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Relief Update from Banda Aceh, Sumatra

For the last 3 days we have been in the city and also in the rural areas, distributing the 700 kilos of aid that we brought and doing whatever we can to help.

We’ve teamed up with a group of Korean doctors who are very professional and have been in other disaster areas but were desperate for translators who speak Indonesian. We met them just when they were having exceptional difficulty communicating with the people they were trying to help with emergency medical attention. There are 3 on our 4-man team who are bi-lingual in English and Indonesian, so this was one of God’s miracles to bring us together to help the people here.

The camp where we met the Korean medical team has about 3,000 people living in the hills above where their 5 villages used to be before the tsunami. The camp survives on aid which is being transported in daily. The people live in makeshift tents which are basically just plastic sheeting stretched over polls. There is no running water or any type of toilet facilities which makes it very difficult and extremely susceptible to disease. The people have no idea what they will do in the future; they’re just surviving from day to day on aid with little else to do. We are praying the Lord will help us to bring them hope, peace and comfort in some way.

The scale of the destruction here is so vast, it’s indescribable. To get to this particular camp we had to drive into the downtown area of Banda Aceh, which has been totally destroyed and then turn north on the coastal highway. From the city center to the last point where the wave affected the city and surrounding villages is about 15 kilometers or 9 miles. The coastal highway is about a mile from the sea and on both sides--a mile to our left and a mile to our right for the entire 9 miles--there is just utter and complete destruction. This area was all inhabited before. Now, even 10 days later, volunteers are still finding bodies and bringing them to the road side in body bags to be taken away.

The main thing the Lord told us to do in coming here is to act as a comfort team to encourage the survivors in any way we can and we’re trying to bring hope and happiness to the multitudes that have been so traumatized. Yesterday we were doing programs with the kids--hundreds of them--singing with them, teaching them songs, teaching them English while they taught us the local language. --Doing what we can to give them love and hope.

When we first got here, we were so struck by the enormity of the disaster that we wondered if it would be appropriate to be happy and to try and spread joy and hope. But we found that is what is most needed. People need someone who can smile and be happy and encourage them to laugh a little so their spirits are lifted. As one of the Korean doctors said, they need a little organization and some activities for all the young people so they are not just wandering around bored and mulling over all they have been through. So we expect to be doing a good deal more in the way of music, shows, impromptu school time and just general interaction with all those we are coming in contact with. We may also be moving out to some of the more remote areas with our Korean friends to reach smaller cities which have received virtually no help as yet.

The personal witnessing has been going very well. We have been giving out Peace in the Midst of the Storm posters which have been very effective. We are also looking into printing the special edition of Motivated on comfort in black and white to distribute here.

Thanks for your prayers; they are being felt and they are being answered. We could tell you of many incidents where we felt that many are praying for us and we ourselves just being swept along by a spiritual wave of concern and compassion, a creative wave to help restore those who are left here in the aftermath of the tsunami.

One thing we could use prayer for is that none of the many aftershocks here will be enough to bring down the house we are in. We felt several this morning; at one point, we jumped up from breakfast and ran outside as the house was really beginning to shake.

We have a great need for help support and for additional volunteers to go to Aceh. We’ve been calling friends and supporters both locally and abroad and have already received some pledges of support. Five people from overseas (people we’ve never met before) have also contacted us about joining our efforts to help the Aceh victims. It is quite overwhelming but very, very exciting to see all that the Lord is doing to unite so many in response to the need. We joined local volunteers at Media Indonesia, the largest media company in Indonesia which owns three TV stations, to organize and load goods for the victims.

As mentioned, we have some friends who are pledging their help but if there is anyone who would like to help sponsor our efforts it would be greatly appreciated. As you can imagine, this is quite a huge, long-term project and we are not such a large team. We can use all the help we can get. Thank you so much!