TOKYO — Japanese Christians, although a small minority of
the battered Asian nation’s populace, gathered in churches and Bible studies
Sunday to pray for those still missing after the March 11 earthquake — now
listed as 9.0 in magnitude — and tsunami.
Teresa Seelen, a Southern Baptist missionary, worshipped at one church where
believers spent the entire service praying for friends and family by name, as
well as collecting a love offering for disaster relief following the country’s strongest-ever
earthquake and the tsunami’s walls of seawater that destroyed vast numbers of
neighborhoods and villages along Japan’s northern Pacific coast.
“Through tears, they called out names and lifted them to God,” Seleen said of
the members’ prayers. “We prayed for courage for the believers to reach out
with the gospel. … It was precious to see the generosity of this small group of
With most stores and gas stations closed, the main task for many in the
hardest-hit areas Sunday was just getting by. Scores lined up at the few gas
stations and grocery stores that were open. International Mission Board
missionary (IMB) Sharon Bennett said shelves were largely empty amid the rush
to get food.
Christian organizations gathered Sunday to figure out a game plan for
distributing aid strategically as they minister to the needs of the Japanese. A
Baptist disaster relief assessment team is on the ground evaluating needs and
opportunities for response.
Japanese authorities were continuing to operate on the presumption March 14
that meltdowns may be underway at two nuclear reactors after the earthquake and
However, government officials said there are so far no indications of
hazardous emissions of radioactive material into the atmosphere. About 180,000
people have been evacuated from the area.
No International Mission Board personnel live within the area affected by the
evacuations, said Renae Oue, another IMB representative in Japan.
IMB missionaries to Japan spent most of their weekend shoveling tons of sand
and sludge with their neighbors. Almost every street near the home of Sharon
Bennett and her husband Mark in northern Japan was buckled, cracked and covered
with gray sand. A few children played in the park as adults worked together.
The Bennetts were homeschooling when the largest earthquake in Japan’s history
hit. They took shelter under a table and watched as items fell off shelves and
“I prayed out loud,” Mark Bennett said. “In my heart I was preparing for the
worst. I honestly thought the house was going to come down on top of us. After
20 years in Japan, this was the worst and longest earthquake I have ever felt.
I was preparing myself to meet the Lord.”
The Bennetts went outside after the initial quake, joining others in their
neighborhood as the aftershocks started. Their block literally moved in one
direction while the park across the street moved in the opposite.
“I felt like I was standing on a small boat,” Mark Bennett said.
Two of their boys were in classes at the local elementary school when the quake
hit. The road was so buckled that no cars or public transport could get
through, so Mark Bennett, like millions of others throughout the country,
walked through the rubble to the school as aftershocks continued to shake the
When Bennett arrived at the school, he found his two younger children standing
outside with classmates, waiting for parents. The trio walked through gray
sludge and debris to get back to their house.
During the walk home, “we watched as wave after wave of aftershock did more
damage to the roads and our park,” Mark Bennett said. “Four concrete power
poles fell onto a house a block from us — but we arrived safely home.”
A seemingly endless barrage of aftershocks shook the country all weekend. The U.S.
Geological Survey reported more than 140 such quakes — magnitude 4.5 and
higher, including a 6.2-magnitude quake Sunday morning.
While Japanese officials mounted efforts to avert a possible nuclear crisis,
rescuers continued to frantically scramble to find survivors. Rescuers dug
through mud and rubble, rescuing survivors and recovering bodies. So far, more
than 3,000 people have been rescued but many more thousands are still missing.
Japan’s National Police Agency says that in one coastal town, Minamisanriku,
around 9,500 people — half the town’s population — are unaccounted for.
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Rain is a writer for the International Mission Board 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.)
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