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March 11, 2011

ELCA begins response to Pacific earthquake, tsunami


The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is responding to a massive earthquake and tsunami March 11 that caused considerable loss of life and property in Japan. The earthquake was centered near the city of Sendai, a city in north-central Japan with a population of 1 million.

According to media reports, hundreds of people have died and hundreds more are missing. Tsunami waves as high as seven feet struck Hawaii, but there were no reports of significant damage there.

The ELCA has 22 missionaries serving in Japan, working in partnership with the Japan Evangelical Lutheran Church. Many of the ELCA's missionaries in Japan have communicated that they are safe, said Y. Franklin Ishida, ELCA program director for Asia-Pacific Continental Desk.

Ishida, who is attending a conference in Malaysia, said in an e-mail he was seated next to Sumiyuki Watanabe, president of the Japan Evangelical Lutheran Church, when news of the earthquake and tsunami reached them. He said Watanabe's "first concern was for Sendai Lutheran Church," but there was no immediate communication because of power and cell phone outages in the area.

According to Ishida, the ELCA has missionaries serving at a Christian seminary in Tokyo, and pastors serving a Lutheran congregation in Tokyo. ELCA missionaries serve on the southern island of Kyushu, providing chaplaincy and parish services, as well as teaching at Kyushu Lutheran College.

The Japan Evangelical Lutheran Church operates schools and other programs that provide English language instruction as part of the church's ministry. There are 10 ELCA missionaries serving in the local church's "J3" program, to teach English and to serve in local congregations, Ishida said. "J3" references the program's three-year commitment.

He said five of the J3s were in Tokyo when the earthquake and tsunami struck.
"Within the first hour we heard requests for prayer from our partner churches. If you'd like to stand with them through your financial support, I would encourage you to give through ELCA Disaster Response. Gifts designated to the Pacific Earthquake and Tsunami fund will be used entirely — 100 percent — in response to this disaster," said Daniel Rift, director for the ELCA World Hunger and Disaster Appeal.

To give:

Financial gifts for the Pacific Earthquake and Tsunami can be contributed through the ELCA website. Credit card gifts may be contributed by calling 1-800-638-3522. Gifts designated for the Pacific Earthquake and Tasunami can also be sent to: ELCA Disaster Response, 39330 Treasury Center, Chicago, IL 60694-9300. Gifts may also be sent to ELCA Disaster Response where the need is greatest, enabling the ELCA to respond where help is needed most around the world and close to home.

Information about the Japan Evangelical Lutheran Church is at  on the ELCA website. 

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