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Volunteers ignore hardships as they embrace tsunami victims

SOUTHEAST ASIA (BP)–Foam mattresses, half-open suitcases and footlockers fill all available floor space. Shelves bulge with medical supplies and medicines. Hot, sweaty Americans sprawl on the front porch and in the courtyard -—almost too exhausted to talk about their day.

Welcome to the volunteer team house for tsunami disaster relief, where up to 60 volunteers from Southern Baptist churches across the United States eat together, sleep on the floor and share just about everything in order to help victims of last December’s tsunami.

“It’s hard to describe the mass destruction here,” volunteer Royce Sweatman says as he stands next to a coal barge blocking what used to be a highway.

“As far as your eye can see, it’s a bunch of rubble, Sweatman, of Arkansas, says. “There’s so much that needs to be done -— it just breaks your heart.”

Days start early for the volunteers. They cram into various means of transportation —- from pickups to canoes -— to journey into affected areas and help pick up the pieces. They do everything from medical clinics to fogging for mosquitoes, working practically from sunup to sundown.

Emotions range from tears to laughter in just seconds as volunteers gain insights into the culture and hear “war” stories from survivors. A Baptist from Washington state listens to a 90-year-old who lost more than 100 family members recount her story as the volunteer treats her for hypertension. The clinic grinds to an abrupt halt when the call to prayer beckons most of the waiting patients to the local mosque for afternoon prayers.

In a camp for displaced people, a volunteer laughs as a colleague gets blasted with a spurt of mud in their effort to reclaim wells for clean drinking water. Standing nearby, some teenage boys can’t stop laughing at the Americans’ antics. For them, laughter is a welcome relief.

Under a tarp canopy, physician John Redman talks to a new patient. Before proceeding with the exam, the Arkansas volunteer pulls out a colorful globe and locates the United States for the man. Then, he rotates the globe to show the patient his country.

“You see how far that is?” the doctor asks, ignoring the heat and rough conditions. “We came all of this way to help because we love you!”

Relief coordinators in Indonesia are asking prayer for volunteers who are helping in the affected areas — for physical, emotional and spiritual health as they pour themselves into the needs of tsunami victims.

Among other prayer needs:

— Wisdom as International Mission Board personnel continue seeking ways to share God’s love.

— The hearts of the people affected by the disaster. The tsunami touched thousands of lives — and they are all asking questions about why they survived. Pray that the Holy Spirit helps them find peace and answers through Jesus Christ.

— Discernment for victims as they work with aid organizations. Pray that God will shield their eyes from untruths and will protect them from scams and corruption.
For more information on tsunami relief efforts and ministry opportunities, go to http://www.go2southasia.org and http://imb.org/pacrim/. For information on volunteering, contact the IMB at 1-800-999-3113.