I was very grateful to have time on the shinkansen, Japanese bullet train, to reflect on the day’s events. On Saturday was the big music and arts festival everyone in Tokyo and Ishinomaki has been working towards for many months. Gospel music is very popular in Japan and there are many gospel choirs all over Japan connected with the churches. The Grace City Tokyo Gospel Choir drove up and the students with Liberty Music Program sang as well as the new Ishinomaki Gospel Choir. They even had a guest singer, John Lucus, who tours all over Japan. He was amazing and the Japanese LOVED him. Especially the little, old ladies. There was a set with the MTW interns performing praise songs and then a set with these two awesome older Japanese men. I actually grabbed one of the Canadian short-term team members for a quick swing dance. We both had massive cameras and so we just twirled around which had one Japanese man in stitches with laughter. I didn’t think we were half bad considering the circumstances.
The festival was held at Saint Jaun Baustista Park. It is so named because a ship of Portuguese missionaries and tradesmen were asked to come to Japan over 400 years ago when there was another massive tsunami that rocked the region. And in memorial to that, there’s a large Portuguese galleon in on of the port along the ocean with a park built up around it. Thus, our setting was beautiful with mountains on one side and the ocean on the other. The music must have carried for miles. Along with all the music, there were booths with people from the affected community. My favorite is the Nozomi Project. They collect the broken ceramic material from the tsunami, clean and cut the them into pendants, and make lovely necklaces. They’re motto is to create beauty from brokenness. I love that.
The finale with all the different gospel choirs joining together and singing “O Happy Day” together….I can barely articulate how full my heart was. The sun was shining and the breeze was blowing in from the sea. I saw middle school students with the Liberty Music Program walk into the festival nervous and huddled together. By the finale, they were laughing, singing, waving their hands and completely changed. You could see the joy in their eyes. Ishinomaki Christian Center and Liberty Music tell the community that their goal is to get kids to dream again. But I think it goes beyond the youth of Tohoku. Everyone was on their feet and clapping, singing, and laughing. And I like to think that in that moment, they could push aside the painful past and embrace the hope of a brighter future, full of music, beauty, and dreams.
This was the last major performance of the trip aside from church the next morning. The majority of the Juilliard team leaves this Monday while I and 3 others stay behind for an extra week to work the Tokyo Arts Conference happening in a few days. I’m going to miss everyone. I wasn’t sure I’d fit in with the team from Juilliard. Honestly, I was expecting some diva, but everyone was so humble and grateful to God for the talents and opportunities provided to them. They have all become very dear to me and I can’t wait to go visit them in New York someday.
By now, Ishinomaki is hundreds of miles away and yet, it will always be close to my heart. God is moving there.