In the meantime, we were becoming more and more concerned for the way these consecutive disasters were affecting the Japanese. We know this country has a mostly non-Christian population, and we felt a true heartache for all those lives lost without coming to know the Lord. We felt a deep sadness for the people suffering without knowing His comfort, and spent many hours in paryer for this difficult time to become a wake up call to all of those who needed to have a greater hope. It was very conflicting to be hurting for the people around us, and at the same time to want to depart that very place and bring your children to safety. But with each passing day, things seemed worse instead of better. We were trying not to give in to panic, but also trying to have wisdom and make the plans necessary to do what we felt we needed to do as parents. And then we woke up one day and decided that we'd had enough of the guesswork. Quite simply, there was really no reason for us to be staying put.I personally wanted to be a help in some way to the recovery efforts in Japan, but at the time that wasn't really practical. Not with five kids in the house that I was homeschooling, and trying to keep calm as well. In those initial days, there was such an outpour of volunteers that the Red Cross was turning people away, and even asking the public not to call their offices anymore. Nobody but official rescue workers were allowed in the areas affected by the tsunami. I just felt we were more in the way than an actual help. There was a huge emphasis being placed on conserving energy, and I thought maybe we could help do that best by being gone. As it stood, we felt we were sitting around waiting for a disaster to unfold. We didn't want to wait to be given the order to go, because we thought that it would be complete chaos to try to evacuate at that point. So, even though it was a huge stretch for us financially, we decided it was time for the kids and myself to take a little trip home to visit family.
With the decision finally made, it felt like someone had pushed the fast forward button. I had one day to get everything packed to take five children and myself halfway around the world for an undetermined amount of time. We had a flight leaving at 8:10 in the evening, but still opted to take the very first shuttle our base offered to the airport. We figured in the current state of things, we could not be sure that the shuttle would be running at all by the end of the day. That meant we'd have to spend 9 hours sitting in the airport, waiting for our flight. Did I mention I had five children with me???? And that one of them is THREE????
The airport in Tokyo was completely packed. But just like I've come to expect from the Japanese, everything was very calm. Lines ran smoothly, people seemed at ease, and everyone was being friendly and polite. I thought I would lose it when a strong aftershock hit at about 1 pm that afternoon, but everyone else just rolled with it. We tried to check in as soon as we arrived only to find out we had to wait another three and a half hours. We asked if there was an earlier flight we could take and she pretty much laughed at us. So we found a spot in front of Mickey D's and parked our two cart-fulls of luggage while we ate what they had left on the menu. When we finally got to check in, the lady told me that if I could PLEASE agree to switch to a flight leaving only one hour later, we would each get a $400 voucher. And I will be completely honest - my first reaction was to turn it down. After that afternoon's aftershock, I was really just wanting to leave. But good reason (and a wise husband) told me to accept the deal. So with shaky knees we sat around for an extra hour, while I tried to convince myself that nothing terrible would happen in that hour between when we WOULD'VE left and when we actually did. The original plan when we made arrangements to leave Tokyo was to fly to the West Coast to spend some time with my extended family there, and then fly on to the South where my nuclear family is. But the vouchers gave us the opportunity to add a leg to our trip, and get to visit with my in-laws in the East Coast as well.
But that also meant......5 children, THREE time zones, in THREE weeks.
Part 3 to come.....soon