This got to me through e-mail forwards; I thought you would be interested.
From Conan Grames, in Tokyo:
March 16, 2011 We have had quite an experience here in Japan the last few days. Cindy and I were in the office when the quake hit. We have experienced several of these during the years we have lived here, but I immediately knew this one was different. It was the first time I decided to get under my desk. It took very little encouragement from Cindy to do so. While under the desk, the shaking continued to grow and seemed to last forever. At that point I began to wonder, “How bad can this get?” Coincidentally, last week I had read two first-hand accounts of our missionaries who were in Japan during the great Kanto earthquake of 1923. I wondered if this is what would happen. It actually turned out to be a stronger quake up in Sendai. We suffered little damage here—lots of noise and things falling off shelves and shattered nerves.
We have spent the time since, pretty much around the clock, looking for missionaries and members. All the missionaries were found alive and well, even those on the coast. It took us four days to find two sisters who were on the coast in Ishinomaki and get them out of the area. So far we have had no reports of serious injury among members of the church, although many have had to leave their homes.
Our responsibility is communications. Much of our time has been spent coordinating with Diane Sawyer’s ABC news team about doing an interview with a missionary who experienced the tsunami. It turned out she couldn’t get into the area, but their 20/20 team is here and they are still seeking an interview. The missionary who will do the interview climbed to the second floor of the chapel with his companion. They watched the water come through the parking lot, sweep away their bikes, and flood the first floor of the building.
Tuesday we sent our first team into the area since there was no transportation until now. They will assess needs so we can begin to send relief. We have met with the Red Cross and the government and have offered cash contributions in addition to the in-kind help. The greatest physical need is gasoline, diesel fuel, food and water.
Wednesday we received instructions from church headquarters to evacuate all our missionaries out of eastern Japan. This was due in large part to the radiation threat and the fact that many of them have no food, water, and electricity. This is a real blow to the members who love the missionaries and depend on them, but they also want to feed and clothe the missionaries when they can’t even take care of themselves at this time.
I am sure you have seen the devastation on TV. It really is unbelievable.
We feel there has been much divine help in finding people. We hope we can be of some help to those in need.
Conan and Cindy Grames
Directors, Public Affairs
Asia North Area – Tokyo
Here is a second short report from Pres. Conan Grames the PA Officer in Tokyo and former MP to Sendai:
Thursday started out freezing cold. I can only imagine what it was like up in the Sendai region. I was in the parking lot of the temple sending off missionaries from Sendai who were flying to Sapporo. Some were going home early, but their passports were in Aomori—one of the many challenges facing these poor missionaries. But there were smiles and hugs all around.
The missionaries in Aomori couldn’t get a ferry to Hokkaido, so they flew down to Tokyo, handed over the passports, and flew up to Sapporo!
I worked on finding a way to move supplies into the area while the roads are still restricted and there is no gas in the region. One American member had complained bitterly about taking out the missionaries so I decided to call and calm him down. After he understood the decision made by the apostles in SLC we talked about the challenge to send supplies. He said his neighbor was a McDonald’s executive and that they were sending trucks of food into the area. A few calls later, McDonald’s had agreed to ship our supplies to the Ronald McDonald House in Sendai. The Lord works in mysterious ways…. We are ordering 20,000 blankets from China. Tomorrow we need to find a place to put them when they arrive so McDonald’s can pick them up. I’m expecting another miracle.