In celebration of my first devotional published in Our Daily Bread, under the title, "Nozomi Hope," Sue of the Nozomi Project shares about how their beautiful jewelry, created from broken pottery, is offering hope and rebuilding lives in Japan.
Beauty in Brokenness
By Sue Plumb Takamoto
There is beauty in brokenness.
Our family is part of a team named Be One who moved to Ishinomaki following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. We are composed of Japanese and American Christians who desire to walk with the people of Tohoku and are committed to seeing our community transformed.
The first time I came to town, I was cleaning out a park and began saving the many pieces of broken pottery left in the wake of the tsunami. I thought, "What if we could make something beautiful from this devastation?" I couldn't shake that thought.
When our family moved here from western Japan, our children began attending the local elementary school. I was new in the area and was so grateful for the help of the local moms as we tried to get our family settled. Becoming friends with these moms was the impetus to try and start something ... my new friends had lost so very much. They needed a place to gather and find hope.
In July 2012, we started bringing women together to make accessories from the broken pottery. Our children, their children, and hundreds of volunteers helped gather pottery. Several professional jewelry artists taught our staff.
When we were trying to decide on a name, one of the team members said, "I don't care what the actual name is, but somehow it needs to mean hope, because this is the only hope I've felt since the disaster." Nozomi is the Japanese word for hope. We have loved seeing the hope that has emerged in our community and as we have sent Nozomi products around the world.
There really is amazing beauty in brokenness!
Leading these strong and brave and beautiful women of Ishinomaki has been a great privilege ... more than thirty have worked with us - receiving a generous salary and benefits. We have sent out over 30,000 pieces of our jewelry - these beautiful representations of hope - to 39 countries. We love getting letters from customers who have bought or received a Nozomi item and experienced renewed hope, knowing the story of each piece. And we have each year taken a percentage of our sales and donated it to other places that have become very broken, like Nepal, and Kumamoto, Japan.
Each of the styles of jewelry at Nozomi is named by a team member in honor of a loved one. Our most popular item, hook earrings, are named in honor of one of the Nozomi daughters - Sara. Her grandfather is an unsung hero from the 3/11 disaster. When the waters were rushing in, he threw his wife and his grandson, Sara's brother, onto the safety of a passing fire truck. He did not survive the 30 feet wall of sea. Sara's mom finds healing by working every day with broken pottery that she makes beautiful.
Our Mika ring is named for one of our team members. Mika couldn't leave her home for about a year because of severe PTSD and depression. She slowly came to Nozomi as she was able, finding a place of healing and wholeness.
And I love our new Misa cuff bracelets! Misa's mom was my shyest mom friend in the schoolyard, struggling with the challenges of a son with severe autism. Over five years of working at Nozomi, she has gained so much dignity and confidence. As she has studied the Bible and gotten to know God in a personal way, her whole worldview has been changed. She recently shared at our staff meeting how she used to view autism as a curse; now she sees what a blessing her son is to her and her family and to our community!
These women have each found ways to embrace brokenness following a terrible disaster and are even more beautiful because of it.
But we don't need to be in a disaster zone to experience brokenness, do we? Brokenness really is everywhere around us! In my own life. In each of us. And we each bring brokenness into all of our relationships.
I experienced my own sense of deep brokenness during our first few years of marriage, when Eric and I struggled to have children. I felt like I had a broken body and a broken heart. Yet out of that place of pain, we have been blessed with something more amazing than anything in the world to us, our four adopted children. They are the most beautiful example I know of redeemed brokenness.
We have chosen as our Nozomi Project tagline, "Beauty in brokenness." Beauty blooms in places where we can experience transformation in the midst of brokenness. In a washed out neighborhood, in the realities of adoption, in the midst of a group of women who are gathering to create - beauty really can triumph over despair.
Our youngest son is seven. My favorite afternoons are when Ian comes running into the house with a hand full of broken pottery that he found on his walk home from school. He will run to me with his dirty fingers clutching these broken shards and exclaim, "Mommy! Mommy! I found jewelry!"
He has that eye. That eye that can already imagine the beauty in the brokenness - that recognizes something that will be. I believe we get this from our Creator, who has not lost sight of that finished product.
It's so much easier to focus on brokenness. The greater challenge is seeing the beauty that is there, and that is worth redeeming. It's something we must practice ... something we must choose.
What are the broken shards that you are clutching today? I hope, like my son Ian, and like our Nozomi team members, that you are recognizing the brokenness that we each hold onto not as embarrassments to hide but instead as treasures worth transforming. Join us in believing that there really IS beauty in our brokenness!
Find out more about the Nozomi Project on our website. If you'd like to join our team, please click here to learn more about our Nozomi partner program. Thanks for helping to spread the word through social media, by giving Nozomi gifts, and through your encouragement and prayers for us! It's been an amazing five years.
Pictured - Elisa Morgan with her Nozomi necklace: