ELCA NEWS SERVICE
March 11, 2011
ELCA Begins Response to Pacific Earthquake, Tsunami
CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is responding to a massive earthquake and tsunami March 11 that caused considerable loss of life and property in Japan. The earthquake was centered near the city of Sendai, a city in north-central Japan with a population of 1 million.
According to media reports, hundreds of people have died and hundreds more are missing. Tsunami waves as high as seven feet struck Hawaii, but there were no reports of significant damage there.
The ELCA has 22 missionaries serving in Japan, working in partnership with the Japan Evangelical Lutheran Church. Many of the ELCA's missionaries in Japan have communicated that they are safe, said the Rev. Y. Franklin Ishida, ELCA program director for Asia-Pacific Continental Desk.
Ishida, who is attending a conference in Malaysia, said in an e-mail he was seated next to the Rev. Sumiyuki Watanabe, president of the Japan Evangelical Lutheran Church, when news of the earthquake and tsunami reached them. He said Watanabe's "first concern was for Sendai Lutheran Church," but there was no immediate communication because of power and cell phone outages in the area.
According to Ishida, the ELCA has missionaries serving at a Christian seminary in Tokyo, and pastors serving a Lutheran congregation in Tokyo. ELCA missionaries serve on the southern island of Kyushu, providing chaplaincy and parish services, as well as teaching at Kyushu Lutheran College.
The Japan Evangelical Lutheran Church operates schools and other programs that provide English language instruction as part of the church's ministry. There are 10 ELCA missionaries serving in the local church's "J3" program, to teach English and to serve in local congregations, Ishida said. "J3" references the program's three-year commitment.
He said five of the J3s were in Tokyo when the earthquake and tsunami struck.
"Within the first hour we heard requests for prayer from our partner churches. If you'd like to stand with them through your financial support, I would encourage you to give through ELCA Disaster Response. Gifts designated to the Pacific Earthquake and Tsunami fund will be used entirely -- 100 percent -- in response to this disaster," said the Rev. Daniel Rift, director for the ELCA World Hunger and Disaster Appeal.
Financial gifts for the Pacific Earthquake and Tsunami can be contributed through the ELCA website. Credit card gifts may be contributed by calling 1-800-638-3522. Gifts designated for the Pacific Earthquake and Tasunami can also be sent to: ELCA Disaster Response, 39330 Treasury Center, Chicago, IL 60694-9300.
Gifts may also be sent to ELCA Disaster Response where the need is greatest, enabling the ELCA to respond where help is needed most around the world and close to home.
Information about the Japan Evangelical Lutheran Church is at http://www.ELCA.org/japan on the ELCA website.
- Farmers are using genetically engineered seeds to obtain higher yields with less pesticide because of added resistance to viruses and molds.
- Clinicians can make precise diagnoses of genetic disorders so that specific diets, medications or therapies can help a child with developmental delays do better.
- People at high risk for various cancers can know about their predispositions and follow strategies that improve prognosis.
- Folks with 50% risk of inheriting a mutation that will cause them to lose their neurological function in middle age can know this, and make appropriate plans.
- Pharmacists are dispensing medications that are precisely engineered to treat diseases at the molecular level, and thus more efficiently.
Have you been thinking that genetics had little to do with your daily life? Someone you know is encountering a genetic health problem this year. Most people you know take medications. Everyone you know eats food.
What does all of that have to do with God, with faith, with the faith community? Well...only everything!
If you have not yet had occasion to discuss problems of these kinds with your pastor (or, if you are a pastor, to discuss them with your parishioners), then there will surely be an opportunity coming.
If you have had the good fortune not to be touched by birth defects, by developmental delays, by familial cancers, or by other genetic problems, then raise a voice of thanks to God and fasten your seat belt!
Over the last four years, a task force of nearly 20 people with a wide variety of relevant expertise has been laboring over ways to articulate how Lutheran Christians might think about, pray over, and discuss issues in this immense field.
A scientifically savvy farmer, an agricultural expert, a bishop, a genetic counselor, a laboratory geneticist, a clinical geneticist, a pastor from a rural background, an attorney, a world-class ethicist, a theologian who has written at least four books in the field, a biblical scholar, a theology professor who is teaching the next generation of pastors, etc. An amazing team was assembled by the churchwide office through the division for studies.
We met several times a year and communicated frequently be email. We wrote an entire book of ways in which groups at church might study and reflect on these matters Genetics and Faith: Power, Choice and Responsibility (still available for download).
We collected and reflected on hundreds of feedback messages from around the country. We drafted a document to be considered as a Social Statement, and disseminated that to ELCA members everywhere. We collected and reflected on the numerous responses to that draft, and produced an extensively revised document.
