Indonesia Quake Leads to Trust, Doorway for Evangelism

Following tragedy there is often times opportunity, as was the case of the devastating 6.2 quake that struck Indonesia in 2006.

Nearly a year later, a mission group reports that its goodwill during times of trouble and distress has left a lasting impact on the people of Indonesia – the most populous Muslim country in the world.

"In the deeply relational culture of Indonesia, it can take years to build enough trust to bring any spiritual influence into someone's life," said Bruce Smith, president and CEO of Wycliffe Associate, in a written statement.

"Even a local leader of another faith has publicly commended the Christians who have already begun the work. As Christians have hurried onto the scene to help Indonesians rebuild their homes, their lives, hearts are opening," Smith stated.

On May 27, 2006, a 6.2-magnitude quake struck Indonesia's Java Island, leaving some 6,000 people dead, injuring about 30,000 people, and leaving an estimated 600,000 people homeless.

The number of homes lost in the 2006 quake is nearly twice as many as the number lost in Ache following the massive 2004 tsunami.

Over the past year, Wycliffe Associates supporters have donated $56,000 to reconstruct earthquake-resistant facilities. The group is also planning to send a team of volunteers this summer to help rebuild homes and churches in the local area.

According to Wycliffe, the pack of mostly U.S. college students has two primary goals: to help with relief work and to develop long term relations between Wycliffe Associates and Indonesian ministries that are engaged in evangelism and who support Bible translation.

"This reconstruction effort has made a specific and practical impact on our translation work," said Smith.

The Wycliffe Associate CEO gave as example the Universitas Kristen Immanuel (Immanuel Christian University, or UKRIM), where two dorms holding 350 theology students - some training to become translators - were damaged by the quake. He said the organization helped pay for many of the repairs to the damaged university and will reach out to its student body this summer.

"These Indonesia students represent a major potential source of future translators," noted Smith.

Wycliffe Associates has existed since 1967 to support the worldwide efforts of Bible translation by recruiting and mobilizing lay people to offer their practical skills to help missionary linguists to easier focus on their translation work.

During 2006, some 1,315 Wycliffe Associates volunteers served in 36 countries as part of the worldwide Bible translation team. Wycliffe Associates plans to send more than 1,500 volunteers to 40 different countries this year to build and renovate facilities, construct roads and airstrips, teach Vacation Bible School, help with language development and office work, oversee projects, use their computer skills among other tasks.