On the Ground in Japan

By Janet Chismar and Trevor Freeze   •   March 11, 2011   •   Topics:

“This is really an hour for the church in Japan as well as for brothers and sisters in Christ across the globe to pray and work together,” said Preston Parrish, Executive Vice President of Ministry at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. “It’s a time to demonstrate the love and hope of Jesus Christ.”

That love and hope will be delivered in many different ways.

Most pressing, the physical need in Japan is great and BGEA, along with Samaritan’s Purse, is responding by providing food, water, blankets and medical supplies. Already, BGEA has sent $200,000 to get relief efforts going.

Expediting the process, BGEA is working through relationships forged over years of working in Japan, most recently through Franklin Graham’s Festival in Osaka this past October, in addition to a Festival in Okinawa in 2006. Billy Graham traveled and preached in Japan beginning in 1956, conducting Crusades in 1967, 1980 and 1994.

“BGEA has been working in Japan for over 50 years,” Parrish said. “Through these contacts, we were able to communicate very quickly, first to find out how they were doing and then to figure out how we could begin helping to meet their needs.”

Rev. Yoshikazu Takada, who was chairman of the Osaka Festival committee, requested assistance from BGEA and Samaritan’s Purse following the disaster. “Please come. We need your help,” he said.

Despite being slowed by a heavy snowstorm, a 14-member team consisting of Samaritan’s Purse staff and local church members arrived in the Sendai area Wednesday with a truck loaded with relief supplies such as blankets, hygiene kits, water, and first aid kits.

Initial Shock

Rev. Chad Hammond, who served as the Festival Director in Osaka, is on the ground in Japan now. Responding by email Sunday, Hammond said, “I was in Sendai two weeks ago and flew out of the airport that is now submerged. While we were there, we met with the senior leader in Sendai named Rev. Ryuzo Shima. He shared how much they had struggled for the past 30 years to grow the Christian faith in the Sendai and the Myagi prefecture. In spite of the challenges, Rev. Shima wanted to move forward and pray about inviting Franklin Graham to Sendai.

“Since the earthquake, we had not heard from Rev. Shima until today,” said Hammond on Monday. “We have now spoken to him three times. He has been without electricity and water since Friday. He is amazed we are coming; actually he could not believe the same men that were in the church meetings two weeks ago to talk about a Festival are now returning with supplies.”

Hammond added that the Japanese are “an amazing people and will come through this. Their diligence in the construction of the buildings obviously saved thousands of lives.”

Matt Murton, who plays for the Hanshin Tigers, was in Kobe when the earthquake hit. He said in an email, “On most days I would still be at the field, but on this particular day we didn’t have a game, just a practice. I arrived back to my apartment in Kobe at around 2:30 pm and was upstairs on the 19th floor when the quake hit. The amount of swaying back and forth was tremendous given the fact that the epicenter was hundreds of miles away.

“It was a truly frightening experience for the family as we gathered the kids, huddled and prayed,” Murton added. “When we arrived downstairs and found that the epicenter was in the Sendai region, I immediately began to pray knowing that if we felt that much, they surely were in trouble.”

As Murton reflected on that day, he said, “When all of this occurred, it was no doubt very unnerving and there were moments of doubt. However I know God has a plan and a reason, and only through Him can we remain strong.”

The 9.0-magnitude earthquake, which shook Japan on March 11, was the most powerful to hit the nation in at least 100 years. The death toll could top more than 10,000 after disaster-response teams assess casualties, the National Police Agency reports.

According to seismologists, the earthquake released 1,000 times the energy of the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti. The disaster was compounded by a 33-foot tsunami.

Our prayers are with the people who lost homes and loved ones throughout the country.