Mission Agency in Prayer for Japan, Mission Personnel and Volunteers Safe
by Elliott Wright
New York , NY, March 12, 2011--The United Methodist Church's mission agency expressed deep concern for the people of Japan and its own personnel and partners in that country in the wake of the devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
"We are very sad and in prayer for all of those who have lost loved ones and their homes and jobs in this terrible event," said Thomas Kemper, general secretary of the General Board of Global Ministries. "We are also very relieved that all of our missionaries and missionary volunteers there are reportedly safe, and we are in touch with mission partner organizations as communications permit."
The agency has nine missionaries, at least six full-time mission volunteers, and some full-time mission associates in Japan. It works with the United Church of Christ in Japan (Kyodan) and several ecumenical organizations and mission institutions.
"Are you well--safe and secure?" Kemper asked in a letter of prayer and encouragement emailed to the mission personnel.
"I know your faith in God is strong and will see you through this crisis," he wrote. "May you also gain strength from the awareness that you are part of a global mission family, that we are united in God's love, lovingly serving God's people."
Telephone lines and other communications systems were down in much of Japan following the earthquake and tsunami that killed a still undermined number of persons. Heat and electricity were also off in some areas, including parts of Tokyo, according to reports reaching Global Ministries.
The General Board of Global Ministries continues many historical relations in Japan begun in the 19th century, primarily through ecumenical affiliations. The Kyodan is the largest Protestant church in Japan, formed in the World War II era by a merger of 33 denominations, including the Methodists. Mission partners to whom Kemper sent messages of solidarity were the Kyodan, the Asian Rural Institute, the Korean Christian Church in Japan, and the National Christian Council of Japan.
News of Missionaries/Volunteers
By the morning of March 12, Global Ministries had heard from its missionaries and its related volunteers and associates.
Kathy Burton-Lewis, an English teacher in Tokyo, was in the United States at the time of the earthquake.
Claudia Genung Yamamoto, who works with the National Christian Council in Tokyo, and Devorah Umipig-Julian, who ministers among refugees and migrants, were the first to report in, saying they their families were safe. Ms. Julian's husband, Roland, an Individual Mission Volunteer, was reportedly safe.
Direct and indirect news indicated that missionaries Yuko Boyle and Timothy Boyle, Ruth M. Ingulsrud Grubel, Lamberto and Angie Valino, and Jonathan McCurley and his wife Satomi were also safe. Mission associate John Fujimori and his wife Megumi were unharmed.
Individual Volunteers Mike Sherrill, David Reedy, Paul Shew, Mary Ann Mariano, and Ted Kitchens, Jr., were safe, as were retired missionaries George and Yuko Gish, who continue to live in Japan and do volunteer work.
Sarah Oba, a Presbyterian missionary who works with Tokyo's Wesley Center, related to United Methodist Women, was also reported safe, as was Jeff Mensendiek, who works with the Common Global Ministries Board, a partner organization, in Sendai, one of the worst-hit coastal cities. Ms. Oba reported that the Wesley Center did not seem to have suffered serious damage.
"We shall keep in close touch with our personnel and our partners until we have definitive information on all of them and their ministries," said Kemper. He noted that the prayers of the mission agency were also with the entire nation of Japan. "We have a long-standing mission partnership in Japan and have deep affection for the Japanese people."
" We are collecting information from missionaries, mission partners and friends in Japan," said Harriett Olson, deputy general secretary of the Women's Division of the mission agency. "We are praying for them and for all those affected by the earthquake and tsunami."
Also reported safe were Hazel Terhune, a retired missionary, and her husband, who were collecting their luggage at the Narita Airport when the quake hit. She is in Japan on behalf of Global Ministries.
Prayer and Care
Most United Methodist missionaries and mission volunteers are in the greater Tokyo area. Ms. Umipig-Julian reported that it took her husband five hours to walk back home after trying to get their children from school. The boys were safe but had to spend the night with teachers, since no trains were operating, and trains and buses were overcrowded in Tokyo.
Ms. Umipig-Julian described the earthquake as the "scariest ever," and wrote:
"All these things are beyond our control, and we are comforted to know that people are praying for Japan as we are doing here."
Claudia Genung Yamamoto wrote that, after she got home, she visited the home of a nearby church member who was still downtown working at the Associated Press: "Malcolm Foster--his parents were long-term United Methodist missionaries in Hokkaido--is AP news bureau chief, and I visited his Japanese wife and two children around 7:45 p.m. But he emailed his wife that he is okay. They did not have any gas, so they could not cook. I went home and brought some food; it was cold. They had blankets and snuggled in them."
Malcolm Foster's initial post-earthquake report can be read online.
Jonathan McCurley reported that everyone at the Asian Rural Institute, where he is assigned, north of Tokyo, was safe, but that the facility sustained extensive damage. The Institute trains persons from around the world to engage in sustainable agriculture. Global Ministries has strong historical and current ties there.
Early reports indicated that, after the earthquake, mission-related programs and institutions immediately began to find ways to assist those most affected in their immediate areas.
Date posted: Mar 11, 2011