Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Japan's Christians pray, muster funds for relief

Posted on Mar 14, 2011 | by Susie Rain TOKYO (BP)--Japanese Christians, although a small minority of the battered Asian nation's populace, gathered in churches and Bible studies Sunday to pray for those still missing after the March 11 earthquake -- now listed as 9.0 in magnitude -- and tsunami.

Teresa Seelen, a Southern Baptist missionary, worshipped at one church where believers spent the entire service praying for friends and family by name, as well as collecting a love offering for disaster relief following the country's strongest-ever earthquake and the tsunami's walls of seawater that destroyed vast numbers of neighborhoods and villages along Japan's northern Pacific coast.

"Through tears, they called out names and lifted them to God," Seleen said of the members' prayers. "We prayed for courage for the believers to reach out with the Gospel. … It was precious to see the generosity of this small group of believers."

With most stores and gas stations closed, the main task for many in the hardest-hit areas Sunday was just getting by. Scores lined up at the few gas stations and grocery stores that were open. International Mission Board missionary Sharon Bennett said shelves were largely empty amid the rush to get food.

Christian organizations gathered Sunday to figure out a game plan for distributing aid strategically as they minister to the needs of the Japanese. A Baptist disaster relief assessment team is on the ground evaluating needs and opportunities for response.

Japanese authorities were continuing to operate on the presumption March 14 that meltdowns may be underway at two nuclear reactors after the earthquake and tsunami. However, government officials said there are so far no indications of hazardous emissions of radioactive material into the atmosphere. About 180,000 people have been evacuated from the area.

No International Mission Board personnel live within the area affected by the evacuations, said Renae Oue, another IMB representative in Japan.

IMB missionaries to Japan spent most of their weekend shoveling tons of sand and sludge with their neighbors. Almost every street near the home of Sharon Bennett and her husband Mark in northern Japan was buckled, cracked and covered with gray sand. A few children played in the park as adults worked together.

The Bennetts were homeschooling when the largest earthquake in Japan's history hit. They took shelter under a table and watched as items fell off shelves and walls.

"I prayed out loud," Mark Bennett said. "In my heart I was preparing for the worst. I honestly thought the house was going to come down on top of us. After 20 years in Japan, this was the worst and longest earthquake I have ever felt. I was preparing myself to meet the Lord."

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