By the Side of the Road

Banda Aceh — This morning the full force of the tragedy hit us as we drove along a road near the center of town. At the side of the road were three black body bags awaiting pickup.

had stopped and some of our delegation walked to the location of the bags and
prayed. On one of the bags was a water-damaged photograph of a smiling young
woman at a family celebration. It was a way to identify her, placed there by
one of the team who had recovered her

Across the street a young
woman wearing a Red Cross vest prepared another black bag to receive a body.
She spread it on the sidewalk. The scene was so beyond reality that it hardly
seemed possible. Preparing body bags on the sidewalk. Bodies lying on the side
of the road.

Her colleague sat with
her knees drawn up, her face plunged into her

Down the road a few hundred
feet two young men stood in knee high water, manuvering yet another human body
from the debris.

I heard a news
report today that estimates the toll in Indonesia has surpassed 100,000 lives.
If so, then how will the toll be revised upward for the rest of the region?
From what I’ve seen, it’s hard to imagine that an accurate census will ever be
possible. It’s now into the third week and still this reclamation

As one small, but
inadequate way, to grasp the fullness of the tragedy, an accurate census would
be helpful. But, still, standing here by the side of the road, seeing the
preciousness and fragility of human life, the enormity of loss is so heavy to

The mind struggles to grasp
some hope and some meaning in the face of it. Jesus said God takes note when
even the sparrow falls. And he says the flowers of the field are clothed in
beauty by the Creator and yet it is their lot to wither and die. If God takes
note of these small pieces of the Creation, how much more must God care for and
value God’s children?

On this
roadside, the question is not rhetorical. It is fundamental.

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