TOHOKU, Japan (BP) -- Everything changed on March 11 for Eiko Tanno. It was the day a 9.0 magnitude earthquake hit the northeastern coast of Japan -- the day she lost hope.
Tanno was working in her home office when the ground started shaking and shimmying. She ran outside and huddled with her neighbors.
Then came the tsunami warning.
"The day the yellow shirts came to my neighborhood, my life changed and I felt hope again."
-- Japan quake survivor
They rushed to higher ground and watched as powerful walls of water took out entire neighborhoods and anyone in its path. Some houses dislodged from their foundation and floated away. Others simply splintered into scraps from the force of the waves. Tanno's house, however, remained intact. The water overtook the first floor but didn't climb higher.
"The tsunami took away my livelihood," the middle-aged Tanno says seven months after Japan's historic triple disaster that included an earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis. "My business was downstairs, and it was ruined. My house was not totally destroyed so I was not given access to temporary housing. I didn't know what I was going to do."
For months, Tanno traipsed through the mud and toxins in her home. She climbed the stairs to a bedroom where she and her family had begun living and working. She always closed the door, trying to shut out the constant reminder of her fate. No matter what she did, though, she couldn't escape the rotten smell of dead fish or the piles of rubble outside her windows.
It was a depressing living situation until a group of strangers knocked on her door.
"The day the yellow shirts came to my neighborhood, my life changed and I felt hope again," Tanno says, pointing to a group of workers wearing yellow shirts, hats and vests. Month by month, the yellow shirts slowly help transform her neighborhood.
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams, known in this part of Japan by the yellow clothing they wear, cleaned out the mud and toxins caked over Tanno's bottom floor as well as every house left standing on her block. A few weeks later, another team pulled out rotten boards.
Today's team -- "yellow shirts" from Missouri -- installs insulation and hammers in flooring. They laugh and tease as they work. They stop to bow in respect to neighbors coming in to inspect the progress and soon have their new Japanese friends laughing.
David Price of Calvary Baptist Church in Neosho, Mo., marvels over the fact that disaster relief teams from different states have come to Japan during the past six months ... Read More