From the Worldwide Faith News archives


Date 05 May 1996 07:36:11


                     by Jerry L. Van Marter 
LOUISVILLE, Ky.--A scene of "unbelievable damage" was depicted by 
Presbyterian missionary to Japan Sibbett (Frank) Sapp after he 
accompanied General Assembly moderator the Rev. Robert W. Bohl on 
a Feb. 21 visit to the Osaka/Kobe area, which was severely stricken 
by an earthquake Jan. 17. 
     The PC(USA) delegation saw "block upon block of houses and 
apartments shattered and fallen," Sapp said.  "Up narrow side 
streets (in Kobe) you could see houses collapsed into the street 
almost blocking the road." 
     Sapp said part of the shock in Kobe, the epicenter of the 
quake's damage, was due to the fact that the city was considered 
an "earthquake-free area." 
     Christian leaders in the area are not as concerned with the 
physical damage as they are the human suffering the quake has 
generated.  "Numerous members of their congregations lost not only 
their homes but their livelihoods," Sapp explained.  Officials 
estimate that only 20 percent of the people and businesses in Kobe 
had earthquake insurance, so the losses are total. 
     Particularly in poorer areas, Sapp continued, "people's homes 
were also the location of their businesses. ... But the ones you 
really feel sorry for are those who borrowed money to purchase 
condominiums or houses which were destroyed. Without insurance they 
have no home, but they still have a large mortgage payment." 
     Church leaders are frustrated in their attempts to help 
because Japan has no government "safety net" to provide assistance 
to victims.  The Reformed Church in Japan has formulated a plan to 
try and help, Sapp said.  It has asked each member to contribute 
$150 to a fund that will provide small amounts of assistance to 
quake victims.  Church leaders expressed considerable gratitude for 
disaster funds that have arrived from churches in the United 
States, Sapp said. 
     Bohl and his wife, Judy, were able to meet with every 
Presbyterian missionary remaining in the affected area.  All are 
uninjured, but the mass destruction of housing in the Kobe/Osaka 
area means that finding places for mission personnel to live will 
be a problem. 
     Presbyterian World Service has established a special account 
for those who wish to contribute to relief efforts.  The account, 
"Japan Earthquake Relief," is #9-2000117. 
                               # # # 

For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
  Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
  phone 502-569-5504            fax 502-569-8073  
  E-mail   Web page: 


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