By Michelle de Carion, Samaritan’s Purse staff writer
It was a hot day in August when I first saw Araki Hideo working outside with a saw in his hands at a house in Kesennuma, Japan.
He was wearing a Samaritan’s Purse T-shirt and had a blue bandanna around his neck. I watched as he carefully measured the piece of wood in front of him and cut it into pieces. Sweat poured down his face while he moved quickly around the other volunteers to get his job done. He had a noticeable fervency of spirit and intense focus in every task he attempted.
Six months later I saw him again. A cloud of chilled breath escaped his mouth as he worked the saw in 20-degree weather. He would set it down occasionally to rub his hands together for warmth since there was no heater in the house that had been stripped bare by the tsunami waves on March 11, 21011.
This time, I got to talk to him about why he was helping rebuild homes with Samaritan’s Purse.
He said his 18-year-old daughter wanted to help victims of the disaster. She started volunteering with Samaritan’s Purse last July, working out of the Summita base. Eventually, Hideo was curious about what was going on and went with her. When he saw everyone working so hard to help others, he decided to join the team.
“The Samaritan’s Purse volunteers are totally different from the Japanese people,” Hideo said. “They are very warm.”
Like many of our staff, Hideo started out as a volunteer and just didn’t want to stop. He was hired as one of our carpenters.
“I was overwhelmed by Samaritan’s Purse,” he said. “Samaritan’s Purse volunteers came from all over the world to help people they don’t even know. That’s why I wanted to help, so that I could do the work with them.”
Team leader Koji Nakano knew that Hideo drank alcohol a lot. Nakano started doing prayer walks around Hideo’s home, every day, asking God to change his heart and life.
“I had no idea he was walking around my house praying, but then all of a sudden one day alcohol didn’t taste good to me at all anymore,” Hideo said. “It tasted awful. I was talking about it to Nakano-San, and he said, ‘That’s because I’ve been walking around praying for you all this time.’ So that was the first time I knew someone was praying for me.
“Before I didn’t believe in anything, but after this experience, I started to believe in God. Nakano-San said to me, ‘God is telling you to stop drinking,’ so I started to think there is a God, and I became aware of his power.”
Over time, Hideo noticed that his attitude was also changing.
“I’m not as short-tempered as I used to be,” he said. “Before I would just be angry for no reason. I think God is working in me and that God is causing the change.”
Hideo says that he believes in Jesus but still has many questions about Him. When his mother died, he prayed to Buddha to help him. But since he started working with Samaritan’s Purse, he has not been in his shrine room. He is attending Kesennuma First Bible Baptist Church with our staff and volunteers, who can tell him more about the love of the Savior.
For now, his plans are to continue rebuilding homes in Kesennuma to help the people of his community.
“I’ve never done anything good like this before,” he said. “Now I want to help other people little by little as much as I can.”