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Tsunami survivors have seen the dead, long to see the living

Editor’s note: For security purposes, the names of Southern Baptist personnel in Southeast Asia have been excluded.

JAKARTA, Indonesia (BP)–A second wave is rushing toward the Indonesian city of Banda Aceh, but this one is a wave of compassion.

“I see myself trying to direct the flow,” a Southern Baptist logistics coordinator said of the volunteers, supplies, medicine and monetary aid coming into the country.

“I have a giant funnel with a hose attached and I have to direct the water into the places that need it most.”

It is difficult, however, to comprehend the need. There is very little clean water and food in the area.

“We have one egg for every two families per day,” said a village chief outside of Banda Aceh.

Southern Baptist disaster relief personnel have been flowing into Indonesia since the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami hit the area in late December, but regional personnel wonder if there will ever be enough aid to the area.

“If logistically we could handle it, there is a need for [many more] people,” a regional volunteer coordinator for Southern Baptists said from Jakarta.

“These people just want to be touched,” a Southern Baptist International Mission Board first responder said, weeping. “They had seen so much death that just a living touch was all they wanted.”

Volunteers, food and water supplies will alleviate malnourishment, but in addition to the large numbers of supplies, Southern Baptist personnel on the ground stress the need for prayer for the survivors. “This problem is even too big to imagine,” said an IMB worker in Jakarta.

“The dead are not the ones who need the help,” said a volunteer coordinator for Germantown Baptist Church in Memphis, Tenn.

Volunteers need to focus on the living.

“[They] need heavy equipment to clear debris. Schools need to be rebuilt. Teachers are needed; most are dead. We need to develop a more intimate relationship from the giver to those receiving the gift,” the volunteer from Memphis said.

Said an Indonesian church leader:

“Never before has the world opened its hearts and pockets like this. We need to be the face of Christ.”

Some 30 American mega churches are now involved in the relief efforts in Indonesia. More are expected to join in the relief process, but that will require long-term planning and a commitment to the area for years to come, volunteer coordinators said.

“One hundred percent of these people have had 90 percent of their lives changed. Everyone has been affected in a major way; no one was spared,” another IMB first responder said.

At a United Nations briefing Jan. 12, U.N. officials said that 52 nations had lost countrymen in the earthquake and tsunami. The number of dead on the island of Sumatra has reached 105,000, but that number was expected to rise to 200,000.
— With reporting by Matthew Miller and Gregory Tomlin.
— Southern Baptists and other Christians can help by sending financial gifts for aid through the International Mission Board relief fund. Send gifts designated “Asia Earthquake Disaster Relief” to the International Mission Board, P.O. Box 6767, Richmond, VA 23230. Give online at http://imb.org/giving. All funds given will go to relief efforts; none will be used for administrative costs.

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