We continue to lift our brothers and sisters in Japan in prayer in the wake of the March 11 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear threat in Japan. The General Board of Global Ministries and the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) are working with church organizations that continue a mission story that opened in 1873, the year the first Methodist missionary arrived in Japan.
The latest reports indicate nearly 15,000 people have died and more than 10,000 are still missing. As of May 4, 125,000 people were displaced. The government of Japan estimates $305 billion in damages. In the coastal areas alone, there is an expected loss of more than 80,000 jobs.
Our response as the mission agency of The United Methodist Church is comprehensive through the missionaries serving there, UMCOR’s relief and development support, and the partnership with the Women’s Division-related Wesley Center in Tokyo. We have nine missionaries and six Individual Volunteers assigned to Japan. They continue to provide a ministry of presence and service on behalf of The United Methodist Church. We are thankful for their compassionate and diligent service for such a time as this. Please hold them in your prayers.
Thanks to the extravagant generosity of United Methodists, $3,845,138 has been donated through The Advance to the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) to respond to the needs in Japan. The Council of Bishops supported a denominational offering on March 20 that encouraged churches to contribute to the Japan Emergency with the confidence that 100 percent of every gift through The Advance will go to the people in Japan.
Our network of trusted relief and church partners has been especially effective in meeting specific and immediate requests in Japan on behalf of The United Methodist Church. We are supporting emergency activities such as providing food, clean water, and heating fuel; sheltering displaced people; and investing in longer-term strategies. All grant requests go through a rigorous approval process and require a reporting of how the funds are used. Two independent charity watch groups, Charity Navigator and American Institute of Philanthropy, have affirmed UMCOR’s trustworthiness with the highest ratings.
The magnitude of the damage caused by the earthquake and tsunami, complicated by the nuclear threat in Japan will require an intentional and thoughtful release of funds over several years. Working with our existing partners, we anticipate providing comprehensive funding for long-range, grassroots services. To meet the more urgent needs, UMCOR has released $220,000 from the Japan Emergency Advance to the following organizations:
- Asian Rural Institute, $150,000: ARI is a longtime partner that trains Japanese farmers and agriculturalists from other nations in sustainable-agriculture techniques. ARI’s buildings were severely damaged in the quake, impeding the start of classes. UMCOR’s grant has helped the institute complete enough repairs to begin classes on May 2. They are preparing rice seedlings and planting vegetables. They are monitoring radiation levels and cleansing the soil with natural processes.
- Church World Service, $30,000: Working through a chain of local organizations, this grant is supporting medical and hygiene services to 7,500 people, the distribution of emergency food and nonfood items to 5,000 people, counseling for pregnant women and mothers of small children, and the pairing of those in need of housing with those willing to supply a room in their own homes.
- Global Medic, $10,000: A trusted partner and first responder, Global Medic used this grant to provide access to medical care, clean drinking water, supplies, and food.
- United Church of Christ in Japan, $10,000: An emergency grant to distribute food, clean water, clothing, and heating fuel. Local churches were used as distribution sites to provide basic necessities to survivors.
- National Christian Council in Japan, $10,000: An emergency grant to address the immediate humanitarian needs, while assessing the follow-up steps of cleanup, recovery, and eventually rebuilding of damaged or lost property.
- Korean Christian Church in Japan, $10,000: An emergency grant to address the immediate needs of displaced people in cooperation with the ecumenical relief center in Sendai.
Solidarity consultations in the Philippines and South Korea have offered opportunities for strategizing for a comprehensive response. A largely faith-based task force in the Philippines is providing support to Filipino migrant workers who fled Japan in the wake of the disaster. The task force is providing legal services, psychosocial support, and other forms of assistance to traumatized workers returning to their families in the Philippines.
On May 6 and 7, Global Ministries and UMCOR joined some two dozen faith-based relief organizations in a forum in Seoul, South Korea, convened by national Christian church councils of Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, and Taiwan to help the National Christian Council in Japan flesh out a long-term relief and recovery strategy and explore the establishment of an ecumenical consortium to accompany those efforts.
Long after the crisis drops from the headlines, The United Methodist Church will continue to be present in Japan, working with our grassroots partners to rebuild lives. Our love, prayers, and support will be needed for years to come in Japan. Please join us in our commitment to our brothers and sisters in Japan offering hope and promise through this time of crisis.
Grace and peace,
General Secretary of the General Board of Global Ministries, and
Cynthia Fierro Harvey,
Deputy General Secretary, United Methodist Committee on Relief
A web version of this letter can be found here on the Global Ministries website.