In 1946 thousands of homeless war orphans roamed the rubble-filled city streets of Japan searching for food and shelter.
Under the banner of LARA (Licensed Agencies for Relief in Asia), Lutheran World Relief, along with Church World Service, the Mennonite Central Committee, the Church of the Brethren, Catholic Relief Service and others, sent $400 million worth of relief goods between 1946 and 1952. Everything from live goats to powdered milk arrived in Japan in approximately 200 shiploads of supplies.
Fifty years later, the Japanese people have found a way to thank agencies involved. To commemorate the date on which the first shipments entered the port of Yokohama, the Japanese Council on Social Welfare held a thank-you event in Tokyo on Nov. 14.
Although LARA isn't a household acronym even in the United States, for the 15 million Japanese who received help, it was significant. "You lit such a light of hope and love in the dark, dark era after the war," the superintendent of a children's home told LARA participants at the event.
LARA meant 'love'
Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto in a message to the celebration noted that as a schoolboy during the six years LARA operated in Japan, "LARA was a beautiful and sweet name that represented love and kindness."
Without LARA, I wouldn't be here today, said many Japanese hosts to the agency representatives who gathered in Tokyo. The secretary general of the Japanese council said the event was a thank-you but was also held to hand down "the spirit and precious memory of LARA to future generations of the Japanese people."
© 2013 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers