Japan (MNN) — Japan's cabinet approved almost $50 billion in spending for post-earthquake rebuilding. However, that's just a fraction of the estimated $300 billion in damage caused by the earthquake and resulting tsunami on March 11. Despite the approval, aid and clean up continues at a slow pace.
President of Medical Teams International Bas Vanderzalm just returned from Japan. He says he's been involved in disaster relief around the world for 30 years. "I've been to almost all of the major disasters that occurred in the world during that time. I must say that the disaster in Japan is really beyond description. It's one of the worst disasters I've ever seen."
Vanderzalm describes the devastation. "It destroyed 100,000 buildings, and the amount of destruction now is estimated to be more costly than any other disaster in history."
Vanderzalm adds, "All along the coast people have lost homes, families, hospitals, schools and businesses. It's just a devastating situation. Then, add to that the nuclear emergency which is a continuing concern, and you have a very difficult situation for the Japanese people."
Medical Teams was not working in Japan prior to the earthquake. Because it's a first world nation, many believed they would handle this disaster. But, Vanderzalm says, "The scale of the disaster–especially the tsunami–is beyond the ability of the country to respond, and they do need outside help."
He says it's similar to the response needed to help with Hurricane Katrina in the United States.
However, Vanderzalm says not all is bad news. "This is a tremendous opportunity for the Christian Church there to reach out and show the love of Christ to people who are affected by this disaster. And the churches are beginning to mobilize and do that. We are helping to organize that effort and to support that effort."
Medical Teams is sending in volunteers to help organize the management structure. They're also providing trauma counseling training. And, they're providing funding to help with fuel, communications and supplies.
The end result? Vanderzalm says, "Our hope is that at the end of the day, this moment as been a moment that really will increase the understanding and respect that people in Japan have for the Gospel."
But, that can't happen without your help, Vanderzalm says. "All of us can make a contribution by giving. That's what's needed right now. The church in Japan is small. They don't have the resources that are needed considering the scale of the response that's there and the opportunity they have to witness and minister."