By Debbie Schmidt
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been testedas we are, yet without sin.”— Hebrews 4:15
John and I were living in Kobe, Japan in January, 1995 when the city was awakened by a massive earthquake. As a result of the quake, over 6,000 people died and more than 300,000 were left homeless. We were among the fortunate who could remain in our house, even though we had no running water for a month and no gas for two months.
As Lent arrived, I had a new appreciation for what incarnation looked like. In choosing to live in Japan, we had tied our own fate to the fate of our Japanese friends—along with them we experienced aftershocks, shortages, transportation issues and the host of inconveniences that come with such a disaster.
Yet our situation was also different. With one phone call to the mission board or family, we could be on our way back to the US where life was normal, business as usual. Many other missionaries and expatriates had left the country shortly after the quake and no one blamed them.
But for our Japanese friends and colleagues, there was no escape. Their homes were gone or damaged, their extended families were also suffering, and all their friends had experienced similar losses.
As I reflected on this comparison, I had a new appreciation for what it meant for Jesus to walk among us, to tie his fate inextricably with ours and to experience human suffering at its most devastating. As we in Baltimore Presbytery live through the next weeks and months, we can know that we worship a God who has walked where we are walking, suffering as we do; a God who knows what we are experiencing and who looks on us with sympathy.
That same Jesus is present with us even now; the Holy Spirit of Christ is with us, comforting, calming, and calling us into creative ways to love and serve one another.
This photo was taken outside of Takatori Catholic Church in Kobe. The church itself was turned to rubble by the quake. Only the statue remained, a sign of Jesus’s presence with us. Let it serve as a reminder to you that Jesus knows what you are experiencing and is present with you.
Let Us Pray
God of Love, Jesus, our friend, thank you that you understand our fears, our loneliness, our darkest thoughts. Walk with us in these unsettling times. Calm us with your presence. And help us to carry your peace throughout our days. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen
Debbie Ingram Schmidt served in Baltimore Presbytery as the Associate for Spiritual Leader Development. She worships at Central Presbyterian, where her husband, John is Senior Pastor. She is a mother and grandmother and enjoys reading and knitting. She and John served as PCUSA Mission Co-Workers in Japan from 1988 to 1998.