The situation seems to have mostly stabilized here in Japan – at least in the Tokyo area. We spent all day today (Saturday) contacting church members and friends in Yokosuka and Tokyo and making sure everyone was OK. Some church members had been stranded when the trains stopped yesterday and had to walk for hours in the cold, or spend the night in train stations or other shelters. But today all made it home safely. In Yokosuka and elsewhere the power was out including traffic lights. We finally got power back early this morning. Aftershocks have continued all day today. Yesterday there were several large quakes but today they have been prety minor. As I am writing this (10:17pm JST) there is another tremor – maybe a 2.3? I am getting pretty good at judging earthquakes now… Normally we do get small quakes here every couple of months and life just goes on. But I have never experienced such a huge, rolling and swaying earthquake – lasting about 3 minutes. We have talked to many neighbors, both at home and around our church building whom we hadn’t had a chance to talk with much before and now we have a kind of common bond. That is one good thing that has come out of it. To give you an idea of the magnitude of this event, here are a couple of bits of trivia from Reuter’s News service about the earthquake:
- Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology said the earth’s axis shifted 25 cm as a result of the earthquake, and the U.S. Geological Survey said the main island of Japan had shifted 2.4 meters.
- The earthquake was the fifth most powerful to hit the world in the past century. It surpassed the Great Kanto quake of September 1, 1923, which had a magnitude of 7.9 and killed more than 140,000 people in the Tokyo area.
Even though this was the biggest earthquake to ever hit Japan (8.9 on the Richter scale and 8.8 on the Japanese scale) most of the destruction came from the tsunami that hit Northern Japan shortly after the quake. Japan is well built to handle earthquakes and the people are trained too. As were were standing outside after the first quake and talking with our neighbors, I noticed that the traffic lights were out. After about 30 seconds, Alishea said “look” and pointed at the nearest intersection. The old, retired men who direct traffic for the school cross-walks every school day had immediately moved into the intersection and started directing traffic. It was like this everywhere. When we drove home later we saw school kids walking home with their “earthquake hats” on. Each kids has a quilted book-bag that doubles as an “earthquake hat” when you put it on your head. So we are getting through the quake OK and our church building and house are still standing. But no one was prepared for the tsunami that hit the coastal towns up north.
Maybe you have seen the graphic video images on the news of the huge wall of water sweeping away buildings, cars and anything in its path? One town called Rikuzentakata was literally washed away by the flood. There were 300-400 bodies washed up on the beach and spotted by helicopters, but because more tsunamis were feared no one could even go and collect the dead. Now there are search and rescue teams coming from many nations to help and Japan will need it. Tomorrow we are going to have a prayer meeting for Japan during our Sunday morning service and pray for God’s help and salvation for Japan. Satomi has been burdened all day that we need to do more and we are considering whether we, or someone from the church should visit Sendai personally in order to make contact with churches and other people helping in the worst hit areas. That way we can see exactly what help is needed. I will email again once it becomes clear how we are supposed to help.
It is scary to know that there is a nuclear power in Fukushima that may melt down, but it is exciting to realize that we have a God who can rescue those who are in trouble both spiritually and naturally. Please be in prayer for the lost in Japan since 99% of the people in this disaster do not have a hope for eternal life with God. And please pray for the church in Yokosuka and all over Japan to rise up in faith. We can shine and share His light to those in the dark, hopeless places.
In His service,