Bishop Burton Offers Relief, Encourages Self-Reliance in Japan
“Now we’ve lightened the load just a little bit, and hopefully we’ll make a huge difference in their lives.” —H. David Burton, Presiding Bishop of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
On June 15, 2011, Presiding Bishop H. David Burton visited Higashi Matsushima, Japan, to assess the country’s condition since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami and to observe Church relief being offered there.
Once a thriving coastal community, Higashi Matsushima is now a mass of mud and debris. Despite Bishop Burton’s involvement with relief projects throughout the world over the past several years, he said, “I’m not sure I can adequately describe [the destruction]. Though I’ve seen hundreds of pictures . . . setting foot on the ground has been an experience I probably will never forget.”
The 9.0-magnitude earthquake and ensuing tsunami killed more than 15,000 and displaced as many or more. The Church responded immediately with relief supplies to the disaster zone; efforts to relieve the suffering and rebuild the community continue.
While in Japan,Bishop Burton also visited Watari to present the Watari Fishers Union of the Miyagi Prefecture with a humanitarian donation. The tsunami flooded the first and second floors of the union offices, wiped out the union's compound, severely damaged most of their boats and carried many of their nets and other equipment out to sea. Bishop Burton said the Church will provide the union with an ice maker, a refrigerator, a cooler truck, and other equipment and supplies.
Listen to Bishop Burton describe his experiences in Japan.
“This donation will assist them to get at least a portion of their fleet back on the water and start a little cash flow for their cooperative to survive,” Bishop Burton said.
In addition to the Church’s donation of materials such as food, blankets, fuel, and water, in the last three months more than 10,000 volunteers have donned the recognizable yellow Mormon Helping Hands shirts to donate more than 100,000 hours of service.
Church missionaries recently returned to Sendai to help rebuild the community, clearing debris, removing sludge from victims' homes and yards, and performing other service.
Elder Gary E. Stevenson, president of the Asia North Area for the Church, said local missionaries and Church members in the region will continue to come to the area throughout the summer and assist in any way they can.
The donations of materials and service are motivating residents to work and increase their self-reliance, Bishop Burton explained.
“Members and nonmembers alike have made [these donations] possible, and I wish they could be here and experience the joy that comes into the eyes of those individuals whose futures didn’t seem bright,” he said. “Now we’ve lightened the load just a little bit, and hopefully we’ll make a huge difference in their lives.”