A letter from Barbara Easton in Japan
March 28, 2011
Dear Friends in Christ Jesus,
Greetings in Lent from Nagasaki, Japan, which is far (about 800 miles) from the center of the recent earthquake, tsunami, and radiation leakage. Thank you very much for your continued prayers and support of those in need in Japan and around the world. The scenes of destruction following the 9.0 earthquake and tsunami on March 11 are still fresh in memories here, and have filled our TV screens constantly for the first weeks, although other world news is beginning to appear again. The evening news broadcasts that I watch on the government’s NHK television channel continue to be interrupted by reports of tremors and by flash warnings of possible tsunami danger. The situation has been further complicated by breakdowns at a nuclear power–generating site, with resulting contamination of leafy vegetables, milk, and water in the surrounding areas.
All of this has occurred during what would normally be a relatively quiet Spring break following Kwassui Women’s University graduation ceremonies on March 8 and prior to the start of the new school year April 1. We are currently wondering how many of our international students may not be able to return at that time due to worries in their home countries, even though Nagasaki is basically a safe location in terms of seismic fault lines. Even here we had two small tsunamis (less than 3-foot level) in our usually placid harbour.
When I attended the March Board of Directors meeting at Yodogawa Christian Hospital, which was established by the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. in 1955, a group of medical staff had already gone voluntarily in mid-March to cooperate with a hospital in Fukushima Prefecture in order to explore ways of helping earthquake survivors with pre-existing chronic health problems such as the need for dialysis. This destination was chosen because not many support groups seemed to wish to go to an area near where the nuclear reactor is located. Despite difficulties with transportation, since rail lines and roads were seriously disrupted, the group was able to deliver some critically needed medical supplies and to begin to plan for further cooperative activities. Thus we find that God is still at work in the midst of suffering and fear, helping people to face the unforeseeable future with courage. Community ties are very important, especially in times of tragedy, and members of the body of Christ are making efforts to pull together with various neighbours.
At the time of the giant earthquake, Tokyo Union Theological Seminary was holding its graduation ceremony with about 200 ministers of the United Church of Christ in Japan (Kyodan) in attendance. Even though the severe tremor lasted for several minutes and there was damage and some loss of life in Tokyo, God’s care protected the seminary, so the leadership of the church has been preserved. However, one new graduate later learned that the building of the church to which he had been called had been completely destroyed.
Turning again to the local scene, Nagasaki Church (Kyodan) will have a new pastor to preach starting in April. The previous pastor retired at age 75 in the middle of last year, but he continued to preach through this March. He will continue to help with services at other Nagasaki city churches as a supply pastor.
Changes come in all matters. Please continue to pray for Christian life in Japan and hold in prayer all who are dealing with unwanted changes.
Spring is late in coming this year, with cherry blossoms just beginning to appear. I know there are both troubles and sources of joy everywhere in daily life. As God’s Holy Spirit is present in our world in various ways, let us prepare to praise the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who brings us the joy of the Resurrection at Easter.
With prayers for new ways of living, in Japan and throughout the world.
Yours in Christ,