While this part of the world is bracing itself against one natural calamity after another, it is quite alarming that in such a short span of time there have been 4 tropical cyclones and 2 earthquakes with accompanying tsunamis.
It reminded me of my own experiences in Japan 2 years ago, also around this time. It was summer of 2007 when I first arrived in Tokyo. I had just sent my parents off when I was looking for a place to stay, and was hit by the typhoon at that time. I was soaked, my umbrella mangled by the winds, and almost everything got wet, including my Masters certificate.
Just a couple of months before that, Niigata was hit by an earthquake, measuring 6.9 on the Richter scale. It felt like forever when everything around us started shaking. There was some damage to the nearby Kashiwazaki nuclear plant, but that did not directly affect us.
Since then, I have encountered many more smaller earthquakes, mostly tremors in Tokyo. I've gotten quite used to it, to the point that actually it's quite "enjoyable" to feel the sway. I've always prayed that the big one won't hit us, as it has been predicted that a major one should have hit Tokyo many years ago.
Which brings me to this story which I've been meaning to share, but never quite knew how.
When I came back from Malaysia after Christmas last year, I didn't feel quite right. Like something was going to happen. I couldn't put a finger to it, so decided to pray about it.
Not wanting to think too much about it, I went back to life as usual, working in Tokyo and commuting with the rest of the salaryman on the trains. One day as I observed the commuters, I wondered if they would ever realise there's more to life than just work. I could see the depression in their eyes.
But God spoke to me, to pray for them instead. As I began to pray, I saw a vision of an earthquake. It was the aftermath of a great earthquake. Almost everything was destroyed, buildings reduced to pieces of wood, chunks of concrete lay all around.
There was darkness everywhere as electricity supply had been cut off. People were devastated, some were just coming out of the ruins realising what had just happened.
In the middle of that chaos, my house was still standing, as if nothing had happened. In fact, it was the only place with lights. People were coming to my house for refuge and safety. It was like a lighthouse in the midst of the darkness.
I wondered if God was trying to tell me that the big earthquake was about to happen. I couldn't see if it was Tokyo, or when it would happen. I just prayed that if it did happen, they would come to know Jesus.
After that vision, I began to get more anxious, as if something was really going to happen. I tried to pray against it, hoping that it wouldn't. However, it persisted and I knew something big would happen, and it could go either way.
Not long after that, I had another vision. This time it was of a tsunami. It was the Christmas 2004 tsunami that was triggered by the earthquake in Indonesia, so disastrous that it affected 11 countries in this region, claiming hundreds of thousands of lives. I remember reading with amazement that a lady had survived by climbing up a coconut tree.
God was telling me that if I cling on to the coconut tree like she had, I would be saved, even though the waves would come crashing and try to pull me away from my only hope of survival.
I wondered then if the tsunami was related to the earthquake vision that I had earlier. Japan is no stranger to both natural disasters, but to have both together would be incredibly unusual.
Little did I know that God was preparing me for my own earthquake when the news came from management at work. Being a foreigner working in Japan in my company presented its own problems as we were not tied to the national insurance system, much like America's social security system. That meant I was not eligible to claim for unemployment benefits and if I had gotten ill, I would have to fork out my own $ for expenses.
Even though I still had a valid working visa, it was not advisable to remain too long without a proper job that was tied to the status of the visa. Plus I had to be extra careful not to fall sick and get myself into unnecessary trouble.
It would have been much easier to just leave, considering the con's of staying on. But I trusted in God, and believed that He would see me through.
Zadli mentioned that he was very surprised to see me being cheerful despite what had happened. In the past few months, a lot of foreigners have left Japan due to the situation there. The economy is picking up, but on the job front it's still rather shaky, from what I hear.
Even if I had wanted to feel depressed about it, I couldn't because I actually felt a deep sense of peace within me. Many other things happened along the way which further confirmed both visions, and even though it looked like I was on the losing end, I gained many other things which I wouldn't have had otherwise.
I learnt who my true friends were, especially those who supported me in many ways even though they didn't have to. I have learnt that nothing else actually matters because when everything that we have is stripped off, we see who we really are and what is most important to us.
It really felt surreal living like that in the world's most expensive city, and yet I felt very grateful for each day. For having another day to thank Him for unexpected blessings, and another day to enjoy Tokyo. Honestly, I wouldn't have minded living on like that because that was actually one of the best times of my life.