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Southern Baptists saving lives, sharing love after earthquake

GUNUNG SITOLI, Nias, Indonesia (BP)–Five days after a major earthquake rocked Nias, Indonesia, Singaporean relief workers recovered a survivor from the rubble in the capital, Gunung Sitoli. They were using tools provided by Southern Baptists.

Generous giving is allowing Southern Baptists to minister on Nias with effective rescue and recovery tools, reported one worker in Gunung Sitoli. He spoke of the rescued survivor and other recent developments by telephone April 4. An audio clip from his report is available at http://media1.imbresources.org/downloads/BPress/saving_lives.mp3.


More than a week after the earthquake, workers in Gunung Sitoli are removing bodies from the rubble and setting up a program to distribute food.

One of the greatest challenges survivors are facing is distribution of rice throughout the island. After the earthquake, most business owners in Gunung Sitoli, Nias’s economic center, either were killed or fled the island. No one remains to distribute rice or fuel to areas outside Gunung Sitoli.

“They’re getting very, very hungry,” said the worker.

Southern Baptists provided one ton of food to be distributed through four churches outside Gunung Sitoli. “The people were very grateful,” the worker reported. “We’re developing a good name in the areas where we’re serving.”

Workers recovered a boy’s body from one crumbled house. As they exited the house, the boy’s family expressed appreciation. “No one else has come to help us,” they said. “Thank you so much for coming.”

Before they left, the workers visited with the family, prayed with them and provided counseling.

On Sunday morning, another family invited the relief workers — both Southern Baptists and Indonesians — to hold a worship service on the rubble of their collapsed home. “They were very grateful for the caring compassion that our teams were showing them,” the worker said.

Many of those who survived both the tsunami and earthquake are living in fear. A rumor has spread of a giant volcano close to erupting under Nias that would cause the island to sink into the ocean. “Everyone is traumatized by fear that a major catastrophe is going to happen,” the worker said. “As a result, many people are fleeing on boats, trying to get to the main island of Sumatra.”

On Nias people are asking the same questions asked after the tsunami, the worker said: “Why has God done this to us? Why is this allowed to happen?”

Workers and volunteers are responding by sharing their own testimonies and faith. In addition, trained counselors — including Indonesian Christians — are counseling survivors and sharing their faith.

The worker hopes the earthquake will lead to spiritual awakening for the people of Nias. “Although the people on Nias are traditionally Christian, there is very little evidence of Christianity in their lives,” he said. “The one thing they’re seeing in Southern Baptist teams is that these people truly care and want to help. Through this we hope to be able to spread the Kingdom of God here in this place.”


Volunteers from the Baptist state convention disaster relief network have contributed significantly to the positive impact relief teams are having on Nias. Local workers praised their expertise and commitment. “They actually are what make our projects run,” one worker said. “Without them we would not be able to do many of the things we are doing now.”

When the earthquake hit, tsunami relief volunteers — mostly medical workers — from California were heading to Banda Aceh, Indonesia. They were diverted to Nias, where most of the team went by helicopter to the hardest-hit villages to treat survivors.

“The doctors were able to medevac out several people who probably would not have made it had we not been there,” the worker said by telephone.

Meanwhile, a firefighter from the California team trained workers and local survivors to do effective and safe search and recovery.

When survivors see disaster relief volunteers, they ask, “‘Why are you out here helping us?’” the worker recounted. “That gives us a great opportunity to share with them our love for the people, which God has given us, and God’s love for these people too.”


The worker said the primary way Southern Baptists can help in the relief efforts is through prayer. “One of the reasons why we have been effective over here is because of the prayer support of Southern Baptists — praying for us both in Nias and in Aceh.

“The tsunami and earthquake … have definitely made people more aware of what’s going on in Indonesia, and as a result many more Southern Baptists are praying for our personnel here. Although they may not be able to see it where they are, it’s being felt over here … in the difference which our personnel are making in the lives of Indonesians.”

The initial team was on the island to rebuild homes destroyed by the tsunami when the recent quake hit. They ran outside the house where they were staying and watched the façade and fence of the church across the street collapse. They followed the town’s residents to a nearby soccer field — where they would be safe from any falling structures — and set up tents, giving immediate shelter to pregnant women and a woman who had given birth the previous day. Survivors spent the night singing Christian songs.

The next morning they examined the extent of the earthquake’s damage. With relatively few homes collapsed in the town where they were, they headed to Gunung Sitoli.

Since then, the workers have been searching for buried survivors, recovering bodies and providing relief to survivors. For much of the day, they work under collapsed buildings, sometimes going an entire day without eating.

“To be honest, I’m ready to get out of here; I think all of us are,” the worker said. “However, we realize there is a huge need here. The Lord is really giving people strength and helping them work through the situation.”

Though many Southern Baptist workers will leave in the next few days, one worker is staying to oversee volunteer teams and other aspects of relief operations. In ongoing relief efforts, Southern Baptists hope to work through Baptist churches already on the island.

For initial earthquake relief work, the state Baptist convention disaster relief network will continue furnishing trained disaster relief volunteers. Contact information for each state disaster relief office is at http://www.namb.net/site/pp.asp?c=9qKILUOzEpH&b=238540. More volunteers are needed where initial urgent tsunami and earthquake needs have been met. Monitor those opportunities at http://going.imb.org/vim/main/default.asp.
— Southern Baptists saving lives: http://media1.imbresources.org/downloads/BPress/saving_lives.mp3
— California volunteers diverted to Nias: http://media1.imbresources.org/downloads/BPress/search_rescue.mp3
— State disaster relief teams: expertise and experience: http://media1.imbresources.org/downloads/BPress/teams_help.mp3
— Because you gave: http://media1.imbresources.org/downloads/BPress/because_you_gave.mp3
— Living through the earthquake: http://media1.imbresources.org/downloads/BPress/personnel_in_Nias.mp3
— After the quake: http://media1.imbresources.org/downloads/BPress/churches_damaged.mp3
— Church collapses, pastor’s family inside: http://media1.imbresources.org/downloads/BPress/family_survives.mp3

    About the Author

  • Manda Roten Gibson