(Please note: The following article is a corrected version of a Reporter Online article posted Friday, March 18 which incorrectly identified the author of the e-mail cited in the story as Juli Blanke, the wife of LCMS career missionary Dr. Jonathan Blanke. The writer of that e-mail update was Jonathan Blanke. Reporter Online regrets this error, and offers the corrected story that follows. — Ed.)
LCMS career missionary Dr. Jonathan Blanke shared in a March 17 e-mail to “friends and family” that all the nearly 500 students at the Tokyo college and seminary where he teaches are alive and safe.
He also wrote that those students at Japan Lutheran College will have opportunities to take on service projects to help people affected by the historic March 11 earthquake when they return next month from a current spring break. The projects will benefit those displaced by the tsunami in the north that was triggered by the magnitude-9.0 quake with its epicenter on the northeast coastline of the country.
The servant projects “will be an important new dimension of the college/seminary program” he wrote.
But the safety of students and plans for the college’s servant projects comprise just one of five points he provided in the message as his family of four (including his wife, Juli, and a son and daughter) prepared to start a long-planned vacation outside Japan.
He began that message with a glimpse of what life has been like in Tokyo since two days after the quake, when its 9 million inhabitants began to experience a lack of goods such as food and gasoline.
“Many believe the issue is that ordinary people are hoarding,” he wrote. “While we’ll confess we, too, have experienced the urge to buy more than our usual five liters of milk, we’ve learned the difficult art of collaboration with friends,” he stated, adding that involves informing friends and neighbors of when and where they can locate food, gasoline and other goods.
“Every day has become an exercise in trust and patience,” he wrote.
In a point he titles “nuclear winter,” Blanke mentioned the “dos and don’ts” of daily life dealing with the effects of damage at the coastal nuclear power plant that produces electricity for Tokyo — including the threat of radiation exposure. He also wrote of the relocation by LCMS World Mission of its Japan personnel away from Tokyo, as a precaution.
“While we feel a bit torn to be leaving co-workers and colleagues at a time like this, … we do feel that the safety of our missionaries is paramount and so believe the decision to be timely and appropriate.”
A pastor serving on the U.S. Gulf Coast when Hurricane Katrina struck there in 2005 sent the Blankes “a very kind e-mail,” Blanke wrote in his message. The pastor told of a young member of his congregation who wants to serve in Japan and signed his name “Trying to do nothing,” which Blanke borrowed for the title of one of his points.
“Many of you have written to us, asking what you can do to help,” Blanke wrote. “At the present time, it is difficult for anyone other than search and rescue teams to enter the most severely affected areas … . All of us see the heart-breaking stories on television and want to fly to the scene to help. But I think it is safe to say that this is not the time.”
He noted that the Synod partner church, the Japan Lutheran Church (JLC) “is a small church body and is not able to organize the distribution of supplies or volunteers,” but is “setting up a system for receiving contributions.”
He recommended that one of the best ways to help prepare for such work is to make contributions to LCMS World Relief and Human Care.
“Crises are half opportunities” is the title of Blanke’s fifth point in his e-mail message.
To illustrate that point, he wrote that at the end of the March 13 baccalaureate service for Japan Lutheran College, Japan Lutheran Church President Rev. Yutaka Kumei spoke of opportunity that goes hand-in-hand with crisis, and read Jesus’ words in Luke 21:13 “that speak of earthquakes, wars and famines as a sign of the end times.”
He indicated that “President Kumei exhorted us with Jesus’ words to his disciples, ‘This will give you opportunity to testify.’
“With more than one ordinary reporter describing events in Japan recently and using the word ‘Armageddon’ to depict either the devastation of the tsunami or the mass of humanity displaced by it, it would be easy to just turn off the news and retreat into a corner,” he continued. … But Jesus gives a positive reason to stay engaged with the world, even a world where the suffering of humanity is too great to comprehend. In this Lenten season we remember that Jesus entered the world and suffered even the curse of the cross for us.
“There is crisis in Japan, to be sure,” Blanke wrote. “It continues to be perilous. Only God can turn that crisis into an opportunity for his Gospel light to shine.”
To learn more about the Blanke family, read their bio and ministry prayer requests at http://www.lcms.org/pages/internal.asp?NavID=6700.
For more information — including excerpts from the Blankes’ March 12 and 13 updates — or to listen to Jonathan Blanke’s interview with KFUO Radio on March 16, go to www.lcms.org/help.
To contribute toward the Synod’s response to the Japan earthquake and tsunami:
- mail checks (noting “Japan Disaster Relief” in the memo line) to LCMS World Relief and Human Care, P.O. Box 66861, St. Louis, MO 63166-6861.
- call toll-free 888-930-4438.
- visit online at Disaster Relief Fund for Japan.
Posted March 21, 2011