Midlands missionary who escaped danger in Japan decides to stay

By Ben Hoover - bio | email

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The destruction from the Japanese earthquake and tsunami is hard to watch for all of us, but imagine knowing your son is in one of the hardest hit areas. That's something the Woodrow family in Columbia has had to deal with.

The place the Woodrows' son had called home for the past two years was hit hard by the massive tsunami after a damaging earthquake. "I was so worried," said Dora Woodrow. "We have our faith. We have a strong faith. We knew he'd watch over him, but not hearing from him. I just don't want to relieve that day."

Tanner, 20, is on a mission trip to Japan. He signed up for two years of service in Sendai. Most of Sendai was flattened by the huge wave that washed away the city.

"We knew basically where he was in Sendai, but you don't know how far the devastation affected in," said Robert Woodrow. "The tsunami get to where he was. It was a long day."

No communication, no word from their son. Finally, the pain of not knowing was relieved with a moment of joy. "It was at 1:00pm Saturday morning, saying they had talked to Tanner and that he was safe," said Dora Woodrow.

Unable to get to a phone, Tanner sent his parents an email a day after the quake hit. "The next day we went and checked on members and then midday the elders from Tagajo just roll into the church and are all muddy and that's when we found out just how bad it was, because up until then we had no contact with the outside world," wrote Tanner.

Tanner had no idea of the destruction that occurred just a few miles from where he was living. He described the city as dark and at times, covered in wet snow, the streets filled with faces of people saddened by the tragedy.

His parents are just relieved that their son survived and is doing his best to help others. "They've pulled their water together, what food they have," said Robert Woodrow. "Everybody is really doing great and working together until help can get there."

Tanner was expected to be back from his mission trip in May, but the Woodrows said he decided to stay and help the relief effort. Tanner's parents said he will be transferred to Sapporo, which is on the northern island of Hokkaido.

Copyright 2011 WIS. All rights reserved.