The Establishing of Touhoku HELP and Father Lachapelle
Touhoku HELP’s movement quickened from the death of one Catholic Priest. The incident occurred exactly a year ago. Wake Ceremony (the eve of funeral) was held at Sendai Motoderakoji Church on March 15th 2011. This funeral was of Andre Lachapelle.
The crematorium had just started operating around this time, and those who were lucky to be identified, was cremated in order. One of them was Father Lachapelle.
Father Lachapelle was found dead on the road side of Shiogama, on the morning of March 12th.
Miraculously, he had a passport in his chest pocket, and he was positively identified. Father Lachapelle had been a manager of Sendai Christian Alliance. So on his funeral on March 15th, there were two persons, a Representative of Sendai Christian Alliance, and a person in charge of general affairs among the 250 people who were present there to express condolence. These two men met at the seat of Wake Ceremony, and after exchanging information, they shared one idea. This idea developed into “Sendai Christian Alliance Disaster Relief Network (Touhoku HELP)”. This relief network was established on the night of March 18th.
A year has passed since.
We have called out to each other “A year has passed since” all over Japan. But in truth, I yet do not yet know how much meaning there is of “A year has passed since” in the disaster afflicted area.
Nothing has been completed. No, perhaps, or in fact nothing has been started.
But still a year has already passed. A year has passed till today since the Wake Ceremony of Father Lachapelle. A year has passed since the idea for “Touhoku HELP” came up.
Bearing up of misfortune of those that passed away, and to look intently on the things left from their lives, are the things that are ought to be done on commemoration day. In doing so, we realize the residue aroma of the life of the deceased, in their footprints. With these things in mind, I here now introduce one sermon.
This sermon was preached by Saigusa (an executive board member of Touhoku HELP), on a New Year Oneness Prayer Meeting. This serves as a sermon which commemorates Father Lachapelle. Remembering the meaning of what commemoration is, I write down the sermon below.
(March 15th 2012 written by Naoya Kawakami )
2012 Christian Oneness Week of Prayer
Oneness Prayer Meeting
Bible: Habakkuk 3:17~19
Sermon: Chihiro Saigusa (The United Church of Christ in Japan, Rikuzen Furukawa Church Associate Pastor)
Andre Lachapelle headed toward Shiogama from Catholic Motoderakoji Church, which is right where we are now, on that day March 11th 2011. He was very ill.
Therefore, many objected of his behavior which seemed reckless.
But even then, Father Lashapelle headed to Shiogama.
The city road was congested after the earthquake.
People were heading for their homes, their families, and toward somewhere safe.
But Lachapelle, headed toward Shiogama which was being assailed by Tsunami, leaving a safe place behind him.
What was it that lead Father Lachapelle toward Shiogama?
Father Lachapelle left a word saying, “The believers might come to church in order to seek shelter”
The reason he headed for Shiogama, was to save his sheep.
He headed toward his own sheep, entrusted to him by Christ his Lord.
And on his ground, his spirit was called up to heaven by God.
He died, as to nestle close with the great number of victims of the earthquake.
He was a man, who to the end was faithful to the command of the Lord who said, “Take care of my sheep”
Quo Vadis ――.
Since the ceremonial document of this year’ Oneness Prayer Meeting has been prepared by the churches in Poland, I would like to quote the words from a historical novel written by Polish novelist, Henryk Sienkiewicz.
Quo Vadis ――.
This is a word of Peter. (This word has its origin in the gospel of John).
In the Japanese edition, it is translated as “Lord, whither goest thou?”
This is a word when Peter found his risen Lord Jesus, heading toward Rome.
At this time, Peter in fear of persecution, was trying to flee from Rome.
But perceiving this was not His will, Peter retraces his footstep back to Rome.
Those who have met the risen Lord, change their direction.
It was the same with the women, who saw the Lord at the Lord’s tomb.
And the same happened with the disciples, who talked with the Lord on the way to Emmaus.
And those who have changed their direction start walking, carrying the gospel, and risking their lives.
What happened here in Motoderakoji was not Quo Vadis.
Father Lachapelle could have stayed here. But he started walking with his life in hand.
“Death is not the end. Death is not the result of being forsaken by God.”
Perhaps Father Lachapelle, with this gospel in hand, might have headed toward Shiogama which was being overtaken by Tsunami.
As the one following the Lord, Father Lachapelle could not desert the sheep entrusted to him by his Lord.
Father Lachapelle was “a person who was there.”
He was “just there”.
To be near at all times.
He knew the deep meaning of “staying close”.
He stayed close with his beloved students in St. Ursula Academy.
He was in the Sendai Christian Alliance.
He was in the World Food Day Committee.
He was at the devastated Shiogama.
… He wished to be “with, in, at, everywhere”.
The Sendai Christian Alliance of Ecumenical Liaison Committee, of Catholic and Protestant Churches, with one mind, mourned for Father Lachapelle’s death. And on March 18th, the flock of churches in Sendai who are in Lord Jesus Christ, as if moved by the wish of Father Lachapelle, gave birth to Disaster Relief Network Tohoku HELP through prayer.
And even now, Tohoku HELP is in the disaster stricken area through prayer, and is connecting the Christian volunteer group working in East Japan, cuddling to the heart of those stricken by disaster.
One corn of wheat, Father Lachapelle, died, and now the stalk of wheat has spread all over east Japan and is swaying like a wave.
Many thousands were engulfed by the Tsunami, and hurt by the earthquake, and are frightened by radiation. Truly, a frightful incident occurred, and it has not ended yet. Yet, we do not despair.
“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
Because, we believe in the Lord who has become the first fruit to rise from the dead, and He gives us this word.
This is the gospel brought to Shiogama by Father Lachapelle, and we Christians who are in this disaster afflicted area, have to keep on witnessing.
O God, thou art our strength.
Let us walk in the way of Thy will.
Postscript by Rev. Saigusa:
We thank the brothers and sisters in Poland, who prepared this ceremonial document for this year’ Oneness Prayer Meeting, and to our God who has given His word to them. The churches and all the brothers and sisters here in the disaster afflicted area, conducted this oneness prayer meeting, and the words that have been chosen, and also each words of prayer touched our hearts deeply, which the brothers and sisters in Poland tried to deliver it, to us who live in the disaster afflicted area.
Just as the nation of Poland survived the severe history, we in a same manner would like to keep walking, so that we may not be defeated by the harsh reality we face now, through the offering of our prayers to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.