【June 2018 No.398】How to Prepare for and Respond to a Disaster

by Kawashima Naomichi, pastor

Kumamoto Nishikigaoka Church, Kyushu District

 Two years have passed since the Kumamoto-Oita Earthquake. Although not always apparent on the surface, the effects of the earthquake are still strongly felt. At the end of 2017, there were still nearly 45,000 people who were living in temporary shelters. Although the original limit for occupancy was two years, the government has extended the limit for another year. Even in areas where demolition has been completed, empty lots remain because of the lack of construction workers. More time will be needed for reconstruction. The tower and cross that were the symbol of Nishikigaoka Church had to be torn down because of a dangerous crack. Reconstruction has not been started, because our main concern now is the members of our congregation. Some long-time members who have faithfully supported the church have had to move to areas outside the prefecture. Others have been injured, while still others have been hospitalized or put in care facilities. As a result, church attendance has become difficult for many. Furthermore, this drop in attendance has had a strong negative impact on church finances.


 1. Look at records and testimonies from disasters in other areas. In particular, the account of the East Japan Earthquake by Ishinomaki Yamashirocho Church was helpful for us.

 2. Confirm the safety of church members. At Nishikigaoka Church, we created a chart in which we recorded the condition of each member and the property damage suffered. Every week we posted the chart on the bulletin board and exchanged information. The pastor visited members, confirmed their safety, and distributed needed goods. Teams of church and board members who can move about are essential, especially in attending to the needs of elderly members. Following an earthquake, road conditions are dangerous, and restrictions are often imposed. A pastor in our district who had a motorbike was very helpful. At a time of natural disaster, a motorbike can be useful.

 In some cases, members responding that things were okay were not sharing honestly about their situations. This seemed particularly true in the case of older members. Of course, it is important to respect the thoughts and lifestyles of each individual, but in some cases I feel it may be necessary to be more persistent so that they get the help they really need.

 3. Maintain a supply of water, which is essential for sanitation and other needs. At least a minimum amount of containers for water storage should be kept at the church. After the first earthquake, a pastor from Fukuoka brought 100 liters of water. After the second big earthquake and the loss of the public water supply, the water that had been brought by the pastor became “living water” for us. The containers were also helpful. It might even be a good habit to keep bath water until the next usage.

 4.Insure strong support for shelves with urns is wise preparation if the church has a columbarium. If not, urns with the remains of members and families might be broken and the ashes scattered when an earthquake occurs. During the Kumamoto Earthquake, gravestones suffered considerable damage.

 5. Keep specific records, which can be important information for reference when another disaster occurs. When a natural disaster occurs, record exactly what happened, what actions were taken, who came to ask about safety, and what was distributed. Immediately following a disaster there is no composure for remembering things, nor is there time or opportunity to open a computer. In my case, I was able to get to my computer one week after the first earthquake when I worked my way into my study and found it buried among books that had fallen from the shelves. Using a memo and writing things as you remember them can be helpful. For two months I wrote a simple diary to record each event I remembered.

 6. Take as many pictures as possible. This can be helpful as a record of what happened as well as providing proof of damages incurred. Of course, in the midst of confusion, picture-taking can be forgotten, and I felt hesitant taking pictures of structures that are falling or in danger of falling. Providing opportunities for sharing photo and video recordings of the disaster would be helpful.

 7. Be aware that even unexpected things do happen. Fundamentally, natural disaster is not a part of our plans for the future. The Kumamoto Earthquake was a combination of two earthquakes, the second a level seven, the highest on the Japanese seismic intensity scale. It was the type of earthquake that no one had predicted. Our church was not prepared, and even if we had made preparations, I question whether we could have calmly dealt with what happened. However, I believe that our fundamental posture for future disaster preparation should be the awareness of that possibility.



 1. Organize efforts to assist and relieve local pastors. During natural disasters, it is possible that church members and/or pastors might be lost or found dead. Preparation for such possibilities should occur locally, at the district level, and at the Kyodan level. Local pastors are burdened with confirming the safety of their congregations, as well as responding to the overall needs of their neighborhood. Following the Kumamoto-Oita Earthquake, Kyushu District made every effort to insure that local pastors were not overburdened.

 Kyushu District and the Korean Christian Church in Japan worked together to organize the “Elpis Kumamoto” volunteer center. The work of this center continues today. These volunteers visit those living in shelters, operate a café, and lend an ear to those affected by the earthquake. It is important that the Kyodan support this work as it needs to be continued. I strongly urge Kyushu District and the Kyodan to consider this support.

 2. Make preparations to address future disasters. At the time of the Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, northeastern Japan and Kumamoto were doing well. However, now we are unable to give like we could 20 years ago. There is a limit to the money that can be raised from one urgent call for disaster relief for one limited area. The Kyodan needs to develop a system through which continued relief can be provided for multiple areas. One suggestion is to use part of local church apportionments to establish a fund specifically for disaster relief. (Tr. JS)

—From Shinto no Tomo (Believers’ Friend), March 2018 issue

Summarized by KNL Editor Kawakami Yoshiko

教会が被災した時、私達は何が 出来るのか。今なお苦闘の続く熊本の牧師に聞く。

川島直道 かわしま  なお みち/ 熊本・錦ヶ丘教会牧師

 熊本・大分地震から丸2年を迎えます。表面に現れないところで震災の影響は確実に残っています。県内には4万5千人近くが仮住まいをし ています(2017年12月 末現在)。政府は原則2年間の仮設住宅入居期限をさらに1年延長しましたが、建築業者も不足しており、被災した家屋は解体はされても 更地のままで、再建までは時間がかかります。錦ヶ丘教会では、シンボルであった十字架の塔に深刻な亀裂が生じたため、撤去しました。 再建工事はまだ始まっていませんが、それより心配なのは教会員のこ とです。長年にわたって教会を支えてきた人たちが県外に転出なさったり、体 を壊し、施設や病院に入るなどして、礼拝に出席することが困難になりました。仮住まいの人もいます。礼拝出席者の減少やそれに伴う教 会の財政への影響も深刻です。

 災害において 教会が出来ることを、経験から挙げます。

 ①多くの災害記録、証言録に目を通す こと。参考になったのは『日本基督教団石巻山城町教会の東日本大震災記録』でした。

 ②教会員の安否確認。錦ヶ丘教会の場 合は、会員の安否と被災状況などを書き入れる表を作成し、毎週ボードに貼り出し、情報交換を行いました。牧師は物資を配りながら訪問 し、安否を確認しますが、動ける役員、教会員が協力して、特に高齢者を中心に訪問し、チームで対応できるようにしておくことが重要で す。災害発生時は道も悪く、車両規制がかけられている場所が多くあります。同じ地区内の牧師が原付バイクで安否の確認を手伝ってくれ ました。災害時にはバイクの方が動きやすいかもしれません。また、教会員を訪ねたときに「大丈夫です」と言う人が、実は大丈夫ではな いというケースがいくつもありました。比較的高齢の方々にそういう傾向があります。個人の考えや生活スタイルを尊重することも大切な のですが、災害という異常時は、お節介をしてでも関わることが必要ではないでしょうか。


 ③水の確保は、トイレをはじめ、あら ゆることに必要です。特に水を入れる容器は、最低限、教会にそろえておきましょう。最初の地震の後に、福岡からある牧師が水100リットルを届けてくださいました。その後、本震が発生すると断水し、その水はま さに「命の水」になりました。容器も役に立ちました。風呂の水を、すぐに流さず溜めておくことも習慣にするとよいでしょう。

 ④熊本地震で、墓石はかなり被害を受 けました。教会に納骨堂を備えているところは、骨壺を入れる棚をしっかり固定しておかないと骨壺が割れて中の骨が散乱することもあり ます。

 ⑤災害のとき、何が起こったのか。ど ういう行動をとったのか。問安に来た人たち、届けられた物資の状況などの記録をとることは、次の災害の貴重な資料とな ります。災害直後は余裕はなく、記憶は断片的になり、ゆっくりパソ コンを開くことなどできません。わたしの場合、パソコンが復旧したのは最初の地震からちょうど1週間後でした。崩れた本にうずもれた 書斎にどうにか入り込み、パソコンを立ち上げたのです。メモでも書き留めておくと、後 で状況を思い出しながら記録が書けます。わたしは2カ月間は簡単な日誌のような記録をとりました。

 ⑥写真もできるだけ撮った方が記録と 罹災証明書に役立ちます。混乱の中ではそこまで意識が回らず、また 崩れた建物にカメラを向けることにためらいがありました。地区や教区内で、記録写真を共有する機会があるとよいでしょう。

 ⑦災害は、基本的にすべて想定外のこ とです。熊本地震では前震と本震、2度の震度7の大地震が起きました。誰もが想定していなかったタイプの地震でした。教会は備えてい ませんでしたし、仮に備えていたとしても冷静に対処することができるのか、疑問です。しかし「想定していないことが起こる」ことを、 頭の片隅に置くことが、次の災害に備える基本的な姿勢だと思います。

 1,一つの教会で多数の行方不明者 や死者が発生することや、牧師が亡くなることも起こり得ます。災害地区を含む教区、そして教団としての備えも必要です。牧師たちは自分の牧会する教会員の安否確認や避難 者の対応にそれぞれ追われます。熊本・大分地震では九州教区が被災地の牧師をなるべく疲弊させないような配慮がありました。九州教区 と在日大韓基督教会が主体となりボランティアセンター「エルピスくまもと」を立ち上げ、活動が現在も続けられています。仮設住宅を訪 問し、カフェを運営して、被災者の声に耳を傾けています。継続性を要求される活動も教団がバックアップしていく必要があるでしょう。 ぜひ教区、教団レベルで考えてほしいと思います。

 2.阪神淡路大震災の時はまだ東北も熊 本も元気でした。今は20年前のように献げることはできなくなりました。1回 の災害につき、限定的で単発的な募金には限界があります。全てに継続的な支援が及ぶシステムを教団全体で構築していく必要がありま す。各教会の負担金の一部を災害のための基金として貯えておくことも一案です。教 団全体で将来の災害に備えることが求められています。

(信徒の友3月号より、川上善子KNL編集委 員長まとめ)

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