When the earthquake started I was on the third floor of building that our church meets in with my children, James and Alishea. As it shook my first concern was for the new speakers and lights we had just hung from the ceiling. But as the tremors continued and then intensified I began to realize that this wasn’t the typical earthquake that one becomes accustomed to in Japan. I began to think about how we would get out of the building. “Should we try to take the stairs? It’s really shaking bad!” Then I realized that there were probably dozens of grade-school children in the day-care coop on the floor just below us. The thought came quickly, “Should we try to help them get outside too?” But I knew there was no way to get downstairs now – the building was shaking too hard.
After the first shock began to subside, we all came down the staircase and into the street. It was still early in the afternoon and there were not many children there yet. Most were still in school. The ones who were there obediently followed the supervisor out of the building and onto the sidewalk. They had been trained for this and they knew what to do in an earthquake. Right after we got outside the ground started quaking again. I noticed that the traffic signals were all out. None of the cars were moving. We watched in amazement as a big aftershock hit – the street seemed to roll like the ocean and the large traffic signs above the main highway in front of our building moved up and down on the waves. After a few more terrifying minutes it was all over. The retired men who spent each afternoon volunteering as crossing guards for the children quickly moved out into the intersection and began directing traffic like they had been planning for this type of thing their whole lives. It was amazing how smoothly they switched into emergency mode. No electricity. No signals. No problem! At that moment I was glad that we were in Japan.
Over the next several weeks and months, God used our small church to help people in the same way he used those volunteers. We switched into emergency mode. We didn’t realize the full extent of what was happening for quite a long time. I later read that the initial earthquake was so big that it affect the axis of the earth and the rotation of our whole planet sped up slightly. Amazingly, the entire island of Japan moved 8 feet closer to North America. When the tsunami hit, entire towns were totally washed away. The topography change so drastically that maps of Japan had to be redone. But at that time, I remember the scariest thing being the nuclear meltdown in Fukushima, only about 180 miles from our church.
We really didn’t have much time to think about all that. We just kept moving forward and allowing God to use us to help others. We joined forces with many other churches and individuals and switched into emergency mode almost as smoothly as the crossing guards on the first day had done. Even though there were many times when fear came and even exhaustion, we knew that God was working though us because so many doors of opportunity miraculously opened and so much provision and help flowed through our hands.
Sometime between one and two months after the earthquake I was in the shower and I finally felt the weight of it. 16,000 souls just north of us were gone and hundreds of thousand of homeless people had lost their homes, loved ones and even their future because of the radiation. That was the first time I cried after the earthquake. It would not be the last.
Change is coming to Japan. It needs to come. But change is not without a price. Sometimes things that have remained the same must be shaken before change comes. Please keep praying for this nation. If you are praying for Japan please leave a comment on this site to encourage others. Also check out this song that James wrote right after the quake which we used to help raise support for the people of Tohoku.