From the heart and pen or Erin Rufledt

Please…let me tell you a story.

There are more than 300,000 evacuees living in temporary housing units in the Tohoku region of Japan, one year after the earthquake and tsunami that shook everything.

Each one of these is a person with a story: a story of survival and of loss, yes — but also a story of hope, of family, of longing and memory and regeneration. This project aims to create space to share some of these stories in artful, visual ways, through a combination of photography and narrative.

So! We’re going to Japan. To sit with people, to listen and learn their stories. To gather them, in words and images, and to send them out into the world with both honor and grace.

Working with the Japan-based Iwaki Global Mission Center, an organization dedicated to both physical rebuilding and ongoing “heart-care,” our team of three will spend lots of time with survivors and volunteers, listening and documenting their stories and lives. Our findings will become a short multimedia collection of stories to be published on the web, as well as a printed book.

But…we can’t do this alone! Will you join us and help make it happen?

Behind the Scenes:

The weight of story, weaving through all times and cultures, is profound. Magnetic. As people we are instinctively pulled into to the richness and glow of human stories — the ways we carry them and speak them (sometimes with words, many times without), and the sacred space that is created when we share them. Stories give us a way to open up a space that is so vulnerably, heartrendingly human, and to invite others in.

As a documentary photographer, I’ve often been captured by the people I’ve photographed, and have wished that I could better communicate the story behindthe image…I’ve wanted to find a way to give voice to untold stories in multi-dimensional, multi-sensory ways. This project is an adventure in leaping in this direction; delving into image and story with the simple but profound hope of capturing beauty and fostering true human connection.

The Project Outcomes:

With the raw materials of photographs, audio interviews and other personal treasures, we aim to construct an artful multimedia storytelling piece and a small printed book of stories. The softcover book will be printed in a short run through an online custom-book publisher like, with copies available for purchase after the release date. A PDF of the book will be made available to our Kickstarter team — you! — upon publication.

Part of this project is an element of uncertainty, the delicious risk of adventure — the truth of not knowing exactly what stories we’ll find until we have our feet on this new ground, and strange air in our lungs. So much of the beauty of story, after all, is in getting swept up in it…in not knowing the ending when you set sail, but experiencing the unknown of the middle. So, we’re asking you, in backing this project, to take the risk along with us…to enter into the story, too. We’d be so very honored and grateful if you would.

It’s going to be quite an adventure.

The Team:

Erin Rufledt is a documentary photographer, graphic designer and art director based in Kansas City, Missouri. You can see some of her work here.

Angie Steinke is a teacher, potter, writer, caretaker of hearts and a summoner of stories. She lives in Kansas City with her husband Joe and their youngest son, Devon.

Kate Bryan is a writer, artist, travelling seeker of beauty and lover of wide-open spaces. She is a manager at Paper Source and calls Kansas City home.

Katie Cornick, our field contact and liaison in Japan, is a wild world traveler serving with 24-7 Prayer in Asia. She sometimes blogs about her adventures here.

The Beginnings:

This project was born out of a conversation I had with Katie Cornick, a good friend who is currently living in Japan and working with the ongoing recovery efforts as a volunteer with Global Mission Center and CRASH Japan. (CRASH is a disaster relief and assistance organization based in Tokyo that operates five bases in the disaster zone and to date has mobilized over 1,800 volunteers.)

Katie told me that, often, when she leaves the temporary housing units, men and women will hold tightly to her hands, thanking her and reminding her of what she has been entrusted with.

“Please, don’t forget us. Please, remember…please tell our story.”

The weight of this request has settled into me like seed into deep soil. This project, then, is an attempt to artfully give voice to these stories, and in the process to explore the very nature of story and how stories connect us, and in some way, even make us human.

We are undertaking this project as a way to stand as advocates for the Japanese in a season of great challenge and great possibility…to create space for remembrance and honor, in the small space of individual stories. To celebrate one another, even in the darkness of tragedy and the tangle of healing. To help us remember.

To support the Regeneration project follow the link to our kickstart page


Erin Rufledt is part of the Kansas City Boiler Room, a 24-7 Prayer Community that believes in establishing joyful families of  God throughout the nations.


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