Friday, April 15, 2011

Hearts Breaking, Hope Healing

OMF members visited the disaster area and created this video after their return. I highly recommend you take 4 minutes to watch this moving video.

OMF Kanto/Tohoku Earthquake from Mike McGinty on Vimeo.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Message from Bryan and Jan on the 1 month anniversary of the disaster


On the one-month anniversary of the Great Tohoku/Kanto Earthquake, we send this message to you as an update on our lives and ministry in Tokyo, Japan.

Monday, April 11, 2011

April 11, one month since the disaster, "trauma rages on"

  • Today marks the 1-month anniversary of the triple calamity on March 11, and one article said "The trauma rages on." ""My chest has been ripped open by the suffering and pain that this disaster has caused the people of our prefecture," said Yuhei Sato, the governor of Fukushima, which saw its coastal areas devastated by the tsunami and large segments of its population evacuated because of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in its midst. "I have no words to express my sorrow.""
  • At 2:46pm today the 50 volunteers in the CRASH Japan headquarters stopped their work and spent time praying for the victims, and for those working to help those who have experienced loss and trauma as a result.
  • Ironically, there was another large aftershock at 5:17pm today that killed at least one person, although there was no tsunami reported. This follows an aftershock last Thursday evening, which was the largest since March 11 and killed 4 people.
  • Those killed now number over 13,000, with an additional 14,000 people missing.
  • "50 years of effort swept away." Reports continue to come in about how most preparations against tsunami were overwhelmed by the killer waves that followed the massive quake.
  • Considerable criticism has been heard about the nuclear plant's preparedness and the response after the quake. "Nuclear crisis man-made, not 'an act of god': experts".
  • Regarding the nuclear plants, workers continue to try to get a very difficult situation under control, but areas outside of the 18 mile evacuation zone are not being affected. 
  • "Desperately worried but determined to support their husbands, the wives of workers at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant struggle with their emotions as they wait for their husbands to return from work that is endangering their lives."
  • 150,000 people are still living in shelters, with 1 in 6 saying "it is unbearable."
  • The search continues for the dead, in very difficult and dangerous areas, many of them still underwater.
  • Questions are being asked about how to dispose of debris estimated at 80-200 million tons, including an estimated 146,000 cars destroyed by the tsunami in one area alone. 
  • Then there is the logistical nightmare of trying to re-unite valuables like jewelry, pictures, heirlooms and the hundreds upon hundreds of household safes that have already been found, but are without any external identification. Tens of millions of cash has already been found: "According to the police in Iwate and Miyagi prefectures, police stations receive everyday on average several hundred items containing cash."

Friday, April 8, 2011

What is C.R.A.S.H Japan doing to respond to the disaster?

CRASH (Christian Relief, Assistance, Support and Hope) Japan has been busy setting up four base camps near the heaviest-hit areas, and we hope to open at least one more. From those bases we would like to set up sub-bases, working as much as possible with and through the local churches. In some cases there are not local churches to work with, or the church itself has been destroyed.


Ofunato Church, damaged by the tsunami
Once the bases are operational we expect to send a steady stream of volunteers to work safely and effectively to do the work of recovery, which may include clean-up, furniture removal, minor repairs or construction, meal preparation, ministering to victim's emotional and spiritual needs, and serving the community in whatever ways are necessary. For example, many people have lost their cars and they cannot even get out to buy food. Children need safe places to stay and play while their parents are restoring their damaged homes or businesses. The "ministry of presence"is very important we we listen to their stories and pray with them. The needs are immense and ever changing, which is why we need bases in the field.


At the present time we are mobilizing teams from Japanese churches, as they are ready to go and already have the language and understand the culture. As we approach summer we hope to be able to accept teams from overseas as well. We've also been able to help some specialists to go as well, like the team of firefighters currently at a CRASH base.


So far about 100 people have gone into the field in association with CRASH. I'm volunteering at the CRASH Japan Headquarters in Tokyo, where some 300 people have come in to help over the past 4 weeks. About 30 tons of relief supplies have been distributed through the CRASH network.


CRASH Japan is preparing for a long-term recovery effort, to support the church as they reach out in love. We are grateful for the prayers, financial support and volunteer help we have received so far.


For information about how to be involved, see the website: http://www.crashjapan.com/index.php?lang=en

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Evacuees, Operation Tomodachi, and the unique Japanese way

It's been 5 days since I've posted an update. I was quite busy over the weekend, and also needed a bit of rest. Here are a number of stories related to the disaster I thought you might find helpful and/or interesting:
Photo: NY Times
  • The situation and conditions of evacuees varies widely. Some are still crowded in cold shelters with cardboard dividers. Some have been given tents to stay in, whether inside or outside. Temporary dwellings are being built, but there is not much open land in Japan, so they are using the playgrounds of local schools. Some will even have the chance to stay in a former posh hotel in central Tokyo! Residents of Futaba town, evacuated because of high levels of radiation, have been moved to a town not too far from where we live in Saitama Prefecture. "Now, he, too, is a refugee, driven from his home by the very plant he long held up as the linchpin of the local economy." "For the government, providing food and temporary shelter was the relatively straightforward part in helping victims cope with the disaster. However, making sure people have a place and a community to return to will be a much more difficult task."
  • The American military in Japan has received praise from the government and the citizens of Japan for their large-scale response to the disaster, called Operation Tomodachi (which means "friend"). They even responded to a 14-year old girl's plea to help her family find their lost fishing boat.
  • I've seen several articles about how calm and orderly the Japanese were in the midst of the crisis. Although probably a simplification, I believe this is an outworking of a complex cultural system that has been honed over centuries to enable people living in close quarters on a small island to function in their daily lives. A strong cultural value is not to be a bother to your neighbor and to live up to the expectations of the community. Human relationships carry with them a weight of obligation and responsibility not felt in other cultures. Failure to keep the norms will result in shame and ostracism, something Japanese do all they can to avoid, even in the midst of a crisis.

