By Reggie Hundley
On March 11, a powerful earthquake struck just off the island of Japan. The destruction and loss of life from the quaking earth paled in comparison to the cataclysmic power of the resulting tsunami.
News of the devastation traveled around the world. And within moments, people were contacting the forwarding agents of missionaries and the offices of Mission Services Association, the National Missionary Convention, International Disaster Emergency Services (IDES), and others. People from around the world wondered how friends and residents of Japan were faring. Perhaps the words of Paul Clark, longtime president of Osaka Bible Seminary, sum up the early events best:
I was sitting at my desk [with my] laptop and began to feel woozy . . . like my head was spinning. I got up and felt strangely dizzy—then, I realized it was an earthquake. It just continued. I became sick at my stomach as I watched live coverage of the tsunami surging across the farmlands after dumping parking lots of cars into the wide river it had formed; and after the cars came boats, big boats, ships mingled with structures, buildings and houses! Unimaginable! You can build for earthquakes, but there is no stopping a tsunami that is 30 feet high.
The sheer destruction of property and loss of life resulting from the events were astounding. As representatives of the world news media poured into Japan, the details of the disasters’ aftermath traveled around the world.
One can only imagine the emotional waves of confusion, fear, grief, and hopelessness that poured over those surviving the traumatic events. It was soon clear to all those who understand God’s love for the world (even though our understanding is incomplete), that it was time to demonstrate that love. Chad Huddleston, who lives in Osaka with his wife, Jennifer (daughter of Paul and Rickie Clark), wrote in an e-mail, “This is the time for the Christians in Japan (As few as they are! Less than 1 percent) to unite, rise up, and be the light. We cannot allow this opportunity to pass us by.”
A Worldwide Response
Christians throughout the United States, Mexico, and around the world sensed the need to pray for and reach out to those suffering from the destruction. Almost every telephone call and e-mail to us at the Mission Services Association office in Knoxville, Tennessee, included the question, “What can we do to help?”
Interested Christians were directed to IDES, Say Yes to Japan, Team Expansion, Mustard Seed Global Fellowship, and others. Prayer services for people living halfway around the world were organized, and funds were quickly gathered to begin meeting needs. God’s love had truly touched hearts, and it was clear his love for the people of Japan would be expressed in action.
Just three days after the disaster, Paul and Rickie Clark wrote, “Individuals and some groups are making the effort to see relief delivered immediately. It is [the] worst time for Japan since the days of recovering from the war years. Pray for wisdom for the church of Japan in making this an opportunity for the gospel.”
The relief efforts were begun in as orderly and strategic fashion as possible. There were obstacles to overcome, to be sure. The whereabouts of people was unknown, since entire towns and villages in the Sendai area were obliterated. On March 21, the Huddlestons reported, “A truck and three vans [will be] driving up tomorrow night! And we are still going to have supplies left here in Osaka for the next trip up!” The following day saw this e-mail: “I get the feeling our neighbors and people like my kindergarten mother friends don’t even know what to think about this—it feels like they have never seen anything like it. It is a privilege to be part of a body that is acting like a body right now and truly working together!”
Healing Hands International quickly joined the effort, sending Matt Huddleston, Chad’s brother, to deliver supplies for the Sendai area.
As the days passed, the level of cooperation among Christians and their devotion to serve and love the distressed people in the Sendai area continued to increase, and further demonstrated God’s love! Tim Turner of Central Japan Christian Mission joined with Toshiaki Chida, a Japanese national preaching in Sendai, to help meet the most basic needs of life. On March 26, the Huddlestons wrote, “What has been exciting . . . is to experience the great body of Christ working together as one to be used to make a difference in this situation.”
While this relief effort has been ongoing for many weeks as of this writing, much more remains to be done. IDES has been a primary channel for funding. Rick Jett, executive director, recently wrote,
These Christians have been working around the clock demonstrating the love of Christ to hundreds as they provide food, water, and shelter. Everyone seems to be working together in a selfless way to bring help and hope to the victims in the name of Jesus. They are doing their best to turn this tragedy into an opportunity to share the good news of Christ.
So far, we have received over $300,000 to be used in Japan. We are committed to being good stewards and not letting this opportunity to glorify God pass. Pray for these Christian workers as they reach out in Jesus’ name. Pray for the hearts of the Japanese to be open to the love and grace of God.
God’s love as a present reality is surely being demonstrated through the generosity of Christians around the world and the work of Jesus’ followers in Japan. Still, it is not always easy to see God’s love when we are suffering.
Our prayer is that the Japanese people will soon be able to say, “God was here, and we saw him in the lives and actions of those who follow his Son.”
Reggie Hundley is executive director of Mission Services Association Inc. in Knoxville, Tennessee.