Within 36 hours of the earthquake striking off the coast of Sendai on March 11, the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced that all 638 of its missionaries in the country -- 342 Americans, 216 Japanese and 80 from other nations – were safe.
Within a few days, the church also had accounted for all but about 1,000 of its 125,000 members in Japan.
“Whether it is Haiti or Japan,” said David Evans, a senior leader in the church who serves in the missionary department. “This is how it works everywhere.”The story adds some insight into the challenge of ensuring the safety of all the missionaries in Japan, including the last four who had to walk out of the most devastated portions of Sendai:
The missionaries — young men and women who work in pairs – all have cell phones, but with cell networks down in most cases, they instead followed disaster plans that directed them to predetermined locations. Most of the young evangelists were accounted for within 18 hours. The last four, who had to walk out of one of the most devastated areas of Sendai to reach their assigned site, were contacted within 36 hours of the quake, church officials said.Ms. Huus also commented on the Church's ability to reach members through home teaching:
Under what they call the “home teaching program” each church assigns a member four to 10 people to visit at least once each month, checking in on their physical and spiritual wellbeing. So essentially everyone checks in on others and is checked in on themself. That means when a disaster hits, church members know exactly where to look for the folks that are normally part of their rounds.The story also notes that the Church's rescue efforts are not limited to missionaries and members:
The church has made substantial contributions to the Japanese Red Cross and is coordinating with other aid organizations to assess the need for food, housing and fuel in the disaster zone.It's comforting to know that the Church has the ability to respond so ably in these types of emergencies, especially for those of us with sons and daughters serving throughout the world. Thanks to Ms. Huus and NBC News for a great report.
“We strive to help people whenever there is a disaster,” said [Steve] Allen [a public affairs officer with the church]. “Our desire to help is not based on religious affiliation or any other affiliation.”