"How has God been impacting the people of Japan?"

April 1 was to be the day when a good friend and professional photographer from our home church was to arrive in Japan to take pictures for our missionaries to use in their ministry publications. We had to cancel the trip due to the disaster. In going through my email I found a message from him, sent on March 11 at 10:22, about 4 hours before the earth shook in Japan.

In preparation for his trip he wanted to encourage those praying for him, so he asked me "How has God been impacting the people of Japan since you have been there?"

I never got the chance to answer him because of the disaster, but my answer would be very different now that God got the attention of Japan and the world! Of course it is still early days, but this much I can I say:
Photo: NY Times
  • Millions of Christians around the world have been focussing their prayers on Japan.
  • The Tohoku area of Japan, which had most of the hardest hit areas, is one of the least churched areas in this nation.
  • Thousands of Christians in Japan have responded by giving financially, collecting and delivering relief supplies, and going to help. CRASH Japan has been able to send about 100 volunteers into the field so far, with a goal of many hundreds more in the weeks and months to come.
  • Although I've heard that 15 foreigners have been confirmed dead, I have yet to hear of one Christian who has died yet.
  • Japanese pastors, churches, denominations and associations are meeting together to discuss what can be done, both short-term and long-term, in the stricken areas. We are praying for an unprecedented level of cooperation and unity among a relatively fragmented Japanese church.
  • Mission organizations, including OMF, are considering strategies for relief and recovery work, that may lead to ongoing ministry and (we hope) even new churches starting.
  • This triple calamity has shaken the confidence of many Japanese all over Japan. The nuclear issue is an ongoing concern (although we are safe in Tokyo), as are possible power outages in Tokyo and shortages of some items. Will this result in thousands of Japanese asking the hard questions of life and finding their answer in Christ? Only time will tell, but we must pray to that end.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Japan Disaster toll: Strange figures

The headline in the newspaper on March 14, 3 days after the quake, read "20,000 missing in two towns." I recall one person saying "Oh, the death toll won't be that high."


The truth is, no one knows yet how many people are missing. The official figures are:

  • Over 11,000 killed
  • Over 16,000 still missing, including an estimated 1000 bodies that cannot be recovered from the nuclear disaster zone
  • About 3000 injured: What a strangely small figure for such a huge disaster. It seems that most either survived or died. Such is the nature of a killer tsunami.
  • Over 150,000 buildings damaged or destroyed, including hundreds of schools.
Strategizing at the CRASH Japan command center
I'm working full time in the CRASH Japan command center to mobilize the Body of Christ to respond, because I believe we can and should minister to those hurting in Japan. We are gearing up for a long-term recovery effort. We welcome your prayers.

"What if that were MY daughter?" (Day 21, March 31 report)

The relief and recovery efforts of CRASH Japan are focused on meeting the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of those affected by this disaster. We can readily appreciate that those who have lost home, family, friends and community need care for the trauma they have experienced.


Less apparent are those affected by "secondary trauma"; friends and family members of those directly affected. Then there are those who have evacuated their homes due to the radiation leak. Life as an evacuee is stressful, especially for children.


Photo: NY Times
Easily overlooked are those who are directly involved in caring for disaster victims. Yesterday at the CRASH command center I spoke with a colleague about the needs 100,000 Japan Self Defense forces whose job it is to sort through rubble, often by hand, looking to recover the bodies of the more than 16,000 who are still missing. Who is caring for them?


Coincidentally the same topic came on the evening news. A group of soldiers discovered two more bodies, one of a young girl. After recovering the body they lit incense right there in the midst of the rubble and prayed for the soul of the departed people. Later the commander debriefed his men and said, "They put on a brave face, but I know inside their hearts are breaking." One soldier said, "What if that MY daughter we just recovered? How would I feel?"


The needs are so great and long-term. Pray that God will raise up thousands of Japanese Christians to respond to this opportunity to minister to those in need.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Day 20, March 30: "Japan’s largest-ever crisis"

It has been a few days since I've posted an update, so this post will be a summary of current information.
  • The nuclear reactors continue to be the top news in Japan. As workers move in to assess the situation they've realized that the damage at the plants is quite a bit worse than originally thought. It seems that there is little danger of an explosion, but the plants continue to lead radioactive substances, mainly into the sea near the plant. The sea dilutes the leakage so there is no danger to people at the present time. Some estimate that it may take years to fully stabilize the damaged reactors. 
  • “The earthquake, tsunami and the ensuing nuclear accident may be Japan’s largest-ever crisis,” the Japanese prime minister, Naoto Kan, told Parliament on Tuesday, in his most sober message to date on the nuclear crisis. The government has received some criticism for its handling of the nuclear situation, and has now asked for more help from experts from France and the U.S. 
  • Everyone within 19 miles of the reactors has been evacuated. Some evacuees of the earthquake and tsunami have begun to move from local shelters to other parts of Japan while they wait for temporary housing to be built.
  • The American military has mobilized 18,000 personnel to help alongside more than 100,000 Japan self-defense personnel in the relief and recovery effort.
  • It's encouraging to also read of stories of heroism, luck, quick thinking amid tsunami's furious onslaught.
  • Warmer weather has helped keep the power on as the electric company has cancelled rolling blackouts the in recent days. However, when summer comes they expect to have significant power shortages. 
  • Gasoline is now available again, but I was surprised to still see some empty shelves at local supermarkets.
  • Many companies have suffered damage and loss and are not likely to resume operations soon. Other companies are affected by the uncertain electric power situation. Hundreds of thousands are unemployed and may never get their jobs back.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

803 earthquakes in Japan since the Great One on March 11

JMA earthquake data showing how
the 9.0M quake was felt throughout Japan.
There are times when technology can still amaze. I've been quite amazed a website that documents each of the 803 earthquakes that have occurred in Japan since the big one on March 11; fourteen in just the past 24 hours. 
In Tokyo I've only felt a few of them, but I'm sure that people in the disaster areas have felt most of them, and been reminded of that day when their lives were indelibly changed.

Interview with OMF-Japan Field Director

Response to Japan Earthquake - OMF International Interview March 2011 from Ken Haron on Vimeo.

A New Page of Mission—Diary of a pastor from the disaster area (Day 17, March 27)

This incredibly moving and powerful report is from Pastor Akira Sato, who is the pastor for the Fukushima First Baptist Church, near the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. The nuclear plant project manager, in charge of the repair efforts, is from this church. Here are a few excerpts. The full article is here.
  • March 13: Tomioka railway station has been washed away by the tsunami. The city was utterly destroyed. (See a map of the area here.)
  • March 13: The worst possible scenario would be that people would never be able to go back to their town and homes, and that the church would be closed down and the history of mission in this region would end. Please pray this wouldn't happen. Please pray that people would be able to come back to the city and church doors would be opened again and we can praise and worship the Lord there again. I do believe and confess that our almighty God and the Lord of the history who reigns everything including nature WILL open a new page of mission and lead us on. 
  • March 14: We have contacted 150 church members and they are safe. Hallelujah! One sister told me that waves approached her but she was able to swim to safety.
  • March 16: Our gypsy life has started. When I asked people whether they had any laundry, their reply was that there were no clothes to wash. All they have is what they are wearing. Nothing is clear to us - Will be able to go back home? If so, how long it will take? Will we ever be able to worship in our church again, or will the town simply be abandoned?
  • March 18: The most miraculous thing to me is that I never get asked questions like ‘Why did God allow this?’ or ‘I can’t believe in God. There is no God.’ From the 160 members I have been in touch with, all I hear are words like, ‘God is great. I want to trust Him as I walk with Him from now on.’ I marvel at the strength of their faith in the Lord. What is obvious is that God is shaking everything through these extraordinary events. Some people are receiving the Lord Jesus without question. Others are repenting saying their belief in God was dormant. 
  • March 19: I felt numb. My heart ached. Two or three layers of loss suddenly engulfed me. My home was gone, so was my church. I was driven from my town. My ministry is gone. I can’t see what is going to happen next. I am trying to grasp the whole thing, but find myself unable to.
  • March 19: My church was planted by an American missionary long before the power plant was built. Fukushima First (part of our church name) was the name given by the missionary in accordance with the practice of his church at home. The power plant has the same name, but ours was named first. 
  • March 21: I will cry 50 years worth, or a life-time worth of tears. Is. 42:3: ‘A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out‘ May the Great Shepherd embrace this flock and carry them on His wings.
  • March 23: I received good news today. Word of Life Press rang me to say that my book, ‘God is at work in good times, as well as bad times’ has been published. Who would have thought that a disaster of this scale would happen just at the time of its publication? It looks as if my own book will encourage me to move forward.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Day 16, March 26: “PEOPLE CAN LIVE AGAIN”-Congressman Doi

It was another busy day in the CRASH Japan command center. Each day we make more progress in establishing bases in the areas most affected by the triple calamity, from which volunteers will be able to work with and through local churches to meet the physical, emotional and spiritual needs. We also continue to send assessment and relief teams to hard hit areas.
You can find photos of the CRASH Japan command center here (it is also a Facebook page, and yes, I'm in some of them!).
There are many stories coming out of the tragedy, some very sad, some encouraging, some a mixture of the two. I would also like to provide links to multimedia related to the disaster.
  • Samaritan's Purse has a moving video of Japanese Congressman Ryuichi Doi surveying the damage in Sendai.
  • There is a well done presentation of the disaster here (Facebook).
  • Read an inspiring story of how villagers cut off from the outside worked together to survive the disaster.
  • Although the damage in the Tokyo area was minor compared with other hard hit areas, many areas that are built on reclaimed land suffered a phenomenon called liquefaction, where the shaking of the ground forces the water in the ground up and out. Some of affected most are not far from the OMF Headquarters in Ichikawa, Chiba.

