On the Ground in Japan

Published April 2011, News Current

News about last month’s earthquake/tsunami disaster in Japan grows and changes daily. With the added concerns of nuclear radiation, it has been the number one international story for weeks.

Instead of rehearsing that news, here is a more intimate look at the disaster through the eyes of a Christian missionary laboring on the ground in the name of Christ.

Dan Iverson of Mission to the World (an agency of the Presbyterian Church in America), has been serving in Japan for 25 years. Here are some clips from one of his reports in the early aftermath of the disaster:

"May God so shake Japan spiritually, and may the Japanese people be humbled to desperately seek the Living Water God offers in Christ."

“Many were saying we should not go in, for various reasons. As we prayed, discussed, gathered supplies, and loaded them into the late hours of the night Sunday, we felt led to go. People are fleeing south as we go north.”

The Rev. Iverson and two other missionaries rented a 2-ton truck and loaded it “with 1000 liters of water, gasoline, blankets, food, warm clothes, etc., that our church members and lots of non-Christian friends donated. People were most desperate for water.

“We distributed supplies to a small church . . . , an elementary school housing displaced people, and drove around the town (Ueda) giving water to people. People were so grateful.

“The radio is often saying the government does not want volunteers in there getting in the way . . . and possibly becoming victims themselves.” But, he says, “We were so glad we went. We saw almost no official relief supplies coming in where we were. We saw no troops bringing relief until we were heading home south.

“The exhausted city hall official lady in charge at the [Ueda] elementary school with 100 displaced people living there was so thankful we did not listen to those warnings not to come. She was surprised that we were from a church, and wanted us to thank everyone who sent things.

“She wanted us to bring more, and to bring people to help her with so many people, especially the many older people who were there because they did not have the strength or means to flee.

“People were so desperate for water. When we ran out, they wanted the not-so-clean spill-over can water. It was very sad to run out with people still coming with plastic bags and trash cans and anything they could bring to get water.”

It was only the first of Mr. Iverson’s long supply runs, renting larger trucks and carrying larger loads. Aftershocks, he says, “have become so commonplace. May God so shake Japan spiritually, and may the Japanese people be humbled to desperately seek the Living Water God offers in Christ.”