who’s love for people is somehow connected to his work? I probably won’t know.
I close out of the letters, pocket my dying phone and step off the train into Sendai Station. Looking back to bid the “Yamabiko 65” a farewell of sorts I recall a conversation I overheard boarding the train 3 hours prior. “Yamabiko,” I heard one of our interpreters say to another team member, “means echo.” Did Max know his heart would still be heard echoing from a train to Sendai nearly 65 years later? No, probably not, but he followed it anyway.
Written on an iPhone aboard a train from Tokyo to Sendai on April 17, 2013 at 4:17 PM