Crisis and Complaining—the "5% rule"

At times I do quite well at expressing my dissatisfaction with things that are not the way they should be, otherwise known as complaining. A quick evaluation of my complaints reveals what I call the "5% rule": I tend to forget or take for granted the 95% of what is going well, and focus on the 5% of what is not going well. Now, those figures are arbitrary, but they serve to make a point: What we have (or better yet, what we've been given) is much, much greater than what we don't have.


In a time of crisis my complaining about the 5% I'm not happy with is all the more inappropriate. For example:
  • I have life. Many have just lost theirs.
  • I have a family. Thousands of families have lost a spouse, a child, a parent, a brother or sister.
  • I have my health. We are beginning to get the stories of people dying due to the stress of living in shelters, especially the elderly. Colds and flu are spreading due to the close quarters.
  • I have many choices of what clothing to wear. Many who survived did so with only the clothes they had on at the time.
  • I have heat, water and electricity. It has been very cold in the affected areas, and the shelters do not have adequate heat. Those who are able have returned to their homes, but are without basic utilities.
  • I have a supportive community. In the hardest hit areas the entire community is being fragmented and divided as people move to other areas. Some will never come back.
  • Most of all, I HAVE HOPE. I can't imagine what those who have suffered loss are thinking and feeling right now. Relief workers bring food and water, but who can bring hope? Only those who know the Source of Life and Hope.
I say this not to create shame or guilt, but to remind myself of how blessed, how rich I am. The proper response to being richly blessed is not guilt, but gratitude. Then, out of a heart of gratitude I can bless others with the blessing I have received. "Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap." (Luke 6:38)


We've all been given so much already, but God says if we give to others he will overflow our life of blessing so that we have even more to give to others. I am encouraged when I see  those whose life of blessing overflows to bless those around them. I'm grateful for those who have stood with us for many years, praying, giving, and encouraging, so that we can be here now "for such a time as this." I'm grateful for the outpouring of love and prayer we have received, and for the wonderful response of God's people to the needs in Japan at the present time.


Let's look past the things we're not happy with and remember the great blessings we have received, and then let those blessings overflow to bless others in need.

Operation Safe: Healing for Tohoku’s Children

"After a traumatic experience like the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, anxiety disorders that create prolonged psychological trauma can become common among survivors, especially children. CRASH Japan is establishing Operation SAFE – a child-friendly space for children to come and begin the healing process."


Read more here.

"God In the Rubble -- What I Saw In Northern Japan"

Fox News interviewed a CRASH Japan volunteer who visited hard hit areas just days after the disaster: 
"God In the Rubble -- What I Saw In Northern Japan"


"I’ll never know why, but in one huge pile of debris I pulled out a broken wooden board you can see in a picture and painted on it in Japanese kanji was “Shu wa waga....” in English, “The Lord is my Way” including the unfinished kanji at the end. Japan just doesn’t have signs like that, let alone the one in a million chance of finding the broken piece in the piles and piles of devastation. I am convinced it is a message from God for the people of Japan."
When I first saw and held this piece of wood, I thought "How interesting that the last word is not visible. We think the last word was probably "way", but all we can actually see is 'The Lord is my...'"


Perhaps God wants me/us to fill in the missing word.

  • The Lord is my rock.
  • The Lord is my salvation.
  • The Lord is my light.
  • The Lord is my strength.
  • The Lord is my song.
  • The Lord is my portion.
  • The Lord is my... (fill in a word for yourself)
This is the message we need to take to thousands of hurting Japanese in the coming weeks and months.

Pray for us, please.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Day 15, March 25: "80 people evacuated, only 3 survived"

A number of reports on television and articles in the newspaper have been examining Japan's preparedness for earthquakes and tsunami. In one village there were 10 designated evacuation buildings, and 7 of them were washed away. A man and his wife evacuated to a gymnasium 1km from the shore, and soon found themselves swept up in the wave. He bumped into something and realized it was the steel ceiling beam, probably 50 feet off the ground, so he held on. He was one of only 3 people who survived there, out of 80 people, including his wife.


Other reports have made it clear that there was simply no way to adequately prepare for a tsunami of the size and power that was generated by the massive earthquake. Although Japan is well acquainted with earthquakes and tsunami, no one could imagine the waves that came.


Others that survived did so by relocating from designated evacuation centers to higher ground.


There are thousands of such stories, as the death toll is over 10,000, and the number of missing at 17,000. CRASH Japan is preparing to go to the affected communities and to be there long after the urgent relief efforts have finished. People who have lost so much need hope, and Jesus Christ is the Hope of the world.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Day 14, March 24 CRASH Japan relief update

There were several bits of good news today:

  • The main highway up to the affected areas is now open to ALL traffic, so we no longer need to get special permission to use it to transport people and supplies.
  • Stories of heroism and sacrifice are beginning to surface, like the hospital worker who lost his life making sure the hospital's satellite phone was not lost, knowing it would be needed for rescue after the tsunami.
  • We are making progress in our volunteer coordination efforts. Pray that God will send us teams of people willing and able to go NEXT WEEK to serve.
  • God continues to send us people with the necessary skills to help us in our relief coordination effort.
  • Two advance teams will go tomorrow to scout out possible bases for future operations in the affected areas. An OMF advance team from Hokkaido is now working in one of the hardest hit areas, setting up a soup kitchen and ministering to the needs of the people as they are able.
  • March is the end of the school year in Japan. Many graduation ceremonies postponed because of the disaster are now being held in evacuation centers. Some ceremonies are quite solemn as some students who would have graduated were lost in the tsunami.
  • Unusual stories like the one about a woman and her son trapped in their car as it "rose like an elevator" on the tsunami but didn't flip as she had turned into a small alley.
The news also contained some sad stories:
  • Five children ages 4-6 were trapped in their school bus when the waves arrived, and died when it became engulfed in flames after gasoline leaking from a gas station nearby ignited.
  • 15% of the farmland in the affected areas has been destroyed.
  • Over 3000 fishing boats have been destroyed.
  • So many cars have been destroyed there is no where to take them, so they just line them up on the streets and wait for someone, hopefully the owner, to take them away.

World's deepest breakwater couldn't withstand 600mph momentum of tsunami


"The massive tsunami that laid waste to the world's deepest breakwater on March 11 carried with it a momentum equal to that of 250 jumbo jets flying at 1,000 kph (600mph), according to calculations by a Waseda University ocean engineer. The two-kilometer-long breakwater at the mouth of Kamaishi Bay, Iwate Prefecture, was completed in 2009 and recognized by Guinness World Records as the deepest breakwater in the world."


Many of you have heard various reports of the power of the earthquake. I've been collecting what I've heard and read. I will quote sources whenever possible.

  • The earthquake shifted the planet on its axis by nearly 4 inches (10 centimeters) and moved the main island of Japan by 8 feet (2.4 meters) towards the east. 
  • The energy released in the earthquake was 200 times that of the Kobe earthquake in 1995 (M7.3) that killed more than 6000 people.
  • The tsunami were as high as 10 meters (33 feet) with a speed of about 800 km per hour.  
  • The earthquake bent the tip of Tokyo Tower, the 1,093-foot Eiffel-like structure that has stood as the symbol of Japan’s postwar rebirth for half a century. For the first time since it was erected in 1958, the tower no longer points directly upward
  • The NY Times created a map showing the areas of damage.
  • The total cost of this disaster has been estimated at US$200-300 billion.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Japan Earthquake Relief: How can you be involved?

Many have asked, "How can I be involved in helping the Japanese at this time?"
<Click on the links for more information>
  • 1. You can pray:
  • 2. You can support the work financially by giving through OMF International or to CRASH Japan.
  • 3. You can spread the word to get more people praying, giving and helping. The need is great and relief and recovery work will continue for many months.
  • 4. You can volunteer: At this time we are looking for teams of 5 people willing to serve in the affected areas for a minimum of 2 weeks. Priority is given to teams within Japan, as they can be sent sooner than teams from overseas. We recommend that churches or Christian organizations form their own teams, and that only the team leader register at the crashjapan.com website. Individuals can also register to volunteer, but they must go as part of a team. If you have already registered please be patient and we will contact you as soon as possible.
Several of you have asked about "gifts in kind"—that is, instead of giving money to buy needed goods and services, the goods and services themselves are given. We have two people on our relief team coordinating offers from those wishing to bring or send supplies, one Japanese and one American. All offers related to supplies can be sent to supplies@crashjapan.com.

Japan's Triple Calamity: Human tragedy overshadowed by nuclear fears

Photo: NY Times
Japan has experienced a triple calamity: First the massive earthquake—largest ever in Japan and 4th largest known in the world, then an unprecedented tsunami, and finally the leak of radiation from the Fukushima power plant. We can understand the uncertainty and fear that accompanies a nuclear accident, but the news about it has completely overshadowed the ongoing human tragedy from the earthquake and tsunami.


More than 9000 dead, 14,000 missing, 300,000 people in shelters. Multitudes of people with no home to return to. The government estimates it will take 5 years to recover from this disaster. Those who have left for other parts of Japan to stay with relatives or friends may never return. 


I think it would be safe to say that millions of people have been traumatized by this event. Who will listen to their stories? Who will pray with them? Who will help them get their lives back together? The Japanese government is doing a pretty good job of getting needed supplies to evacuation centers. But who will take hope?


We who know the Hope of the world can be there. Please continue to pray for Japanese Christians, missionaries and other Christians in Japan as we seek to minister in the name of the Lord. See the CRASH Japan website for updates on the relief and recovery work.


The world news outlets have moved on, but the tragedy continues. Please keep spreading the word to your friends and your church.

Day 13, March 23: Update on situation in Japan

I took a day off today to recharge my batteries after two very busy days (Monday & Tuesday) at the CRASH relief command center. Here is an update on the situation in Japan.

  • The condition of the damaged nuclear reactors has stabilized. Although there are some concerns about radiation in food from the area, it seems the government is taking the necessary precautions. Levels of radiation in Tokyo are normal and there is no health concern related to radiation. http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2011-03-22-japan_N.htm
  • The American Embassy in Japan continues to send us updates on the situation in Japan. The report from yesterday included this statement: "The United States is continuing to do everything it can and should do to support our close friends, the people of Japan, as they respond to this disaster." 
  • Supplies of gasoline are especially in short supply, as are some food items. The news is that supply shortages should begin to ease by the end of the week. I travel by bicycle, saving the gas in our tank in case it is needed. Concerns over elevated radiation levels in tap water has caused bottled water in stores to sell out.
  • Rolling power outages in Tokyo continue, although we have not experienced them yet in our area. As the weather warms up there will be a relatively brief period of time when the need for electricity will ease. Once summer arrives it is likely there will be a need for conservation measures and perhaps rolling power outages again.
  • The death toll is over 9000, and the number missing nearly 13,000. Although we will continue to get reports from the affected areas, we have yet to hear of even one Christian who was lost. It is not known how many foreigners lost their lives, but we heard of the first American today: http://bcove.me/64c7rt0m (video)
  • There are almost 300,000 people living in shelters, including those who have evacuated from the area most affected by radiation. In most places people have the basic necessities, but illness is common and easily spread and the weather is still quite cold. The trauma of the disaster and the stress of living in a gymnasium is becoming more evident, especially among the children.
  • Aftershocks continue every day, with two relatively large ones this morning in the area where the reactors are. 
  • Jan and the boys arrived safely in Singapore and are staying at the OMF Guest Home there. This trip was a gracious gift from good friends, and will allow Jan a break from the stressful situation here. She will meet with the OMF Medical Advisor while she is there. The school the boys attend will be closed until April 4, so they are not missing school but doing assignments online.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Day 10, March 20: Rescued! "Too late to start over."

Today was another day of joys and sorrows, as many days have been since the earthquake. The news told of an 80 year old woman and her 16 year old grandson rescued after 9 days trapped in their destroyed house. They survived by eating food left in the refrigerator.


Another article told the story of a 75-year old barber whose shop disappeared along with the rest of the town. "“Young people would think, ‘Maybe there’s another way,’ ” he said last week as he sprawled with 1,600 other refugees in a chilly local sports arena. “But I’m too old. My legs have problems. “It’s too late to start over.”" http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/20/world/asia/20coastal.html?_r=1&ref=global-home

This evening CRASH Japan held an informational meeting for those interested in ministering to the emotional and spiritual needs of both relief volunteers and those needing relief. The response was overwhelming: About 200 people showed up, Japanese and ex patriots. 


Long after the water and blankets and food is distributed, CRASH Japan intends to be there working along side the Japanese church ministering to both the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of those affected by this disaster.


Tomorrow we start again with an impossible task. Impossible, that is, without God. But "all things are possible with God."


Please keep praying.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Shaking but not shaken

We arranged someone to speak at our church so we could stay close to home today (Sunday). We attended a local church, and the message was on Isaiah 54. In the message the speaker put verse 10 on the screen:


Though the mountains be shaken 
   and the hills be removed, 
yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken 
   nor my covenant of peace be removed,” 
   says the LORD, who has compassion on you.

As we all looked at the screen the picture started shaking, and then the entire building started to shake. It was not a very big aftershock, but I found the timing quite interesting. We also had a significant aftershock at 7pm yesterday evening.

It's great to hear that the temperature at the reactor is decreasing and the risk of radiation has greatly decreased. We even heard that the background level of radiation is higher in Rome than Tokyo, so perhaps those who are still evacuating should not go to Rome!

Thank you for praying!

Day 9, March 19 end of day report: Blessings in the midst of tragedy

It's been another hectic day at the CRASH Japan relief command center. Our team leader recognized early on that the nature of the disaster and the stress of the relief coordination could easily demoralize the group of volunteers. So we begin our morning and afternoon leaders' meetings by each person sharing a blessing of God's grace. This entry will be full of the blessings we've seen this week, some just today! Read on if you want to be encouraged!
  • Aid from Samaritan's Purse: A 747 cargo plane arrived today with 93 tons of relief supplies! The relief goods will be unloaded in Sendai (near some of the hardest hit areas) by CRASH Japan volunteers and transported to bases set up in the area. From there we expect volunteers, Japanese and non-Japanese Christians, to distribute it to areas missed or overlooked by the government relief efforts.
http://www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/articles/airlifting_supplies_to_japan/
  • Reinforcements are arriving! God sent us some very capable people today from outside of the immediate area, even from outside Japan, to volunteer at the relief command center. Next week Tuesday the Japan Evangelical Association (JEA) will send leaders to meet with us to continue the process of mobilizing the Japanese church to respond to the needs that are so great in so many areas. The JEA's home page explains their cooperation with CRASH Japan: http://jea-jim.net/
  • High school students went into downtown Tokyo, on trains that were rather unreliable due to the electric power situation, to raise money for relief work, over $2000 in two days! http://grassrootsnews.tv/?p=474
  • The CRASH Japan website is now in Japanese! Please let your Japanese friends know. http://www.crashjapan.com/index.php?lang=ja
  • Churches all over the world are praying for Japan and mobilizing resources, including our home church. What an encouragement! http://www.elmbrook.org/missions/japan-disaster-relief.aspx
  • The Tokyo Electric Power Company has scheduled power outages almost every day for the area where the relief command center is, and EVERY DAY they have been cancelled! We have not lost power even once. Today was warm in Tokyo, reducing the need for electricity for heat. God is good! http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/index-e.html
  • Transportation is beginning to get back to normal, with trains and buses running better. We are now able to buy facial and toilet tissue again, but supplies of many food items remain in short supply. Gasoline is very difficult to get, as is heating fuel. http://www.businessweek.com/news/2011-03-19/tokyo-food-shortage-may-be-easing-as-shops-adapt-to-blackouts.html
Please keep praying. God is at work!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Japan Earthquake Relief: How can you be involved?


A couple of days ago I wrote on this blog the things that are needed most right now:
1. Your prayers
2. Financial assistance
3. Medical personnel
4. Volunteers: Those who are already in Japan first, and those from overseas later.
5. Spread the word to get more people praying, giving and helping.


Several of you have asked about "gifts in kind"—that is, instead of giving money to buy needed goods and services, the goods and services themselves are given. We have two people on our relief team coordinating offers from those wishing to bring or send supplies, one Japanese and one American. All offers related to supplies are being forwarded to them.

Those wishing to volunteer or to send supplies can register at www.crashjapan.com. If you have already registered but have not been contacted, please be patient as we have hundreds of people to follow up.

As of today we are not yet able to receive goods from overseas, but hope to be able to soon. The logistics and transportation difficulties within Japan limit what we can do right now. Watch this blog or www.crashjapan.com for updates.

CRASH Japan YouTube Page

The CRASH Japan media team has produced a number of helpful videos and posted them on Youtube. This first one will give you a good idea of what CRASH Japan is hoping to accomplish in our relief efforts.


http://www.youtube.com/crashjapan#p/u/0/okkIfbPhUWc

Disaster field reports: "It's worse than you've seen on TV."

Two OMF missionaries from unaffected areas of Tohoku went out as an advance team to explore the needs in areas affected by the earthquake and tsunami. We are hoping this will provide the necessary information we need to set up a CRASH relief base for future work in the area. When asked how the area looked, they said  "It's worse than you've seen on TV. People near the coast have a dazed look on their face." "We visited a church near the coast that had been spared by the wave by 15 feet. This small group of 12 had considered closing the church, but now feel that God has a purpose for them: To help those suffering from this calamity."


A CRASH volunteer also led an advance team from Operation Blessing to an affected area near Sendai. They produced several videos of the situation in the area:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IW-oKpc2xE8
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xfv-2Ms6UOc
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LT0X5G3eDvQ


The evening news told of many people in shelters and in their homes without basic necessities and necessary medicine. Relief supplies from the government are starting to arrive, but not fast enough.


The CRASH relief effort will seek to find the lost, the least and the left behind. And we seek to serve those who are suffering through the local church in the name of the Lord.


www.crashjapan.com
http://www.facebook.com/crashjapan

Day 8, March 18 end of day report: CRASH relief command center report

Today represents one week since the massive earthquake and devastating tsunami in the Tohoku and Kanto regions of Japan. At the CRASH relief command center in Tokyo about 80 relief volunteers gathered at exactly 2:46pm to join the rest of Japan in moments of silence, followed by a time of prayer for the people of Japan in English and Japanese. Tears began to flow even before we started praying: Tears of sorrow, tears of exhaustion, tears of emotion as we face the enormous task ahead. We confessed our weakness in the face of such need and cried out to God to "to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine" (Eph 3:20). We concluded by singing A Mighty Fortress is our God, so fitting for the task ahead: "Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing, were not the right man on our side, the man of God's own choosing."
My team of volunteer coordinators, now about 10 people, have documented about 500 offers for service. Staff of one relief organization stopped by and told us they could send 600 more. A campus ministry said they estimate they could send 1500 volunteers. It is overwhelming for our team. We need more people to help us coordinate these efforts. We need wisdom to create a structure that allows us to prepare for many relief volunteers in the months to come while also responding to immediate needs.
Please pray for us.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Public Statement from OMF International Japan

17 March 2011

OMF Japan has approximately 100 members presently in Japan. At the time of the Great Tohoku Kanto Earthquake approximately 15 members were based in Tohoku and 40 in Kanto (around Tokyo).

In immediate response to the earthquake and tsunami, a Crisis Team, lead by the Field Director, was formed to provide advice and leadership to our members. Members of the team, including the Medical Advisor and Field Nurse have contacted all OMF members in Japan to ensure they are safe and well. Although many of our members are shaken, to date no physical injuries or other problems have been identified.

Three OMF families were based in Sendai at the time of the earthquake. One family was away from the area at the time and we have made contact with other two and have confirmed they are safe and well.

There were two short-term workers in the Tohoku area at the time of the earthquake. They are safe and well. One has already left Japan. The other is with a missionary team and may stay on to assist with relief work.

OMF Japan is concerned about the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. On 15 March we issued advice to all our members offering assistance should they wish to evacuate. At that time our advice was that evacuation was a personal decision. So far seven members and ten children have left, or will shortly leave, the Kanto and Tohoku areas. Our Crisis Team is monitoring the situation closely and reviewing its advice to the Field daily.

OMF Japan is committed to assisting however we can with relief and recovery work in the Tohoku area. We have allied ourselves with the Christian Relief, Assistance, Support and Hope network (CRASH, crashjapan.com) and are working with them to find ways our members can go to help or otherwise support the relief work. The first trucks left this morning to establish a base and deliver materials to Tohoku.

