ATLANTA (ABP) -- Baptist groups prepared March 11 to meet human needs caused by a magnitude 8.9 earthquake that spawned tsunami waves as high as 23 feet in Japan and prompted tsunami warnings in Hawaii and watches as far away as the West Coast of the United States.
The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship announced it was sending an initial $5,000 for immediate relief needs and opening a channel for designated giving for Japanese victims of the disaster. The Atlanta-based CBF does not have any missionaries in Japan but will be responding through the Japan Baptist Convention.
The CBF and Japan Baptist Convention entered into a three-year partnership in 2009 for church-planting and educational exchanges. Fellowship officials said early Friday that "our thoughts and prayers are with our brothers and sisters in Japan as they respond to this devastating event."
A Google translation of the Japan Baptist Convention website indicated that leaders there were still assessing damages to church buildings and the safety of church leaders in the hours after what is believed to be one of the most powerful quakes in Japan in more than a century.
American Baptist missionaries now in Japan were all reported to be safe, according to an update on the International Ministries website.
They are Roberta Stephens, who coordinates a volunteer program in Tokyo; Gordon and Lee Ann Hwong, who serve with their family in Yokohama; John and Tomoko Armagost who work with churches and live with their family in western Japan; and David and Leslie Turley and their family on the island of Okinawa.
"Please keep Japan and the victims in your prayers," John Armagost said in an e-mail to International Ministries headquarters. "Pray for our Baptist churches in the hard hit area," he said. "We have not yet made contact with our friends, but pray that they are OK."
Phones were out in many areas, but word was trickling out of Japan through Facebook and Twitter. Stephens said airports were closed and trains were not running, leaving many residents on foot or stranded away from their homes.
American Baptists began collecting funds for Japan relief through One Great Hour of Sharing, a relief program jointly funded by nine Christian denominations including American Baptist Churches USA.
Baptist Global Response, which coordinates relief work with Southern Baptist missionaries, allocated an initial $100,000 to prepare for initial response. Officials said in a news release they were still assessing needs and hoped to have a person on the ground Saturday for initial assessment and contact with mission partners.