Baptists making progress on Japan relief, but obstacles remain

Progress is being made on developing partnerships and training church members for disaster response in Japan, but major obstacles stand in the way of the disaster relief effort, the executive director of Baptist Global Response said March 28.

“Tokyo Baptist Church is proving to be, as we anticipated, a great partner for responding,” said Jeff Palmer, who leads the international relief and development organization. “They have people, connections and resources to help mount an effective response. We face, however, significant challenges in the area of basic logistics: purchasing fuel, acquiring relief supplies in bulk quantities, and things like that.”

mind-numbing devastation

A four-member response team that arrived in Tokyo March 23 has had productive consultations with Japanese Baptist leaders and partner humanitarian groups and is setting up a command center for a unified Southern Baptist disaster relief initiative, Palmer said.

Two disaster relief specialists from the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Network are working with Tokyo Baptist Church leaders to conduct training sessions on mass feeding, kitchen setup and distribution strategies, reported Pat Melancon, BGR’s disaster management specialist. The team also received a briefing from an internationally recognized expert in radiation safety, in anticipation of heading into northeastern Japan, where an ongoing crisis at a nuclear power plant has complicated disaster relief efforts.

Apart from logistical problems like acquiring relief supplies in bulk quantities, the team also faces challenges of gaining access to the disaster zone, Melancon said. Government permits to access the area via main roads are hard to come by, and navigating back roads is complicated by fuel shortages.

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