VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 3/12/11)—American Baptists are answering the call to provide relief to their sisters and brothers in Christ in Japan after an 8.9 earthquake struck Japan on March 11 followed by a devastating tsunami along the coast. A $20,000 grant from One Great Hour of Sharing (OGHS) was approved yesterday for our partners, the Japan Baptist Union, for relief efforts.
International Ministries missionaries serving in Japan are reported safe. John and Tomoko Armagost and Gordon and Lee Ann Hwang reside within 350 miles of the epicenter. Roberta Stevens is farther west and David and Leslie Turley live in Okinawa.
“We are deeply concerned for the people of Japan even as aftershocks continue and so much is unknown,” commented Dr. Reid Trulson, IM executive director. “A Baptist World Aid rescue team of people from Hungary, Singapore and the US has gone to work alongside the Japanese first responders. Please pray for those who have lost loved ones, those whose lives have been so severely disrupted, and those who are on the front lines providing aid and comfort.”
The earthquake was the most powerful to strike Japan since records began. It struck the north-east coast, triggering a massive tsunami, according to BBC News. Cars, ships and buildings were swept away by a wall of water after the tremor, which hit about 400km (250 miles) north-east of Tokyo. Officials say 350 people are dead and about 500 missing, but it is feared the final death toll will be much higher. In one ward alone in Sendai, a port city in Miyagi prefecture, 200 to 300 bodies were found.
John Armagost, IM missionary in Japan, commented, “The leadership of the Japan Baptist Union (JBU), our sister denomination here in Japan, has spent the day trying to make contact will all the pastors of the churches in the areas devastated by this earthquake and the following tsunamis. We have not heard from 6 pastors (Hachinohe, Kuji, Tagajo, Shichigahama, Matsushima, and Kashimadai churches). Other pastors and their families have been evacuated, and some have reported damage to their church buildings.”
Rev. Stan Murray, area director for Japan and Southeast Asia, in a phone conversation with Rev. Makoto Tanno, the General Secretary of the Japan Baptist Union, reports that six churches in the most affected area have not been able to be contacted. There are four prefectures where electricity is completely cut. Communication and transportation in and out of the most affected area are still crippled.
Rev. Tanno reports that tsunamis keep coming from repeated aftershocks on Friday night and Saturday morning (Japan time) in many different parts of Japan.
Many students could not return home and spent a cold night at their school without electricity and enough water food and blankets. Immediate rescue is critical.
There are two atomic power plants in Fukushima prefectures which have serious problems. The Japanese government ordered people who live in the area of about 30 miles from these atomic power plants to evacuate. One has exploded already. This has serious implications with the spread of radiation.
Murray says, “Rev. Tanno expressed great appreciation to American Baptists for the quick and compassionate response through OGHS. While Japan prepares religiously for events like these, this one looks like it is unprecedented and will need diligent prayer and generous giving for some time to come!”
Emergency donations are needed and can be made on the IM website. Go to http://www.internationalministries.org/items/221 or write a check made payable to “One Great Hour of Sharing – Japan Relief” and give to your church, or mail to:
P.O. Box 851
Valley Forge, PA 19482
One Great Hour of Sharing is administered by the World Relief Committee of the General Board. The Committee facilitates American Baptist emergency relief, disaster rehabilitation, refugee work, and development assistance by establishing policy guidelines and overseeing distribution of the annual One Great Hour of Sharing offering.
American Baptist International Ministries, organized in 1814, is the first Baptist Mission organization formed in North America. We serve more than 1,800 short-term missionaries annually, bringing U.S. and Puerto Rico churches together with partners in more than 70 countries to tell the good news of Jesus Christ while meeting human needs.
American Baptist Churches is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with 5,500 local congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.