Greetings from Singapore, where I have just had a meeting with one of the senior leaders of the body of Christ in Indonesia. Earlier in the day, more than 90,000 Christians assembled in the National Stadium in Jakarta, Indonesia, to pray for God’s intervention and blessing for their beleaguered nation. They also prayed that God be glorified in the aftermath of this tragedy, and for some eternal gospel value to come from the terrible loss of life in their country.
This Indonesian pastor has also been drawn into the epicenter of the relief effort for the tsunami survivors. The next day he was to escort officials from nine major international aid agencies on a helicopter inspection of the hardest hit areas of Aceh.
When asked about the degree of cooperation among aid agencies, he said that they seemed to be talking at this point, but that it was too early to tell. He went on to say that up to the present, the most effective lifesaving effort had been the military helicopters of the U.S. and Australian navies, which had dropped medical personnel and supplies into otherwise inaccessible areas. I found it ironic that an article in a major Asian newspaper the previous day quoted the Secretary General of the United Nation’s call upon the United States to cease its independent operations and "take a back seat and cooperate as part of a U.N. led effort."
Aceh is also the epicenter of fundamentalist Islam in Indonesia—so much so that rebel elements have been trying to create an independent Islamic country. The people of Aceh are some of the least educated and most repressed people in Indonesia. You can imagine what they have been told about the United States and Christian "infidels." Then, in the moment of total meltdown of life—with no way to continue to survive, American, Australian and other Christian soldiers appear out of the sky wanting nothing but to give food and medicine to the needy with no charge, asking nothing in return. He said that the impact among the people is enormous.
Sometimes we hear more of the negative in the press about our military. I am thankful that in this instance our soldiers are doing kingdom work. We might also pray that in an atmosphere where opportunities for corruption and oppression abound, that God would protect the helpless ones—taking action against those who would seek personal gain at the expense of the lives of those in desperate straits.
The West in general has been incredibly generous in its response to the tsunami disaster. Our denomination has also responded with heart and substance. The Indonesian pastor made some astute observations that I believe can help us make the most effective use of future resources we might give.
The pastor told me that the immediate post-tsunami survival needs were being met. He said that the aid agencies are well-funded and effective, and the local governments are reasserting control. I can confirm this from articles in theBangkok Post and Singapore Straits Times and others, saying that the relief process is under control to the point where expatriate-led efforts are being taken over by the respective governments. More and more foreign rescue and intervention teams are packing up and heading home.
My pastor friend went on to say that in Aceh the immediate recovery needed to sustain life should be complete by about April. He also envisions that the Western press will grow bored, and the tsunami-caused crises will become old news. He went on to say that the devastation was so complete that the infrastructure for sustaining life has been destroyed in the immediate areas.
No commerce is functioning from which to earn money to rebuild homes and businesses. The pastor said that the church in Indonesia is preparing to go beyond saving lives, to that of rebuilding lives. He feels that this is when the body of Christ needs to be there for the maximum kingdom benefit. He and other Christian groups are planning for this service, are gathering resources and setting up efficient mechanisms for their use so they are not wasted.