On December 17th ‘Infiniti’, our band comprised of Michael and Keiko Fogarty and Masa and Cherish Rider left Chiba for a Charity Christmas Party in Minamisanriku. The 150 guests were comprised of 80% local people who had lost homes, livelihood, loved ones or all three. There were also 30 supporters from Tokyo, the musicians, and OGA staff. This was a full service Charity Concert—not only were the performers performing for free, but all musicians and staff members, chefs, and Santas were asked to pay all transport and lodging expenses so that the received donations could go for food, drinks and presents for the Minamisanriku people. Infiniti was also asked to donate all the sound equipment and technical assistance. OGA for Aid founder Erwin Ortiz had contacted Michael just a short time before to be the closing act and stage manager for the party. We were all able to shift our schedules around and hit the road for the 1100 kilometer trip.
The location for the event was the Hotel Kanyo, which is the only building that survived the tsunami because of its location high above the city, and it has in many ways become the town center as all other businesses and buildings were flattened. The hotel has given priority to volunteer groups and social workers since the March 11th disaster.
Keiko had been in contact with the hotel liaison Watanabe san for a few days prior who was very efficient over the phone. Keiko asked him if the hotel got hit by the tsunami, and he told us that there were actually seven tsunamis that came and some reached to the second floor as he watched the whole thing from the lobby on the fifth floor. We then found out that he lost his home as well, was stuck in the hotel with no way to find out about his family, and was not allowed for safety’s sake to leave for three days. He walked for four hours through the mountains to the various evacuation centers and found his wife and newborn baby in good health. He considers himself blessed to have only lost his home as he still has his job and family and in now very active in getting aid to those in need. He was so thankful for the party and extended his gratitude over and over and surprise that there was such good musical entertainment for the event as they had no budget for professional bands—and also that we had come from so far. Believe me, we felt like we gave nothing and benefited the most of all as all attendees were so happy.
For many it was the first good time event that they have had since the devastations of March 11th and many of the locals were in tears, laughter, and gratitude throughout the evening.Not only were people wined, dined, and danced but Santa showed up as well with an abundance of toys for all. A very wonderful thing as most of these folks have lost their livelihood, are living in temporary shelters, and the thought of a Christmas dinner show with gifts for all was totally unexpected.
I think the biggest present of all was love and we all got as much as we wanted since it was everywhere. There is so much hunger in the world today and many groups donate to feed the starving. But one of the things that people are starving for the most is just a little love and attention, to be heard out and understood, or in this case to be taken out to dinner party and a dance. This was truly a beautiful experience.
We would like to thank everyone at Activated Ministries for helping to make our dream come true and use our gifts for the glory of God and love by paying for all travel, hotel, and food expenses.