Written by Gregg Brekke
Writing on behalf of the combined world mission of the United Church of Christ and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Global Ministries co-executive directors told mission partners in Japan that the churches "will continue praying for you and seek ways to accompany you in the path that lies ahead."
The letter to the Rev. Aobora Taemae, general secretary of the United Church of Christ in Japan, was sent by the Rev. David Vargas, president of the Division of Overseas Ministries in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and the Rev. Cally Rogers-Witte, executive minister of the UCC's Wider Church Ministries.
Following the devastating 8.9-magnitude earthquake and resultant tsunami that left hundreds dead, a broad path of destruction in Japan and triggered warnings around the pacific, Global Ministries staff have been actively attempting to make contact with mission personnel in Japan.
Mission partners Martha Mensendiek and Casilda Luzares in Kyoto said they felt the quake but damage was light in the area. Mensendiek also assured staff that her brother, Jeffrey Mensendiek and his family in hard-hit Sendai, was safe but without electricity or gas.
News was also good for Eileen Sanderson, a member of First UCC in Hampton, Va., also in Sendai. A recent graduate of Hope College in Mich., she has been in Japan since February teaching English. First UCC pastor the Rev. Marc Stewart reports family received news via a text message that Eileen survived the earthquake and tsunami.
The Rev. Douglas Anders, the UCC's South Central Conference Minister, has extensive family connections in Japan. Anders' mother was able to contact a sister in Tokyo who reported that other siblings in the vicinity of Sendai had experienced structural damage to their homes but were spared the force of the tsunami waters.
"I invite your prayers for all people affected by today's earthquake-tsunami, especially the people of northern Japan," said Anders in an email to other Conference Ministers, noting that the possibility of such a disaster is contained in the "Japanese collective psyche."
"They know what happened today could happen any day, so in so ways they were prepared. But as one lives through such an event, you realize one can never be fully prepared for the magnitude of damage and destruction," said Anders.
The UCC's Hawaii Conference reports that damage on the islands was confined to isolated flooding and debris, and that several churches on higher ground opened their doors as shelters. The Marshall Islands, Pohnpei and American Samoa, where the UCC has historic partnerships, were spared the effects of the tsunami.
Disaster ministries indicates that gifts may also be made at your local UCC congregation marked for "Pacific earthquake/tsunami" with the request they be sent through your Conference office on to Wider Church Ministries. Donations may also be made out and sent directly to Wider Church Ministries, 700 Prospect Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44115.