This morning, Archpriest Nikolai Dmitriev, a clerk of Japanese Orthodox Church from Hakodate, phoned in.
He told us how the believers are dealing with the hardships they are facing and what help they may need. Here is what he said.
“At the moment we are in touch with all the Orthodox priests in Japan except for Father Basil* whose house was located in one of the coastal strips. All those who got in touch are alive and safe, thank God; they are also in touch with their flock. The majority of the people are all right. (*From the editor: In morning of March 17th, Father Basil has also sent a word)
In Tokyo and Hakodate where I serve there is no serious damage. The tsunami wave passed 250 km away from us and the earthquake here was no more than the magnitude 6.
The most complicated situation is found in the orthodox communities of Yamada and Sakari which were directly hit by the tsunami wave. The churches there are all destroyed. The believers ask for our prayers.
In Sendai, where the second episcopal chair of Japan is located, the situation is not simple: all the coastal strip has been destroyed but the church there has miraculously remained without damage. Bishop Seraphim and his flock are all right.
In the Cathedral of Tokyo, called Nikolai-Do, several stained-glass windows were broken. In our church in Hakodate the iconostasis cracked, it will need repairing. But we will be able to deal with it.
The main kind of help we need right now is spiritual. We ask you to pray for us, for those who are alive and for those whom God has taken to Him.
This is the most important thing that we need now. As for the food items and other kinds of humanitarian help, the UNO and many countries support us – we are not going to be in need.
What the Orthodox Church can do is to think it over and provide targeted help for specific people. In the near future, we are planning to get in touch with our church authority, asking the blessing for such work. In two or three days I shall be able to say specifically whom to help and what they need.
However, what is obvious already is that we will be in great need of Bibles, prayer books and little crucifixes – things that believers used to own and lost due to their houses’ destruction.
The Bibles and prayer books can be in Russian because there are many Russians in our parish, and Japanese Orthodox people generally speak enough Russian for prayer.
Of course, our churches are overcrowded now. Even those who had never visited the church before now come here to pray. Yesterday we served Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts and there were many people in the church.
In such a situation, believers come to church for comfort, and non-believers do too… Often people come to ask the question: how could the Lord allow this to happen? How can we answer this? We are trying to comfort and explain that it is more correct to ask ourselves not “why” but “what did it happen to us for.” We also explain that we cannot talk to God on equal terms – His will is not known to us. Many of those who sincerely ask and hope to get some answer go away comforted.
Small quakes have been happening all this time with the interval of about half an hour. We can feel a little earthquake right now, too. We need your prayers for us indeed.
Whatever ordeals God sends to us, we can overcome them all if He is with us.
I’m sending kind regards to all the Orthodox people in Russia and thank them with all my heart for the concern you’re showing during this difficult time.”
The situation in the Orthodox communities of these two towns is the most complicated one. Both the churches have been completely destroyed by the tsunami.
The pictures are taken from the site of the most damaged Sendai and East Japan diocese.
Translated from Russian by Olga Lissenkova
Edited by Yana Samuel
How You Can Help
The Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America has asked that a special collection be taken in all parishes on Sundays, March 20 and 27. All contributions should forwarded to:
Post Office Box 630225
Baltimore MD 21263-0225
Individual donations may also be made on-line at:
www.iocc.org Please be sure to indicate your gift as “Relief for Japan.”
Please also read Orthodox Faithful of Japan Ask for Prayers