United Methodist missionaries Don and Ramona Turman watched the words crawl across their TV screen in Jakarta: “Indonesia Menangis.”
Translation: “Indonesia is crying.”
The Indonesian island of Sumatra was near the epicenter of the December 26 undersea earthquake that sent tidal waves crashing into 12 countries around the Indian Ocean. The waves killed at least 117,000 people and washed away entire villages.
The Turmans offered words of assurance in an open letter to family and friends.
“We want you to know that we are safe, and that none of the effects of the devastating earthquake and tidal waves reached the island of Java and the city of Jakarta,” they wrote.
The Turmans are closer to the tragedy than most of the church’s missionaries. “The United Methodist Church has no missionaries in the coastal areas or islands devastated by the tidal waves,” said Elliott Wright, information officer for the denomination’s Board of Global Ministries.
“Some of our church family have relatives who have perished or are missing,” the Turmans wrote. “Others can tell of miraculous escapes. It is a time of desperation for all of the people in the affected areas, and the Christians represent a tiny minority in the midst of a very conservative majority religion. We pray that a strong Christian witness will be evident through the outpouring of beneficial aid from around the world.”
Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population. The country is also ethnically diverse, with more than 300 local languages.
The Turmans say that Indonesians are uniting in their response to the catastrophe with donations of money and materials.
Indonesia has suffered economically and politically in the past few years, in part because of inter-ethnic and religious conflicts but also from natural disasters, such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
Bishop Joel N. Martinez, president of the Board of Global Ministries, echoed the Turmans’ hope for a strong response from the Christian community. “I am sure that our gifts will be offered generously to provide ministries of healing, relief and reconstruction,” Martinez said December 30. “United Methodists have always responded in times of crisis, and the General Board of Global Ministries and the United Methodist Committee on Relief will lead our United Methodist people in responding to this terrible tragedy.”
Donations to UMCOR’s “South Asia Emergency” relief efforts can be placed in local church offering plates or sent directly to UMCOR, 475 Riverside Drive, Room 330, New York, NY 10115. Designate checks for UMCOR Advance #274305 and “South Asia Emergency.” Online donations can be made by going to www.methodistrelief.org. Those making credit-card donations can call toll-free 1-800-554-8583.
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