American Baptist Churches-USA responded to the crushing tsunami trigged by a 9.0-magnitude earthquake with a $20,000 grant to the Japanese Baptist Union (JBU) while Baptist World Aid Rescue 24 sent a team to the disaster area.
Laszlo Pavelcze (left) and Bela Szilagyi of HBAid/Rescue 24 follow farmer Otomo Nohomu in Sendai, Japan. (Photo: HBAid/Rescue24)
On Sunday, the Japanese Meteorological Agency upgraded the quake from 8.8 to 9.0 on the Richter scale and warned that 7.0-magnitude aftershocks were possible over the next several days in Tokyo, the capital of Japan and the nation's largest city.
An American scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory said the quake might have shifted the Earth's axis by 6.5 inches.
Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan said at a press conference on March 13, "I think that the earthquake, tsunami and the situation at our nuclear reactors makes up the worst crisis in the 65 years since the war [World War II]."
Police predicted that the death count at one port town of Minamisanriku would exceed 10,000. Rescue efforts were under way to find survivors in the midst of debris and cold weather. Millions of Japanese had no electricity, and some 300,000 had been moved to emergency shelters.
The New York Times reported that two nuclear power reactors had experienced partial meltdowns. A total of four nuclear plants were in trouble. One was 75 miles from Tokyo.
BBC News reported that the Japanese government had evacuated some 200,000 people from areas around the nuclear power plants.
Media outlets were constantly revising the scope of the humanitarian catastrophe and scale of the nuclear crisis.
Seventy nations had offered assistance.
Japanese Baptists number some 42,000 and have more than 450 churches. Japanese Baptists have four different bodies – JBU, Japan Baptist Conference, Japan Baptist Convention and Okinawa Baptist Convention. All bodies are members of the Baptist World Alliance.
American Baptist News Service (ABNS) reported on March 12 that the JBU leadership had been unable to establish contact with six Baptist pastors.
John Armagost, a missionary in Japan with the American Baptist Churches'
International Ministries, told ABNS, "We have not heard from six pastors (Hachinohe, Kuji, Tagajo, Shichigahama, Matsushima and Kashimadai churches). Other pastors and their families have been evacuated, and some have reported damage to their church buildings."
Headquartered in Budapest, Hungary, under the name of Hungarian Baptist Aid, Rescue 24 provides medical aid and mobilizes global volunteers.
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Rescue 24's CEO Bela Szilagyi and rescue commander Laszlo Pavelcze left for Japan five hours after the tsunami struck. They reported that rescue workers from the United States and Singapore would join their team.
The Rescue 24 team arrived at Tokyo's Narita Airport – some 230 miles from the quake's epicenter – and had obtained government permission to engage in relief efforts. The team was to be accompanied by two Japanese Baptist pastors.
JBU was providing "safety information" on its website.
The Japanese earthquake and ensuing tsunami came less than a month after the earthquake in New Zealand.
Over the past 14 months, global Baptists have responded to earthquakes in New Zealand, Indonesia, Chile and Haiti.
The 6.3-magnitude earthquake in Christchurch, the second largest city in New Zealand, on Feb. 22 destroyed the Oxford Terrace Baptist Church and damaged Beckenham Baptist Church.
New Zealand Baptists established emergency and recovery assistance centers throughout Christchurch.
The Baptist World Alliance sent $10,000 for relief effort there.
Baptist World Aid Australia (BWAA) responded to the 7.5-magnitude earthquake that struck off the coast of Indonesia on Oct. 25, 2010, triggering a tsunami, with $10,000 (Australian currency). BWAA also provided $50,000 from its Emergency Relief Fund that included mobile medical clinics, hygiene kits and water.
ABC-USA's International Ministries sent $150,000 for recovery and rebuilding to Chile after the Feb. 27, 2010, earthquake and tsunami. The earthquake registered an 8.8-magnitude.
Working through the Lott Carey Baptist Foreign Mission Convention, African-American Baptist churches donated $500,000 to Habitat for Humanity last summer, following the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that hit Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010.
David Goatley, Lott Carey's executive secretary-treasurer, wrote a month after the Haiti earthquake, "We are providing cash grants to families. Haitians live on about $1.50 per day, and this support will be very helpful. We are providing 'grocery grants' to families as well. This will help address the growing malnutrition problems that our doctors and others are seeing increasingly."
Lott Carey has remained actively involved with recovery efforts in Haiti.