Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A Minnesotan, safe in Japan, for now March 12, 2011

EVER SINCE I HEARD yesterday of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, I’ve prayed for the people of Japan and specifically for a young Minnesota woman living there.

I’ve known Haidee, a Christian outreach worker and English teacher there, since she was born in 1986. She grew up with my oldest daughter, came to my house for birthday parties. She’s the second eldest of my pastor’s children—strong, confident and on fire for the Lord.

So this morning, rather than call her parents lest they give me bad news, I phoned a friend to inquire about Haidee. Thankfully, in answer to my ongoing prayers, my friend shared that, for now, Haidee and her roommate are safe.

You can read about Haidee’s experience by clicking here.

Unfortunately, this native Minnesotan’s home of Fukushima, Japan, is also the site of a nuclear plant. An online news report I just read states that tens of thousands are being evacuated from the area because of the threat of a nuclear meltdown.

I cannot imagine living with such possibilities. But if anyone can remain strong through this epic disaster, it is Haidee with her unshakable faith.

She has managed to maintain her sense of humor. Haidee ends her Friday, March 11, 9:34 p.m. blog post with this: “And now I’m signing out…because we’re going to go walk around and look for bathrooms. People survived walking to outhouses for years, right? :)”

Photos of my 1970s Japanese pen pal, Etsuko Tamura, pasted in a photo album.

IN ADDITION TO HAIDEE, I’ve worried about Etsuko Tamura, whom I honestly have not thought about in decades.

Yesterday after I heard the news about the Japanese disaster, her name popped into my head just like that. She was my pen pal during the 1970s, when writing to someone overseas was a popular hobby for young girls. We stopped corresponding 35 – 40 years ago.

Through her letters, Etsuko showed me the world beyond rural southwestern Minnesota.

Now I am seeing her devastated world through the lens of a news camera and online from citizen-shot videos. And I wonder, all these decades later, whether she’s OK.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling