The day after receiving news of the Kumamoto earthquake on April 14, the Kyodan formed the Kumamoto Earthquake Relief Committee, headed by General Affairs Executive Secretary Dohke Norikazu. Following discussion, the committee decided to dispatch Commission on Ecumenical Ministries Executive Secretary Kato Makoto to the affected area to assess the situation.
Flying immediately to Kumamoto, Kato joined Kyushu District Secretary Niihori Masayuki and traveled to Omuta Shozanmachi Church, where he delivered a message of condolence from the Kyodan. From there, Niihori and Kato headed to Yamaga Onsen, where they joined Kyushu District Vice-moderator Kusakabe Kenji. Hotels within Kumamoto City had suspended operations because of the earthquake. In the early hours of April 16, the strongest earthquake struck Kumamoto. The tremor was also severe in Yamaga, which is 20 kilometers to the north.
The first place visited was Yamaga Church. As it is currently without a minister, staff members of adjacent Reizen Kindergarten were consulted about the damage experienced. The church executives met Kyushu District Moderator Umezaki Koji at Kumamoto Kusabacho Church, and together they paid visits to the Kyodan’s Nishikigaoka Church, Musashigaoka Church, Kumamoto Shirakawa Church, and Kumamoto Joto Church, as well as to Kumamoto Church of the Korean Christian Church in Japan.
Among these churches, the most striking exterior damage was at Kumamoto Shirakawa Church, where many roof tiles had fallen and broken. Interior damage was most pronounced at Kumamoto Kusabacho Church and Nishikigaoka Church, which suffered damage to their pipe organs as well as to many of their dishes. In most of the churches, printed materials and furnishings were scattered around the meeting rooms and ministers’ offices. Amid this situation, every minister was busily trying to confirm the safety of church members. In addition, Kumamoto Shirakawa Church and Nishikigaoka Church were providing overnight accommodations and meals to church members and neighbors who came for shelter.
On April 17 Kyodan Moderator Ishibashi Hideo joined the other executive, and together they delivered most of the relief materials to Musashigaoka Church because it had been opened to provide food to anyone. On April 18, some of the broken water lines were restored, and relief materials were carried into the city with great speed. That night, while staying in Fukuoka City, they noticed the swaying, back and forth, which must have been due to the constant aftershocks. This caused them to consider again how much stress the people in affected are facing. (Tr. DM)
—Kato Makoto, executive secretary