Baptists struggle to reach disaster zone
Susie Rain, Baptist Press
March 17, 2011

Baptists struggle to reach disaster zone

Baptists struggle to reach disaster zone
Susie Rain, Baptist Press
March 17, 2011

TOKYO — Across the upper half of Japan, life is either in

tatters or at a standstill. With some roads impassable and fuel almost

nonexistent in the north, relief and rescue workers have struggled to reach the

areas where they are needed most.

This disaster is like nothing Makoto Kato has ever seen. Kato, the Japan

Baptist Convention’s executive secretary, said the area affected by the

disaster is large, but the biggest problem is simply getting there.

Photo by Csaba Lukacs

Baptists from North Carolina and Hungary unload boxes of food at an evacuation shelter in Japan.

“People are hurting because of a lack of food, water and electricity,” Kato

said. “The devastating part is that we can’t get there yet.”

While multiple Baptist churches have sustained structural damage and church

members are still missing, Kato said the most urgent concern is the nuclear

power plants in the stricken region.

“The fear and suffering sustained from earthquakes and tsunami is being

multiplied by the panic of radiation exposure,” Kato said. “We pray for the

Lord to provide His peace, comfort and hope. We pray that those victims suffering

alone in the cold will quickly be rescued.”

The pileup of disasters — earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis — has

multiplied the complications. Some 70,000 people had already been evacuated

from a 12-mile radius; about 140,000 remain in the new 30-mile warning zone,

according to news reports. More than 500,000 people have been made homeless by

the quake and tsunami. Many endured snow and freezing temperatures Wednesday,

as government supplies began to reach the worst affected areas.

A four-member team from the Japan Baptist Convention and Japanese Baptist Union

was forced to turn around when they tried to enter the disaster zone to check

on the 21 churches affiliated with the two entities. Special government permits

are needed to travel the expressway and to enter disaster zones. Another main

route to the earthquake- and tsunami-affected areas goes through radiation

evacuation zones. Back roads are open, but fuel is scarce so traveling long

distances is almost impossible.

Two North Carolina Baptists, however, managed to make it to the outer edges of

the tsunami disaster zone for a quick 12-hour survey. Jack Frazier of Willow

Springs, N.C., and John Adams of Salemburg, N.C., are part of a Baptist World

Aid “Rescue 24 International” team made up of search and rescue workers from

the United States and Hungary. Frazier and Adams went as representatives of

North Carolina Baptist Men. N.C. Baptist Men has the only search and rescue

team of any of the Southern Baptist disaster relief entities.

Frazier said the devastation is heartbreaking. Cars washed up on top of houses.

A building knocked off its foundation. Loose debris piled high in fields ruined

by the rush of water.

“We went for search and rescue, but quickly realized the Japanese government

had that under control,” Frazier said. The government has deployed 100,000

troops to lead the aid effort. “So, we drove around evaluating the damage and

found an evacuation center.”

Around 400 people had taken refuge in the center. Frazier said there was no

electricity or gas in the area. When the Rescue 24 team arrived, the evacuation

center was low on food.

“All they had was a half of a box of bananas and a half of a box of oranges for

400 people,” Frazier said.

The Baptist team went from store to store, trying to find food to help. Frazier

said the line just to get into the local 7-Eleven store numbered around 200.

They finally came across a truck unloading groceries at the back of a store and

convinced them to sell more than the “rationing” amount so they could feed the

400 people.

“We stuffed our van with as much food as it would hold,” Frazier said.

Survivors in the shelters in the earthquake and tsunami areas said they are

short of food and water, according to news reports. The Japanese army is using

helicopters to bring in basic supplies. With the country’s power supply

depleted by the damaged nuclear plants, many shelters have no heat. Frazier

concurred that the ongoing nuclear crisis makes it hard to get much aid or

relief work done at the moment.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Rain is an IMB writer/editor living in Asia. The International

Mission Board has established a relief fund for the Japan earthquake. Donations

may be sent to: Office of Finance, International Mission Board, 3806 Monument

Ave., Richmond, Va. 23230. In the memo line write “Japan Response Fund.” Or

visit http://imbresources.org/index.cfm/product/detail/prodID/3352 to give

online. For further information call the IMB toll-free at 1-800-999-3113. North

Carolina Baptist Men is also collecting funds to help with recovery efforts.

Make check payable to N.C. Baptist Men, P.O. Box 1107, Cary, NC 27512.

Designate your check Japan Earthquake/Tsunami Fund.)

EXTRA: Mark and Sharon Bennett, Southern Baptist

missionaries to Japan, were homeschooling when the massive 9.0-magnitude

earthquake shook Japan March 11. After the initial quake, the Bennetts joined

many of their neighbors outside as the aftershocks began. The video they shot

of the initial damage and ensuing cleanup is posted on CNN’s iReport.

(http://ireport.cnn.com/people/bennettinjp) The Bennetts are recording their

post-earthquake experiences on their blog.

Related stories

Baptists struggle to reach disaster zone

N.C. Baptists called to prayer for Japan

Nuclear threat complicates Japan relief efforts

Japan’s Christians pray, muster funds for relief

Missionary family bonds with neighbors

2 families relocate as Japan crisis heightens

Guest column: Begin helping by praying

N.C. Baptists respond to quake, tsunami

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical

Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new

Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank

you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or

issues with items we run, please contact [email protected]

or call 919-847-2127.)