Indonesia Tsunami: The Church in the Midst of Recovery
The Rev. Fajar Lim, head of the Methodist Church of Indonesia's Tsunami Response Committee, recently visited the General Board of Global Ministries' headquarters with good news of growing ministries and recovering communities following the devastating tsunami in 2004.
A Growing Church
The Methodist Church in Banda Aceh, with funds provided through a special tsunami church rebuilding fund, has completed its repairs to the church and accompanying school. The congregation has doubled in size since the tsunami and the church has recently received government permission to renovate the building so that it can make important changes to the structure that was compromised by the tsunami and to enlarge the sanctuary to accommodate the many people who come to worship each week.
Although the church is in an area that is mostly Muslim, the Rev. Tahir Wijaya, pastor at the Methodist Church in Banda Aceh, says, "The church is part of the people." It has been in Banda Aceh for 50 years, its school for 30. The 525 students who attend the kindergarten through 12th grade school are now able to pay tuition after a tuition-free year offered by the church to allow their families to recover financially from the tsunami. The church also opens its doors to Christians working with relief agencies in the area. They use the church facility to hold services on Sunday afternoons.
Each Sunday another branch of the Methodist Church in Banda Aceh meets 240 miles to the southeast in Sumatra's capital city of Medan. This church is made up of people who relocated to Medan following the tsunami. Each Sunday they gather in a local school auditorium to worship. They hope to one day construct a building of their own.
Care for the Next Generation
One ministry of this church in Medan is to youths who were orphaned or whose parents could no longer take care of them after the tsunami. The church rented a house for these young people and provided them with caring adults to look after them, food and school support. A year ago 18 lived in the house. Today, seven are left. All the others have been able to find permanent homes with their relatives. This caring ministry of the church has allowed these young people to continue their education and to live in a caring Christian home in spite of the destruction the tsunami caused to their families.
UMCOR also works with the Methodist Church of Indonesia in other ways. When an earthquake shook the Natal district in North Sumatra last December, UMCOR workers in Indonesia worked with the Methodist Church to bring immediate relief. Through their cooperative effort emergency food arrived in affected villages within a week of the quake.
UMCOR established its Indonesia office in 2005 to assist in tsunami recovery. UMCOR was among the first organizations to work in the Bireuen District of Aceh Province.