By Ben Kendrick
The Tohoku earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan on March 11th is a natural disaster on the scale of last year’s Haitian earthquake and the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. The combined effects of a 9.0 offshore earthquake, 33-foot tsunami waves, and subsequently damaged nuclear power reactors have decimated the once densely populated areas of the Sendai coast. While the disaster didn’t result in the immediate loss of life experienced in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami (which claimed over 230,000 casualties), the devastation in Japan surely will linger for years to come. The disaster caused damage to a number of nuclear facilities—most notably the Fukushima I nuclear power plant, which experienced a series of partial meltdowns—and subsequent radiation spikes in surrounding areas may have lasting effects on the nearby environment. It could be a long time before residents are able to return to certain locations, leaving many no choice but to abandon the towns they called home.
Responding With Love
The before-and-after pictures from the Sendai coast and surrounding region are devastating. Once vibrant towns have been washed away, leaving nothing but scattered debris. Even more tragic are pictures of lost children and their grieving parents. But, as Christians, we cannot just languish in the devastation. We must get to work and help pick up the pieces, meeting the needs of the present while pointing people to a brighter horizon.
With the media focused on the wreckage 24-7, it’s difficult to remember that, in times of disaster, the greatest tools at our disposal are love and faith. God provides us with these tools so that we might go out into the world and help rebuild the hearts and lives of those around us through healing and compassion. These tools empower us to respond not only to large-scale disasters, such as the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, but also to other disasters, including those that seem small or ordinary by comparison.
People experience all sorts of disasters every day. Maybe they receive frightening news about their health or discover that the person they love no longer feels the same way. People in these situations may not literally be staring down a thirty-three-foot tidal wave—but they may feel as if they were. Disasters of all types and sizes have a way of knocking people down and disrupting their lives.
Building a Bridge
God calls us to be first-responders for the brokenhearted, whether we’re assisting survivors of a natural disaster or a friend who’s lost a parent. Our task is to not only offer prayers and keep the afflicted in our hearts but also to offer a shoulder to cry on for the fearful and downtrodden until they’re back on their feet. Then we’ll stand shoulder-to-shoulder, helping them lift the rubble of their lives and start rebuilding.
When asked, “Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29, CEB), Jesus responded with the parable of the Samaritan who cared for a Jewish man who was beaten and left to die: “The Samaritan went to him and bandaged his wounds, tending them with oil and wine. Then he placed the wounded man on his own donkey, took him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day, he took two full day’s worth of wages and gave them to the innkeeper. He said, ‘Take care of him, and when I return, I will pay you back for any additional costs’” (Luke 10:34-35. CEB). God calls us to go to similar lengths to aid our neighbors who are hurting today. We must show love and compassion as we tend to their immediate needs and help them to rebuild their lives.
From the April 3, 2011 issue of LinC.