March 13, 2011 Posted by Roger Overton
By now we’ve all seen the images, the videos, the interviews and reports. We know that the devastation in Northern Japan is vast and brutal. Thousands have died, tens of thousands are injured, and hundreds of thousands have been displaced. As Christians especially, it’s important for us to reflect not only on supporting the victims, but how best to do so.
1) Our default reaction must always be prayer. If there’s one thing the tsunami video has taught us, it’s that we have little control over what happens. All of our plans and possessions can be wiped out in seconds. But the truth is that God is even bigger than nuclear meltdowns, tsunamis, and island-moving earthquakes. As Creator He is sovereign over all, and it’s to His throne we must first go on behalf of the victims. John Piper has provided a prayer to help us pray well for them.
2) Give money, wisely. One of the many snares in this world is false organizations that scam people for “charitable donations” in these situations. The first rule of thumb in donating is to give to organizations that you already know or can easily verify their reputation. Secondly, give where the need is. The most common organization people donate to in situations like this is the International Red Cross. They do very good and important work, and I’m in no way putting them down. But there will be other needs that other organizations specialize in, and given that the vast majority of people donate to the Red Cross, I typically seek out these other specified organizations. Here is a list of four organizations I know and have donated to specifically for aid to Japan.
World Vision usually focuses on children, but in these situations they provide general relief as well. They will supply fresh water, food, and shelter, as well as caring for the specific needs of children who have been affected. There are likely hundreds of children who have been orphaned by this disaster, and many more will have special needs that their parents are not prepared to care for. World Vision already has a team on the ground in Sendai assessing needs and how they can meet them.
Habitat for Humanity specializes in building homes. If you’ve seen any of the tsunami footage, you know that hundreds, perhaps thousands, of homes have been destroyed. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced. After the immediate needs of water, food, medical aid and basic supplies have been provided for, home building will be the next major need.
Obviously, Food for the Hungry is about supplying food. What makes them unique and why I’m excited about supporting them is that they supply food through local churches and ministries. They provide not just physical food, but also spiritual food and a connection for victims to get to know and become involved with local ministries.
Doctors Without Borders mostly focuses aid toward armed conflict, epidemics, and lesser known problems. But they also provide support in natural disasters, especially when they have teams in the area. They have teams stationed in Japan that are already helping to provide relief. They are uniquely equipped with mobile surgical and evacuation clinics that be help in places where the local government is not prepared.
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