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Mosques open doors to clinics for post-tsunami medical care

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (BP)–Mosques provided the setting for medical clinics staffed by five Southern Baptist women serving in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, in April.

More than 600 Indonesians visited the clinics during the post-tsunami relief effort.

A nine-member team organized by the California Southern Baptist Convention, which included four men, arrived in the Asian country just hours before a magnitude 8.2 earthquake struck. The team had planned to work together on post-tsunami relief but was split into two smaller teams to maximize ministry efforts.

The Banda Aceh team, including two emergency medical technicians, two registered nurses and an interpreter, spent two weeks ministering and meeting the needs of those in the tsunami-ravaged area.

“We went to two clinics a day for five days,” said April Mueller, one of three EMTs on the team.

Although a lot of cleanup had been done in the villages, there had been no medical aid.

“The devastation was amazing,” said Caprice Egloff, who was an R.N. 20 years ago and had to brush up on her medical skills before the trip.

“It was heart-wrenching. The people had food, water and barracks built by other relief organizations, but they had a blank stare in their eyes,” Egloff recounted. “Once we asked them to tell us about their stories, they opened up and just cried and cried.”

Many of the women seen by the CSBC team asked for treatment to alleviate anxiety, loss of appetite, intestinal problems and children suffering from dehydration, said Egloff, a member of Crossroads Christian Church in Ukiah, Calif.

Egloff recalled one woman who lost four children and her husband in the tsunami.

“She told me about how she held her baby in a cloth on her chest and held the two hands of her daughters while the water gushed around them,” Egloff said tearfully. “At one time the girls let go and as she reached down to grab their hands again, the baby fell out and floated away. I was able to pray with her and hug her.

“I will never forget that.”

Because the mosques in most villages were the only buildings left standing after the devastating tsunami, the medical clinics were set up there.

“We had to take off our shoes before going in, cover our heads and stop and pray at certain times of the day,” Egloff said. “It was amazing to stand in the mosque during their prayer time and pray for the Muslim people.”

Mueller, from Washington State, helped count medications in the pharmacy, played with children and took patients’ blood pressure and pulse.

“We couldn’t talk openly or freely about our faith so we had to show them the love of Christ through our actions,” Mueller said. “Those people are hurting and all they needed to hear was that I love and care about them. They just cry.”

Egloff found it difficult not being able to speak the language.

“It was so different to just be the feet and hands of Jesus since we couldn’t communicate with them,” she said. “Hopefully we planted seeds.”

The team wasn’t expecting to be split up, she noted, but they adapted.

“We were a team that had never met each other before, but the Holy Spirit allowed us all to work well together to serve Him,” Mueller said. “It was not about us or our emotions — it was about doing God’s work.”

The women worked in Banda Aceh while the four men went to the island of Nias, one of the first American teams on the scene after the earthquake.

“We realized God had it under control,” Mueller stated.

Egloff said that, while watching tsunami coverage on television during the California Southern Baptist Convention’s student conference in December, she realized she needed to demonstrate love in action to her youth group.

“A month-and-a-half later I was contacted to go with the team,” said Egloff, who has been a youth leader for several years. “I wanted to make an impact on the students [by showing] how we could really meet the needs of people.”

The students worried about her when they heard news reports about the earthquake in Indonesia, Egloff said.

“We were on the island of Java and didn’t feel anything,” she noted. “It was a testimony to them to trust God.”

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  • Kelli Cottrell