All of us are shocked by the enormous impact of the earthquake in Japan. The aftershocks, now in the multiple hundreds, are seismically strong enough to be considered earthquakes in most places. The Japanese people have been hard hit by this history-making disaster.
As if an earthquake of historic proportions is not enough to shake the country, the tsunami adds to the disastrous effects near the coastline of the island nation. Waves, in some places 30 feet high, have made cities and villages into mud piles. The shortage of power and water create an array of other problems that complicate relief efforts.
The aura of a nuclear meltdown is so foreboding. I have trouble digesting the arcane information offered by scientists and other specialists who are seeking to inform the general public. My mind is easily boggled by such discussions and the implications are far reaching in terms of other nations utilizing nuclear power.
People in this country, especially Southern Baptists and Alabama Baptists, want to be of help. As we view the images on the Internet and on television, we feel helpless. That is a natural response to such a huge disaster we experience vicariously through the media. We simply wonder, “What can we do to help?”
My initial reply may sound a bit hollow or trite, but it is heartfelt. We need to pray like never before. The Japanese people need our prayers now more than ever, and we must focus our intentional praying upon them. Prayer, desperate praying, has incalculable power to help people, even in the worst of circumstances. Additionally, praying for the people places us alongside them spiritually.
Pray for the families who have lost loved ones and who now find themselves stunned by unbelievable and unimaginable grief. The thought of parents having children lost in the enormous waves of the tsunami leads us to tears. It also ought to cause us to pray fervently for those so affected by this loss. When we pray, we share their grief and weep for them.
Pray for the Japanese leaders as they seek to make the right decisions for their people in the aftermath of this disaster. We can pray for them to have wisdom in seeking to assist their nation in the long-term recovery period before them. Although Japan is a well developed country, with a sophisticated economy, no nation has faced this kind of situation since World War II. Imagine how we would handle such a disaster.
Pray for the relief workers who are there presently and who will be coming in the future. Among those doing rescue and recovery are our American military personnel. The USS Ronald Reagan and other vessels are there helping with food distribution and medical assistance.
Non-military people are in Japan, and many others will follow, once approval by officials is given. Alabama Baptists, along with numerous other well-trained disaster relief people, stand ready to assist when called upon by those on the ground in Japan. A disaster of this magnitude will mean that the strategy will be different than most situations we have encountered in the past, and it will be difficult, but certainly doable.
The second way we can be of help is to give to disaster relief ministries of Alabama Baptists and Southern Baptists. On our web site at http://www.sbdr.org/donate you can find information which will be helpful in making the right decisions about where to give. Like Hurricane Katrina (August 2005), the tsunami in Indonesia (December 2004) and the earthquake in Haiti (January 2010), we will devote the funds given to support disaster relief needs identified by our partners in this ministry.
Third, we can look forward to potential opportunities to do other kinds of missions work in Japan. The Japanese people need the Gospel like all others in our world. As a history buff, I can remember reading about General Douglas MacArthur’s appeal to send missionaries to Japan, following World War II. Interestingly, a high-ranking general was the one who reportedly saw the need then, and it will be a colossal challenge for us in the future. Right now, our Lord may be giving us a second opportunity to be a people of hope. We can offer the good news of Christ to those shaken by an earthquake, washed over by a tsunami and frightened by a nuclear meltdown.
Pray, give and go are the three verbs which describe our missions strategy in so-called normal times. It is certainly the call we have in times of catastrophic circumstances. Pray for the people in Japan. They need it desperately. Give to help them in this time of disaster. If the opportunity permits, go — or help someone else go — to be the compassion of Christ in person for the people shaken, frightened and disoriented by this unprecedented disaster.