Down to Specifics

Medan, Indonesia — The relief effort continues full throttle in the region around Banda Aceh. U.S. military helicopters were making continuous flights with precision during our visit yesterday. As quickly as one copter took off another took its place, was loaded and lifted off.

These
flights are important. Roads and bridges are destroyed. Virtually all
infrastructure near the coastline where the tsunami came ashore has been wiped
out. Even in Banda Aceh, where cleanup is well underway, some roads are still
closed and parts of town are without water and electricity. Major bridges are
too badly damaged to allow traffic. Debris is being cleared but nails and other
sharp objects litter streets and
walkways.

Our bus picked up nails
driving down the open streets and required a tire change. Given this
inaccessibility, such flights are life-saving
missions.

Camps for displaced
persons are open and those left homeless are provided shelter, food, medicines
and medical care. The church in Medan is operating a center for displaced
persons who have come into the city from the
countryside.

Food, blankets,
mattresses and medicines are given out. A medical team provides clinic care and
refers more seriously injured persons to local hospitals. The displaced stay
with family and friends, and many have taken residence in whatever space is
available. I visited one residence where two dozen families slept on the
floor.

In the rural region around
the town of Bireuen the Bireuen Methodist Church has organized a relief
operation that is caring for people in eleven camps encircling the town. It is
coordinating medical teams from Taiwan and other nearby Asian countries sending
volunteers.

The challenge will be to
reintegrate people who have no place to which they can return and no means to
earn a living under these
conditions.

The United Methodist
Committee on Relief, working with its partner, the Indonesian Methodist Church
is reviewing first steps in a long-term process of rehabilitation. These
discussions are underway as I write. It will be a complicated, sophisticated
effort. There are religious, cultural and social dynamics that will figure into
the rehabilitation effort. Sensitivity to these will contribute to, or limit,
effectiveness and success.

The
ultimate goal will be to empower people to enable them to address problems
locally so that they can create sustainable, self-directed programs in
community-building. The first inputs are likely to be provision of medicines
for health clinics, according to UMCOR Director, Paul Dirdak. Continuing
assessment and planning will be required to phase-in other appropriate
aid.

In partnership with UMCOR, the
Indonesian Methodist Church is also planning an event to assist pastors and
spouses deal with trauma, both their own and that of their communities. The
event will provide an opportunity to reflect on the theological and emotional
issues that the people, including the church leaders, are
facing.

Looking to the long-term is
also a part of these discussions and it’s too early to project if there will be
programs in house reconstruction and other similar rebuilding
programs.

Also under consideration
is physical reconstruction of church buildings, especially important where the
church serves multiple community needs by providing humanitarian services and
education, in addition to its primary role as a worshipping, faith
community.

The needs are enormous.
Across the region rehabilitation will test the capacities not only of the
private sector, but also of governments. While we have visited only a small
part of the stricken region ten other countries are facing similar needs and
challenges.

No single solution can
be applied to all. Each has its own cultural and social dynamics. Its own
capacities and unique needs. Solutions developed from the experiences of those
living here will most likely endure and be productive in the long term.

So, it’s important for UMCOR to
continue the assessment it has already begun to determine in partnership with
the leadership and the people how to respond effectively to the multiple
needs.

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