The proposed Social Statement Genetics, Faith and Responsibility has been accepted by the Church Council. It will be subject to discussion, debate, revision and will be voted on at the 2011 Churchwide Assembly in August.
The proposed Social Statement is not designed to provide "the right answers". Rather, it is intended to provide a framework for how to think about these matters, how to bring Lutheran Christian faith to bear on the challenges and opportunities that 21st century genetics places before us. It is a toolkit for living in wonderful times.
Dr. Lebel teaches medical students and residents about the role of genetics in medical diagnosis and treatment as chief, Medical Genetics Section and professor of Pediatrics, Internal Medicine, Ob/Gyn, and Pathology, lecturer in Bioethics and Humanities at SUNY Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, New York. He also has a background in theology and philosophy and is part of the ethics department at his medical school. He is a member of King of Kings Lutheran Church in Liverpool, New York.
"Did you take your health assessment?" asked the two men sitting across from me one morning, as I was eating my morning breakfast. "Not this again," was the first thought that came through my mind.
Let me stop here a moment and give you the bigger picture. It is 2 years ago, my name is Pr. Justin Johnson and at this moment in time I weighed 315lbs, possibly more. I had just gone to the doctor 4 months prior and at that appointment, I had gotten the "fat guy" talk. It is the talk that skinny people never hear and it involved a lot of "if you keep this up, you are going to die earlier than normal" or "you are going to get some kind of heart disease" or some other death discussion weaving in losing weight and whatnot. It is a horrible talk and every time I went to the doctor I knew it was coming, so having these two gentlemen, who were skinny, pester me about the health assessment was not really what I wanted to hear, especially at that time.
"I just went to the doctor and I don't want to go back right now" was my reply or something to that effect. "Who is talking about going to the doctor? I am talking about your health assessment" replied one of the men. "Don't you need a blood test and a doctor's signature?" I asked. "Nope, you just need to kind of know your numbers, but you don't need to get specific." "Oh..." was my final reply.
I went home that weekend and decided to click the link. I was dreading what the Mayo result was going to be. "You should be dead now!" was what I imagined the computer would read, thinking of an electronic "fat guy" talk. I went through the questions and got to the cholesterol one, since I didn't know my numbers, I clicked "I don't know my numbers" and it went to a different question asking if I thought I had high cholesterol or not. The same with blood pressure and another question that I thought I needed numbers for. It took about 10 minutes and I got to a screen saying something to the effect of "thank you for taking your assessment. $75 is being deposited in a health care account." That was it, no death screen, no "fat guy" talk, nothing except asking if I wanted a Mayo Clinic account. I decided to do that and although there was some stuff I didn't want to face yet, it was harmless. A PDF here, a survey there, but ultimately I did nothing with the Mayo clinic stuff, until this year.
This year, I had a plan. I was going to change my life by adding an exercise routine in. I saw the Mayo Clinic had a tracker, so after my assessment this year (and my wife's), I decided I was going to track my weight loss and exercise with the Mayo Clinic's two trackers. On one of them, all I had to do was enter how many minutes I exercised. On a different one, I had to keep a weekly log of my weight and how many minutes I exercised. I decided to play with the stress program too, which was just reading a PDF and putting on a scale of 1-10 how stressed I was and what I thought caused the stress. Six weeks later, I had just finished putting in my log for the day when all of a sudden a screen popped up saying something to the effect of "Thank you for logging in for 6 weeks. $300 is being deposited into a health care account for you." I had to rub my eyes a bit. By doing essentially nothing, except keeping a log and taking my (and my wife's) health assessment, I had earned $450! Read that again, $450 for logging into a web site!!!
As for the personal goal, the other good news is that as of the writing of this, I have lost 35lbs and my wife has lost 20lbs. I have a new outlook on going to the doctor and I am taking care of myself more. I am still a "fat guy," but I am working on that. I have had wonderful comments from my parishes and had "real" talks with some members who approached me who are in similar situations.
So, I guess this article is for two reasons, the first is for those who get their insurance through the ELCA Board of Pensions: take the health assessment. It is harmless and it takes 10 minutes. You will earn $75 and if you have a spouse, $150! The second reason is to tell you that that if you are like me, weight loss can be done. Use the Mayo Clinic, know there are people praying for you, and that it isn't too late. I thought I was too far gone too. Give yourself 6 weeks and exercise every day at the same time, get into a new routine and you will be surprised. If you want to chat about what I am doing and how things are going, drop me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Connect with me and we can do this together!
The Rev. Justin Johnson is pastor at St. Timothy, Geneseo.