Tsunami effects widen; loneliness, suicide now issues

By September 16, 2011

Japan (MNN) — Extreme loneliness and suicide have become issues in post-tsunami Japan.

The initial trauma of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in March may be dying down, but the hurdles for victims to overcome have only become more varied. While shelter and food may have been immediate needs six months ago, people now seem to be most desperate for hope and dignity.

For victims who lost their homes, temporary shelters have been set up. Tsunami survivors are now living in very small homes built in parking lots and school playgrounds.

Ben Wolf, who directs work in the Asia Rim for Baptist Global Response, says the space is increasing the depression among victims. Many of them had lived on their coastal land for generations until the tsunami hit.

"These are people who have lived in towns by the ocean and who had gardens, a very important part of the country Japanese life," Wolf told BGR. "The old men feel like they can't breathe. At times, suicide has become an issue."

At the same time, winter is quickly approaching, bringing with it the prospect of more than six feet of snow on the ground. Warmth will be a problem.

People are discouraged, lonely, and emotionally spent, but BGR is doing all they can to build relationships and share the hope of Christ with tsunami survivors. To date, 22 Southern Baptists teams have partnered with Japanese Baptists in relief projects, and about $1.7 million has been donated for the efforts.

Wolf told BGR about one of the major current focus points. "After many of the disaster relief volunteers and outsiders have gone, it is easy for the feelings of abandonment to come in. The displacement has been traumatic, and now loneliness is an even more serious problem. Our partners are really concentrating on what they call 'heart care.' It's one of the most important ways people who care can help people in need."

"Heart care" comes in building relationships and feeding the souls of those who've been affected by the disaster. The importance of continued encouragement cannot be over emphasized, according to Wolf. Disaster response in Japan will continue to focus on rebuilding projects and providing food to people in need, but it also focuses on giving people dignity by including them in rebuild and community projects. Most importantly, BGR workers are sharing the message of Christ.

Although relationships are slow in the making, people are beginning to open up. One woman who lost her husband, parents, business, and home in the tsunami recently turned to the Lord after talking with BGR workers.

At the same time, BGR is also focusing on the large needs of community centers and is working to prepare for the winter. One major initiative involves providing heated rugs for people this winter, especially considering people spend a great deal of time on the floor in Japanese households. BGR views this as a simple way to demonstrate Christ's love.

Continue to lift the tsunami victims up to the Lord. Pray that relationships would be built and that hearts would seek Christ in this lonely, depressing time. Pray for healing emotionally and spiritually.

BGR has ongoing work in Japan. To learn more about getting involved, click here.


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