When the 9.0 earthquake in Japan struck last week, the Rev. Mitsuru Kawasaki, pastor of the Mito Baptist Church in Tokyo, was preparing to leave to visit Silver Hills Community Church in Carson City. That trip was canceled.
The special relationship Silver Hills has with Mito Baptist, as well as its support of missionaries Ken and Bola Taylor working in Japan with WorldVenture missions, Japan Baptist Fellowship and Hallelujah Gospel Family, has given the congregation a special opportunity to hear news from people in the middle of the disaster and also to reach out with help.
"We're doing a collection to send to the center that they (WorldVenture) have set up," Silver Hills Pastor Ben Fleming said Friday.
Since the earthquake and tsunami, news has been spotty, with rolling blackouts where power exists at all. Fleming said the news he has received directly is that Kawasaki and his family are well, as are the Taylor family. The news is a relief to the congregation who has members that visited Mito Baptist two year.
The Carson City residents are also following events more directly, through personal e-mails and a blog from WorldVenture, which has set up a relief command center in it's Tokyo office. The majority of the churches associated with WorldVenture are in northeast Japan in hard-hit areas.
On the blog at www.worldventure.com/, Ken Taylor describes the cooperation between numerous church groups and the logistics of evacuating personnel.
"The response to be involved and to help is unbelievable," he posted on Wednesday.
Bola Taylor blogged about the scene at a grocery store near their home in Tokyo, away from the epicenter of the disaster, but still feeling the effects.
"We live 1 min away from our grocery store so I sent Luke (their 17-year-old son) ahead to line up. ... Heard that they were hoarding bread, rice, toilet paper, bottled water & Ramen noodles, other dried Japanese goods. These items were quickly snatched but just as quickly replenished. ... What was so amazing is that there was no visible panic. Everyone was polite as always, very focused but no rudeness which could result at times like these."
The Silver Hills congregation is not alone in its relationship with ministries in Japan.
Among the other connections, Bethlehem Lutheran Church has a sister church, the Japan Lutheran Church, and a relationship with Japan Evangelical Lutheran Church, as well as Kobe Lutheran Theological seminary.
"So far everyone has been OK," said church secretary Dianne Medlock. "We're taking up a special collection, someone donated medical supplies. We have a fund drive that started Wednesday. ... We're doing all kinds of things."
Bethlehem Lutheran will also list needs in its bulletin and take special collections to send to Lutheran World Relief and Human Care Relief, which have facilities in Japan for distribution.
Other churches also work with their denominations to send donations and after disasters.
St. Peter's Episcopal Church takes up special collections that are pooled with donations nationwide and distributed through the Episcopal Relief Fund.
First Christian Church supports missionaries in other parts of the world where disasters have occurred in the past, but not Japan. The Rev. Ken Haskins, pastor of First Christian, recommends that people make donations to established relief groups such as The Red Cross. And to pray.
"We encourage people to pray for the people there," Haskins said. "This is certainly, if not the worse disaster there, the worse in my lifetime."