USA (MNN) — Hundreds are dead and thousands are missing following the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami in Sendai, Japan. The 23-foot-high tsunami swept away boats, airplanes, homes, cars and everything else in its wake. Thousands of people are homeless, and emergency shelters are overwhelmed.
International Director of SEND International Warren Janzen says they have 67 people working in Japan. "We've connected with our people, and everyone is safe, although not everyone is home. There were some people who were stranded in other parts of the city and stayed overnight in those places. Others chose to walk four or five hours to get back to their residences. All of our structures are sound, for now."
Janzen spent 15 years working in Japan before becoming the international director for SEND. He says while the epicenter was 200 miles northeast of Tokyo, "The shaking in Tokyo was long. It was very unusual. No one has experienced that much shaking or that much violent shaking there. Even though there's not very much structural damage, there's a lot of emotional damage."
While many were lost in the quake, Janzen says God was gracious. He says the Christian Academy of Japan had just conducted an earthquake drill the day before. "They'd just gone through with their staff and students what to do in case of an earthquake. One day later, here they have this major earthquake; they all knew what to do, and everyone was safe."
SEND is one of the founding missions of the Japan Evangelical Church Association. Janzen says they'll be working through them. "They are trying, right now, to connect with churches and believers in that affected region. They want to assess what the damage is and then begin strategizing on how to go in and assist."
Janzen says helping the church first is strategic. They want to "go in and help the church get back on its feet so that the church — the local church — then can go out and reach out and help all of its neighbors."
While Japan is well equipped to help their own people, Janzen says they can't do it alone. "Just like when Katrina hit this country, it's just so overwhelming. There is so much damage. There is so much going on there. They do need help, and the government has realized that and has reached out and called for help."
Search and rescue teams have already been sent from many nations around the world.
Janzen says the church is the only group prepared to help with spiritual needs. "Our prayer is that this will open hearts and give people a chance to think seriously about who is in control of all of these things, what is the meaning of life, and where do we turn?"
SEND has set up a fund to help. "SEND has created the Japan Earthquake Recovery Project to jump-start our national partners' recovery effort. These gifts are going to go to their immediate needs and the Japan Evangelical Church Association ongoing ministry to both physical and spiritual needs of people in the affected area."