Thursday, March 17, 2011

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.

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.

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