On Being a Sign of Hope

The Methodist Church of Banda Aceh sits close by an inlet. Water cascaded through the church depositing tons of debris, washing away worship materials, ruining educational materials and equipment.

And yet, the pastor of the church and pastoral ministry students from an Indonesian seminary are hard at work cleaning up the building. It is a monumental job.

The water line in the sanctuary is 10 feet above the floor. A mangled automobile carcass has been deposited outside. Concrete reinforcing rods are strewn about, having been deposited by the floodwaters. The mud is thick, black and undoubtedly contaminated with disease-bearing organisms.

Twenty-seven bodies were found in the debris in front of the church building.

The pastor took a break from his cleanup work to talk to us. In a quiet voice he said the events of the last two weeks seem like a dream. He thinks sometimes he will awaken and it will not be reality, after all.

But, he also says it’s important for the church in this community to begin rebuilding as soon as possible. It is a symbolic act that will lift the spirits of the whole community. The church views its role as reaching outward to this community, many of whom have lost everything and need signs of hope.

The rebuilding of the church is not, therefore, an act just to benefit the church. It’s more important to give people hope. If the church rebuilds quickly, it will be a sign to the people that they too can take hope in the future once again. And they, too, may find the strength to begin rebuilding.

Sitting the in the sweltering heat and hearing of this kind of courage and strength gives one hope that recovery is within reach, and this pastor, the seminary students and the congregation embody hope, and in this tragedy, hope is a precious ingredient.

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