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Good news in bad circumstances from Japan

March 17, 2011 No Comment

by James Morgan

While the destruction and ensuing nuclear crisis resulting from the earthquake in Japan continue dominating headlines, two people and their families with connections to Lutheran Church–Canada are unharmed. Priscilla Ishida, daughter of Rev. Al and Marlene Schmidt of Edmonton lives with her family not far from Tokyo. “While they certainly felt the quake and experienced many tense moments, the Lord took care of them and their property,” says Mrs. Schmidt in an e-mail. “When I spoke with her Friday (March 11), she said that other than some furniture shifting, pictures dropping off the walls, and a few broken dishes, they otherwise suffered no injury,” she adds.

Also, Gayle Kawanaka was unharmed in the earthquake. Her mother Irene is a member of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Edmonton. Both Ms. Kawanaka and Ms. Ishida have previous involvement with the Overseas Volunteer Youth Ministry program of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS) in Japan.

Currently, both Canadian Lutheran World Relief (CLWR) and the Lutheran Church– Missouri Synod (LCMS) are engaged in relief efforts in Japan.

A valuable partner

A family walks past rubble after the earthquake and tsunami in Minamisanriku City. Photo: REUTERS, courtesy www.alertnet.org.

CLWR announced today (March 17) it is working through Church World Service (CWS), a member of ACT Alliance. According to CLWR’s executive director, Robert Granke, “Church World Service is mandated to work in Japan and is well-equipped to take on the role of providing relief to victims of the earthquake and tsunami.” He said CLWR is confident its partnership with CWS “will make a real impact on addressing this horrible disaster.”

CWS is providing emergency relief to 25,000 people now living at 100 evacuation sites in the northeast area of Japan. They are focusing on sites where basic needs of food, water, sanitation, electricity and fuel are not being met, and their response will include ready-to-eat food and sanitation kits including napkins and soap to fill significant sanitation and hygiene gaps. Visit www.churchworldservice.org for updates on the work CLWR is supporting through CWS.

Both the Japan Lutheran Church (a partner of the LCMS and member of the International Lutheran Council) and the Japan Evangelical Lutheran Church have issued appeals for funds to help people in need, according to the ACT Alliance website. Church World Service (CWS) was the first organization to appeal for donations. “The situation in Japan is getting worse and worse. Explosions at nuclear plants in Fukushima are posing the threat of radiation to anybody within a 20 km radius area of the nuclear plants, and the number of people at evacuation sites now exceeds 460,000,” says CWS Head of Emergencies for the Asia-Pacific Region, Takeshi Komino. CLWR is accepting donations for relief efforts at www.clwr.org/donate.       

Lutheran mission perspective

The LCMS is heavily engaged in efforts to help the Japanese, both on a spiritual and humanitarian level. Dr. Jonathan Blanke, an LCMS missionary in Japan recently told St. Louis radio station KFUO that prayer is what Japan needs the most from others right now, adding that as heavily damaged infrastructure is repaired, reaching people will become easier. “We’d like to get to the point where we can also get into some of these areas and really help people in a tangible way,” said Dr. Blanke.

Rev. Manabu Wakabayashi, a Japan Lutheran Church pastor in Niigata says in an update on the LCMS website that just one JLC church in the hard-hit Fukushima prefecture was damaged and that his own church was spared. He calls it a miracle that his 81-year-old mother was found alive four days after the quake hit. Her home by the sea narrowly escaped destruction by the tsunami.

The LCMS has created a separate Japan “help page” with continuous updates from missionaries on the situation in Japan, along with analysis and response to the situation from Synod President Rev. Matthew C. Harrison and various church-affiliated commentators and academics. The address for the site is; www.lcms.org/help.

With additional information from CLWR News, LCMS Reporter, ACT Alliance

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