The Sendai Earthquake Relief Fund, an OMF Japan project, has been created to channel funds for earthquake relief work. Anyone wishing to contribute to this project may do so through their local OMF office. Please quote project number L60500.

Thompson family update: Responding to the Fukushima nuclear reactor problem

No doubt many of you have seen the news about the problems at the Fukushima nuclear reactor, caused by the massive earthquake and subsequent tsunami. We too have been watching the situation closely, and I want to give you an update.


We have very much appreciated the concern you have shown for us, first after the earthquake and now with this nuclear issue. We have the impression that the overseas media have contributed to the fear with attention-grabbing headlines like "U.S. evacuates citizens from Japan" (USA Today). That headline does not give the correct impression.


According to the American Embassy in Japan, "The United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) recommends that U.S. citizens who live within 50 miles (80 km) of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant evacuate the area or take shelter indoors if safe evacuation is not practical." This recommendation is more conservative than the official Japanese recommendation of 18 miles (30km), and does NOT suggest that Americans leave Japan, only that they leave the affected area.


We live approximately 150 miles from the nuclear plant, and although there have been elevated radiation levels in the Tokyo area recently, they usually subside quickly, and all experts agree that they pose no danger to health.


The American Embassy is not recommending that Americans outside of the 50 mile radius evacuate, but has offered some assistance to those wishing to leave Japan but cannot find a commercial flight.


http://japan.usembassy.gov/e/acs/tacs-travel20110317.html


The OMF-Japan Crisis Management Team, of which Bryan is a member, has had meetings each day to assess the overall situation in Japan, not just the problem at the nuclear plant. We have not recommended evacuation for OMF members, but allow each member/family to decide what is best for themselves. Some members have decided to travel to Sapporo, where OMF has an office and guest home, and where the potential danger from earthquakes and nuclear fallout is less. A few have returned to their home country on the recommendation of their home office, home church and/or supporters.


As for our family, I've already mentioned that the earthquake itself was quite traumatic for Jan, as she was home alone when it occurred. The past year has had so many changes for us that her coping ability was already diminished. The continuing aftershocks—three more just as I'm writing this—concerns about shortages, travel difficulties in Tokyo, and the uncertainty about  power outages and the nuclear plant, caused us to wonder if it would be best for her to relocate for a time of rest and renewal. Just as we were considering this a good friend called and offered to give us the tickets they had for a trip over spring break. So Jan and the boys will travel to Singapore on March 22, and are scheduled to return to Japan (if all is well) on April 7. She will stay at the OMF Guest Home in Singapore, and have a chance to meet with an OMF counselor to debrief all that has happened recently.


School for the boys has been cancelled until April 4 (which includes their one week spring break). They have been doing "virtual online schooling" with their teachers via the internet.


Bryan will stay behind in Tokyo and continue to work full-time with the relief effort. Should it become necessary to leave Tokyo for any reason there are several options available.


We came in 1992 with a calling to reach the Japanese for Christ, and it is a privilege to be a part of His redemptive work in this country. No event since World War 2 has devastated Japan like this one. No situation has presented more opportunities for showing the love of Christ. Now is the time for the Church to serve, and we desire to do whatever we can, as long as we can. We are grateful for your prayers and many words of encouragement.

Day 7, March 17 end of day report: CRASH relief command center report

It has turned cold again and is snowing in many of the areas affected by the earthquake and tsunami. Fuel and water is in short supply, people in shelters are cold, and it is taking time to get what is needed up there quickly. In Tokyo and many other areas gas is being rationed, causing long lines at the pumps. Scattered shortages of food have been seen.


CRASH Japan sent our first relief team to the Sendai area this morning, to set up a base of operations that volunteers can work out of. The strategy is to get the needed personnel and supplies to the bases, and then to work through the local churches to get to people in need.


My team of volunteer coordinators made significant progress in contacting many of those who have volunteered to serve the relief effort. We've been getting good news, like the Japanese government allowing medical workers from overseas to come and help in the three areas most affected.


The CRASH relief command center continues to receive many messages of encouragement from those who are praying for us, giving financially, and wishing to help in some way. 


WHAT IS NEEDED IMMEDIATELY:
1. Your prayers. The coordination efforts are exhausting, and we need to move quickly while also preparing for a long-term relief effort. Those doing direct relief need safety and wisdom in their work.


2. Financial resources: God's people have been generous so far, and we are grateful. The sheer immensity of the task will require a huge amount of supplies from outside of Japan. We have offers of aid from Christian organizations overseas, but will need to pay to get it distributed in Japan. We've made a faith goal today of US$1,000,000 to be received in the next week.


http://march2011japanearthquaketsunami.blogspot.com/2011/03/how-to-give-to-japan-earthquake-relief.html


3. Medical personnel: Japan now allows medical personnel from overseas to serve in the three most affected areas. Register at crashjapan.com if you can help.


4. Volunteers. If you are in Japan, we will need you soon. If you are outside of Japan, consider putting together a relief team to come later, once we have bases of operation set up. There will be a great need for relief and recovery work for several months to come, at least. We expect to need teams throughout the summer.


5. Spread the word. Tell your friends of the needs and encourage them to pray. Facebook users can spread the word by clicking "Like" and/or "Share" at http://www.facebook.com/crashjapan.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xF-gbHvFCrs


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