Acknowledging the frustration of watching the growing crisis in Japan unfold, LCMS World Relief and Human Care Interim Executive Director Rev. John Fale said the LCMS must wait for the appropriate time to deploy LCMS disaster response personnel to Japan and also prepare for a “long-haul” response.
“We want to act now, but we don’t want to compound this disaster and add to the casualties by sending staff or volunteers into areas where there is the possibility of radiation contamination,” Fale said. “We’re closely monitoring the situation and will be on the ground when our partners are ready and it’s prudent to go. But right now, we’re hearing from our partners on the ground that now is not the time to come.”
Approaching the one-week anniversary of the deadly March 11 disaster, LCMS World Relief and Human Care (WR-HC) continues to work in close consultation with LCMS church partners and missionaries in Japan for updates on the growing nuclear crisis and aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami. The death toll continues to climb, with 4,277 reported deaths and 8,194 unaccounted for, according to March 16 news reports citing the National Police Agency of Japan. Hundreds of thousands are homeless, also according to news reports.
On March 17, Dr. Jonathan Blanke, an LCMS career missionary who was in Tokyo during the earthquake and tsunami, also acknowledged the desire many have to “fly to the scene to help” but stressed that “this is not the time.”
“At the present time it is difficult for anyone other than search and rescue teams to enter the most severely affected areas, and in places where people are living in shelters, basic necessities like food and running water are still in short supply,” Blanke said in an e-mail shared with the LCMS. “Though the [Japan Lutheran Church] is a small church body and is not able to organize the distribution of supplies (such as blankets, etc.) or volunteers to the victims at the epicenter of the quake or tsunami, they are currently setting up a system for receiving financial contributions. In the meantime, the best way to contribute to the cause is through LCMS World Relief [and Human Care].”
Last week, LCMS President Rev. Matthew C. Harrison announced $200,000 in emergency funds for two Japanese Lutheran church bodies: the Japan Lutheran Church (an LCMS partner church) and the West Japan Evangelical Lutheran Church, which operates Kobe Lutheran Theological Seminary in Kobe along with other church organizations. The funds have been made available for the two church bodies to use however they decide for response to the growing crisis.
“Typically following a disaster, our partners use such funds for emergency needs such as food, drinkable water, safe shelter and medical care,” Fale said. “Over time, those needs will change as the response transitions to long-term recovery and rebuilding.”
Fale thanked caring Christians for support that is enabling both an immediate and appropriate long-haul response in Japan. “We appreciate everyone who is giving so generously and those who are making inquiries about when volunteers can become engaged in relief efforts,” he said. “We ask for their continued prayers and financial support as we have opportunities to bring the help and hope of Christ to people who are hurting.”
To contribute toward the Synod’s response to the Japan earthquake and tsunami:
- mail checks (noting “Japan Disaster Relief” in the memo line) to LCMS World Relief and Human Care, P.O. Box 66861, St. Louis, MO 63166-6861.
- call toll-free 888-930-4438.
- give online at Disaster Relief Fund for Japan.
For more information and resources, visit www.lcms.org/help.