I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
In Suceava, I did not feel the threat of the Russian invasion of neighboring Ukraine. However, people who were evacuees were in painful situation because their families are still in Ukraine.
My medical assistance this time was not directly to the civilians in the war zone of Ukraine. When I was there in August, the evacuation center was calmer than in March(pictures below), when more than 300 evacuees were pouring in daily.
People returning to Ukraine and those emigrating to other parts of Europe had almost completed their journeys. Those at the center were mostly families who wanted to continue to stay in Romania and were looking for homes and employment. Others were young men preparing to emigrate and a three-year-old boy and his parents who are waiting for heart surgery in Ukraine. The need for people's assistance was quite different from what it was right after the invasion.
Head quarter of NGO "Kairos" & staffs (Mrs. Mladita Hrihorciuc is the far left end)
Pastor Valentin and his wife Mlădiţa, representatives of the Romanian NGO Kairos, are working hard to help people with their immigration process, arrange host families for Christians, and are immersed in new relief efforts every day. A Japanese Christian organization has donated 18 million yen to Suceava, which covers the cost of housing, food, and gas for their car. The Romanian Christian organization collects and pays for the monthly expenses of the facility. If I had been here in March, I probably would have done almost exclusively medical work. It was a very different situation from the days immediately after the disaster in Japan.
I asked myself, "What is aid?" I tried to be flexible and sympathetic to support the needs of the people in the fluid situation. I hoped to bring comfort and joy to those in need.
Before leaving Suceava, I had to take the COVID test because I was required a PCR negative certificate for my return to Japan (Since September 7th, the Japanese government no longer requires a PCR-negative certificate). Some Japanese were unable to leave Japan because they tested negative for antigen but positive for PCR. Hotels refused people who were PCR positive to stay. I bought good traveler's insurance, which also covered corona infection. I didn't want to leave Suceava, so I told people, "If I tested positive for PCR, I could stay here longer and spend more time in a nice hotel." Everyone laughed. Fortunately or unfortunately, I got the PCR negative proof. Finally, the day came to say goodbye. We arrived at the small airport with Jonathan, who was serving as our driver, to drop me off.[Suceava Airport] [Volunteer Driver from US, Jonathan]
I arrived in Bucharest about an hour from Suceava. Pastor Eliezer whom Pastor Ishikawa introduced me was there to pick me up. He is tall (over 190cm) and stout. I saw him for the first time, but he was so friendly and fun. I met his wife, Dana, and 11-year-old daughter, Rachel. We planned to have lunch together until the hotel check-in at 3:00 pm. Pastor Eliezer reserved a Romanian restaurant and lunchtime was around 13:30.
When I travel, I am not a big fan of touring. I am not very knowledgeable about history, so it is hard for me to get interested in it. I was more interested in going to a music concert in the country or watching ballet or dancing, and since I like flowers, I usually strolled through a flower park. Pastor Eliezer took me on a walking tour of the old town of Bucharest. He explained to me the history of Romania, especially how the communist Soviet Union invaded and destroyed many traditional valuable buildings and took away people's precious lives and freedom. I realized how war and fighting over ideological differences made people unhappy.[This building was rebuilt after the destruction.][This is the apartment comminists made.]
On the way, I saw a poster that said there was a classical concert that night at the National Opera House and asked him to see if there were any tickets available. He immediately went into the office and asked, but unfortunately, they were all sold out. However, when we entered the reserved restaurant there was a live music ensemble of beautiful ladies. I was so happy. The meal was very delicious and we enjoyed the fellowship.[Opera House] [Ensemble at the Restaurant]
Rachel is a sweet and smart little girl. I have seven grandchildren and have not been able to see them due to the pandemic for the last three years. I felt as if I had met my grandchildren. I told her, "Do you want to stay with me for a year sometime?" She rolled her eyes and she immediately said, “I love it!”
Her mother smiled as she listened to the conversation, but Pastor said, “Oh. Megumi, it is good but first I pray about that." He was reluctant to say so. I told him, "Ha-ha~, you are worried, do you worry about her getting a Japanese bug? Yes, it was exactly what he meant. We all laughed.
While eating dessert, Pastor Eliezer's face turned a little cloudy as he started to tell me this story.
His wife Dana was diagnosed with thyroid cancer when she was seven years old due to radioactive contamination from the Chornobyl nuclear power plant accident while in Bucharest. She had surgery and is healthy now, but she should check every four months to see if it has spread to her lungs. She has to take a medication called Thyrazine every day for the rest of her life to supply her thyroid hormones.
She is a full-time nurse with day and night shifts every 12 hours and one day off every third day, which is a difficult working condition. On top of that, she is also a pastor's wife while supporting her family financially. When I asked her about her salary, it was about the same amount as 45 years ago in Japan. Compared to Western Europe, Eastern Europe is economically much more difficult.
Pastor Eliezer has a large church with 300 members and many young people. He is very active in ministry all day long. It is generally common around the world that pastors' salary is not enough. It is difficult for young pastors to support a family and educate children. As a result, no one wants to become a pastor. "Servants of God should be humble and be content with poverty.” Pastors never want to live a luxurious life at all, just enough to support their family.
Especially in Japan, church members and pastors are aging, and this phenomenon threatens the survival of the church in my country. My grandfather and father were also pastors, so I felt empathy for them, and I realized that we should take care of the pastor's families more.[The next day, their eldest daughter, Elisa, joined them for a photo shoot. She was admitted to the university's dental school this year with excellent grades.]
Back to the topic, we have a news report that you may be familiar with. "The director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Raphael Grossi, announced on August 9 that the power transmission facilities in the thermal power plant that serves as an external power source for the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine were shelled on the night of August 8, causing a power outage in the city of Enerhodar, where the plant is located. He revealed that the city of Enerhodar, where the plant is located, experienced a power outage."
As stated, if the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant were to explode, if it were the result of war, Romania, Europe, and Russian citizens would be in great danger, depending on the direction of the wind.
Pharmacies were provided with iodine for prophylaxis in time for the entire Romanian population, but everyone was swarming in and buying up all the iodine they could get, and there was no more iodine available anywhere. The nuclear power plant in Zaporizhia is much closer to Romania and is said to be 10 times more powerful than Chornobyl.
They asked me about prophylactic medicine, but I didn't have any knowledge about it, so I answered by looking it up on the Internet. His second daughter, who is 11, was to take one pill, and his oldest daughter, who is 19, was to take two pills within 24 hours of the plant's explosion. They need to take one only. No more than that and they should evacuate the area after that.
In the case of Japan, Fukushima the first nuclear power plant was contaminated by the Tsunami, but there was still confusion regarding prophylactic medication. There are still people who cannot live in their hometowns. Chornobyl's damage was level 7, the same as Fukushima, but the human health effects were six times greater.
The effects of natural disasters, man-made disasters, and wars are dangerous and far-reaching to neighboring countries, and we should not allow such disastrous events to ruin people's lives.
Once again, I am acutely aware of my lack of awareness. We have to pay more attention to the people who had been persecuted and displaced not only in Ukraine but also in Myanmar, Afghanistan, and many other countries due to war and discrimination. We should extend a helping hand to them in any way we can.
At the same time, I would like to take the initiative to support our neighbors and to make efforts to create a town where we can have warm fellowship and help each other as neighbors.
I appreciate your support so much.
I thank God for all the blessings and give glory to Him.
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the intimate communion of the Holy Spirit be upon all people on earth.