Hearts to Help Disaster Stirs OC's Devotion to Japan

By Ann White (04)

Professor Kent Hartman reports on trip to Japan

March 11, 2011, started as many other Fridays do … stumbling out of bed, grabbing breakfast on the way to work, making the morning commute. 

But on this Friday, I caught several tweets and slivers of news indicating there had been an earthquake in Japan. 

“Japan has a lot of earthquakes,” I thought as I went about my routine. 

But as the images of devastation began to run across my TV and computer screen, I realized this wasn’t just another earthquake. It was a disaster.

I’m one of the hundreds of Oklahoma Christian University students and alumni who have a special bond with the nation of Japan. After graduating in 2004, I lived and worked in Hitachi, Japan, for a year as an English teacher, like many from OC before me. 

Because I now work for Oklahoma Christian in a communications capacity, the rest of the day was a blur of trying to receive and disseminate news to the OC community about loved ones, alumni and students. 

When the quake struck, OC missionary-in-residence Kent Hartman (77) was on a plane an hour outside of Tokyo heading to visit short-term missionaries Paul (02) and Stacey Herrington. After his safe arrival, he became a crisis communications coordinator and lifeline for many in the OC family.

A few hours north, closer to the quake’s epicenter, Ibaraki Christian University chancellor and OC alumnus Jim Batten (71) worked to gather information on members of the church, school, friends and family, and assess the most urgent needs.

Here in Oklahoma, 6,000 miles away, and as far as the OC network spans, people cared. Hearts opened, prayers poured out, and one common question was raised again and again: “What can we do to help?”

OC’s Office of International Programs went full speed ahead in the midst of turmoil and anguish. Many of the staff members have lived in Japan themselves, so the drive to do whatever possible was especially strong. 

They organized the Concert for Japan, and many alumni donated their talent, time and money. T-shirts were sold. Love offerings were taken. In all, $3,399 was sent to an Ibaraki Christian student relief fund.

For me, this experience brought conflicting emotions to the surface: the pain of seeing friends and a nation suffer, but the encouragement of seeing so many act on behalf of strangers. 

Alumni contacted us, concerned about friends they’d met through the Pacific Rim and ICU exchange programs. Others reached out to the 10 Japanese students who were on our campus for a short-term exchange program. 

To me, this is the heart of OC: being moved by the compassion of Christ, then acting as His hands and feet to the nations. 

There is much more to this story than can be told in this space. Go to www.oc.edu/japan to read and hear more about Kent Hartman’s unexpected adventure, Jim Batten’s updates, how the OC community rallied around the Japanese exchange students stranded here, and more about the OC-Japan connection.

Fall 2011

View more stories from the Fall 2011 issue of Vision magazine.