Our friends in Japan

Japan, March 16, 2011

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Today I've been corresponding with Rieko, who has been a good friend of my mother's since I was a kid. We met Rieko when she and her family lived in Beaverton years ago, but now she and her family are back in Tokyo. I sent her an email to say how glad I was to hear that she and her family were safe after the earthquake, and that I was thinking of them during this worsening nuclear crisis. She said that indeed, people were becoming more concerned about the situation at Fukushima, even as far as Tokyo.

Her last email to me ended on the following single, simple sentiment. "Thank you for your prayers," she wrote. "And could you keep praying for us and also those who are suffering under this hard situation?"

Peace Winds, our partner in Japan, also reported that the situation has become even more difficult over the last day for earthquake and tsunami affected families. Peace Winds CEO Kensuke Onishi just returned from Kesennuma, the city north of Sendai where they have been making distributions of food, blankets and other materials to 700 people living in a local junior high.

He said the situation there was worsening. The city and its port was so badly affected by the tsunami that it's making emergency logistics extremely difficult. There's still a great shortage of supplies there and growing need for food, water and fuel. And, it's snowing.

The Peace Winds team had brought tents for families to live in outside of the junior high school and gymnasium, but then didn't end up setting them up today because it was simply too cold for families to be in them without heat. So for now, everyone is staying inside the buildings.

Yesterday, they were able to deliver food, as well as 600 blankets, to survivors. Also, the team had brought satellite and mobile phones and set up tents that served as call centers, so that survivors could make calls to their loved ones for the first time. The centers were open for five hours yesterday, which allowed many people to make a five-minute call. They'll try to do the same thing today. I can't even imagine how emotional it would be stand there and watch everyone making those first calls to their loved ones.

It takes the team 24 hours to drive their vans from Tokyo all the way up north to Kesennuma with supplies. Today they relied only on vans again because there is no fuel for the helicopters. They must drive around Fukushima on the west coast of Japan to avoid any danger from the nuclear plant. The roads have been mostly cleared, but still it's tough going and they must take breaks to rest.

To echo my friend's request, please do keep Japan and all those in this terrible situation and working so hard, in your hearts and thoughts.