More money needed as aid efforts intensify

Donating money is the main way to help survivors of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Sulawesi, says an American missionary called Doug, who is working with local churches to facilitate the distribution of aid in the city of Palu and surrounding areas.

As the death toll from last week’s disaster rose to 1800 people and an estimated 60,000 refugees found shelter in 149 centres, authorities said 5000 people were missing after Wani village on Palu’s outskirts was buried by liquefied mud.

Doug, who has lived in Palu for many years, told Eternity by phone: “We can get supplies locally in surrounding cities and truck them in, but funding is still very limited for the amount of need that there is and so there’s a huge need for funding to continue.”

He said as activity resumed in the city of Palu, aid efforts were being focused on areas outside the city limits, especially in the mountains, that were still without aid.

“A lot of them are victims themselves and they’re working hard to try to provide help for many people,” he said.

“The focus is also shifting towards those people who are out in those more difficult places. We’ll be continuing the process of serving those areas and finding out where the greatest needs are and begin positioning aid towards those areas working through local bodies of believers here in the city.”

Doug and his wife Nancy work with a local NGO and evangelical churches. He is also associated with Ethnos360, formerly known as New Tribes Mission, which has about 3300 missionaries in 20 countries.

Doug urged Australian Christians to pray for the churches in the city of Palu and surrounding areas who are working together “as the hands and feet” in distributing aid.

“A lot of them are victims themselves and they’re working hard to try to provide help for many people,” he said.

“Yesterday I visited one local fellowship that is completely reduced to rubble – they had their worship service as normal in the front yard but they are unable to even reconsider rebuilding right now.

“Even the members of the church that are there are badly traumatised by what’s happened because nearly everyone knows people that have lost their lives in this event; and so right now we’re just very concerned for everybody that is hurting around us, including those of other faiths who are not able to recover as quickly, and our heart is just going out to those people.”

Pastor Paulus Wiratno, who is head of Christian radio ministry DM Radio that broadcasts across Indonesia from a base in Bali, said many survivors who had relatives outside of Palu had flown out to different parts of the country such as Java and Makassar, the provincial capital of South Sulwesi.

“The government is finally restoring the electricity and the economy of the people. This morning the market is active again and it seems that people already are going back to the activity, but those people that are affected badly by the tsunami are suffering in the refugee camps, so our team are already distributing food, rice and helping a thousand people in one local district.”

A team from DM Radio had flown to Palu and was today buying blankets and radios for a thousand refugees in one local area.

“We want to activate our radio today because the electricity is on for a second day,” he said.

“We know from experience when people stay in the refugee camp they do nothing, they are filled with grief and sometimes they’re missing part of the family. Radio is very important because it not only gives them encouragement, gives them advice or gives them something to comfort their heart but also a point of contact. For example, we found children in one camp that they are missing their parents. We can broadcast the names of the children and connect the family using radio.”

Ps Wiratno said his heart was touched yesterday when a team member met a five-year-old girl who had been pulled out of the mud after struggling for 12 hours. “She survived but her mum was dead.”