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Journey into Japan: LDS Church helping fishermen get livelihoods back


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JAPAN -- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints expanded its relief efforts for victims of Japan's earthquake and tsunami this week with a humanitarian donation to a fisherman's cooperative.

The view from the minivans that rolled through the rubble of cities that were devastated left even a veteran observer of natural disasters unable to find a comparison. When asked if he'd ever seen anything like it, Bishop H. David Burton, presiding bishop of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, replied, "Nothing, nothing compares with the degree of devastation and the width and the breadth of it. Three hundred miles!"

The tsunami devastated the coastal fishing industry. Repairing the boats is not enough, and that's what led to the presentation this week from the LDS Church.


The tsunami tossed fishing boats inland, shattered their warehouses, destroyed their docks and fouled their nets. Men with weathered faces work on repairs, but they had no hope of affording a replacement for an expensive refrigeration unit that makes ice.

The tsunami tossed fishing boats inland, shattered their warehouses, destroyed their docks and fouled their nets. Men with weathered faces work on repairs, but they had no hope of affording a replacement for an expensive refrigeration unit that makes ice. And as Mr. Kikuchi said, "We need ice!" He heads the fishermen's cooperative in Watari.

Yes, the livelihood of more than 200 families depends on ice to preserve the catch. Burton was there to make an announcement of hope.

"Our gift consists of a three-and-a-half ton icemaker, five sub-zero refrigerators, a cooler truck and other equipment and supplies to be decided in the future," he said. "We hope in some small way this will assist you. We wish you well."

In Japan, religious organizations are not in the mainstream of society, and churches can find it difficult to extend even gifts with no strings attached. LDS leaders hope the successful negotiation of this gift will be a breakthrough that will lead to expansion of the Church's humanitarian efforts for victims of Japan's disasters.

Gary E. Stevenson, Area President of the Asia North area for the Church, said, "Education, employment initiatives, agricultural initiatives, fishing initiatives are three of the areas that kind of go along with all of the volunteer efforts that are being made. We couldn't be happier with the support from home, both monetary support and the prayers that have been offered in behalf of the people of Japan.

"This comes from the two and three and four and five dollar donations we receive on Sundays, we receive from members around the world, part of that humanitarian fund that allows us to represent the Church in these kinds of endeavors," Burton said. "I wish that they could be here and experience the joy that comes into the eyes of these individuals whose future didn't seem bright. And now we've lightened their load just a little bit."

The gift of an industrial icemaker is compatible with the church's principle on self-reliance. These are, after all, not men who need to be taught how to fish.

Email: blindsay@ksl.com

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Bruce Lindsay

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