Recently my wife told me of a story she had listened to on "This American Life" called Really Long Distance (transcript here). The episode featured the story of a man named Itaru Sasaki. A survivor of the 2011 tsunami that hit Japan, his coastal town of Otsuchi was destroyed. Otsuchi had one of the highest numbers of missing people and is still in the process of being rebuilt today.
In grief over a cousin who died in the tragedy, Sasaki purchased an old phone booth, set it up in his garden overlooking the Pacific Ocean, and placed a rotary phone in it not connected to any line. He then began using it to "talk" to his deceased cousin. Sasaki explained the reason for this disconnected phone. "Because my thoughts could not be relayed over a regular phone line, I wanted them to be carried on the wind." He called the phone kaze no denwa or "the wind telephone."
Others learned of this phone and began using it. Sasaki estimates thousands of people from all over the island nation have journeyed to use his phone. Given the predominant Buddhist heritage of the Japanese that encourages reverence for the deceased, perhaps this response is not overly surprising.
Still, in the program, they recorded some of the sad stories of people using the phone and what they were saying to their deceased grandparents, parents, spouses, or children. The producer of the show noted that the grieving Japanese, usually so reserved they will not tell their living relatives that they love or miss them, often responded differently in the phone booth. They were weeping and saying these very things over the wind telephone.
Miriam and I discussed how tragic this situation is. Hearing her share some of the specific accounts, such as grandchildren trying to assure their departed grandfather his wife was well, was heart breaking. Without the eternal hope of Christ, these poor, grieving people of Japan using this phone booth have nowhere to turn. Their words of sorrow and heart pain take flight in the wind, finding no place to rest.
How different grief is for the Christian. For every believer has a true "wind phone." We have an unseen but true line of communication directly connected to the Father by the Son through the power of the Spirit of God. We can pray to the Lord, knowing for sure that He hears us. Our words arrive directly to Him. We can bring our own griefs before Him, even groans too deep for words. We know that He cares so much for us that every tear we cry is captured in a bottle. By His grace, we are assured that the Lord will eventually wipe every one of them away some day.
And this story reminds us of something further. We must not only tell hopeless, lost people such as these of the eternal life that Christ offers, but we must also pray earnestly for them. Like Paul, we should say, "My conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit — that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart" for the lost (Rom. 9:1-2). We should be constantly using our spiritual line to God to let Him hear our grief over those who do not yet know Him as we do.