Faith and Hope

The Christian faith is a minority in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country. Yet, the Christian community has been quick to respond to the human tragedy here, and it serves all in need.

It
is a witness by presence according to an Indonesian volunteer who told me, “I
never speak the name of Jesus Christ but Jesus is present in all that I
do.”

It is that sense of presence
that has created a remarkable crisis response in a matter of days, if not
hours.

An organization called Agape
formed quickly by Indonesian Methodist leaders and began to provide shelter,
assist with evacuation, offer food and medical care to displaced persons. These
Christians were present from the
outset.

The tsunami affected them.
Many have lost relatives. Some have lost their businesses. Yet they serve the
needs of others. The small congregation in Bireuen, a town in north Sumatra is
providing medical care, cash assistance and food distribution for displaced
persons in eleven camps.

When we
visited camps in Medan and outside Bireuen we heard of the deep appreciation for
the church and its efforts. When people learned I was from the Methodist Church
it was a passport to enter their lives.

This is not to say that other
organizations are not also doing a good job of humanitarian relief. They are,
and people appreciate their work. It is to say, simply, that this church has
seen its ministry as one of outreach to those in need, regardless of their faith
and the impact it is having on the lives of displaced people is providing a
model for community in a place where religious differences can be very
real.

And it has done its work with
an organizational skill that is striking for its effectiveness under these
circumstances. When asked why they do it, they answer without hesitation that
it is because it is what following Jesus means to them, to serve those in
need.

Being present is a form of
witness, but a form that speaks in its concreteness, not in words alone. It is
not about talking, it is about doing. It is rooted in faith and it gives shape
to hope.

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