The devastation from the tsunami that hit the rim nations of the Indian Ocean on December 26, 2004 has been the worst in Asian history. YWAM, along with many other agencies, has been active in the efforts to rebuild shattered lives and communities. What has God been saying to us as we have served those affected by the earthquake and tsunami?
Steve Goode, YWAM’s Vice President of Mercy Ministries, has been a point person for coordinating our response in Southeast Asia. Based out of Bangkok for 25 years, Steve’s long-term involvement in the region has prepared him well for the delicate roles of providing care for local families and YWAM staff and interfacing with NGOs and governmental agencies for the long-term rebuilding of devastated communities.
As the devastation has affected every area of life, we have been confronted with a unique opportunity. Steve reflects, "The tsunami has required us to respond to needs of every kind, from recovering dead bodies to providing care and counseling to the victims while simultaneously interacting with government, business, community, health, education and religious leaders."
A quick overview of some initiatives demonstrates the holistic, integrated nature of the work. In education, YWAM worked to get children back to school as quickly as possible. Addressing emotional needs, YWAM set up counseling centers for victims and caregivers. Utilizing the arts, YWAM created opportunities for all ages to engage in art and music projects to deal with their emotional trauma. One little boy said, "They have helped me to smile again."
Responding to economic hardship, 70 percent of the fishing industry was destroyed by the tsunami, so YWAM has mobilized entire communities to rebuild boats, nets and factories that make doors and windows, so new workers can provide vital components for the thousands of houses that need to be built.
Much of the planning for these activities took place in town hall meetings. “We’ve learned that it’s vital to involve the local community and its leadership in ownership from the beginning. They set priorities, identify needs and evaluate options for their future,” notes Steve.
As a mission, we often serve as a catalyst for new initiatives, and facilitate networking amongst different groups. Steve notes, “In Thailand, YWAM is participating with a consortium of 2,600 Christian churches and agencies to rebuild lives. This has also happened in India and Indonesia, and Sri Lanka has just asked how this can be done there as well. It’s a real testimony to the unity, commitment and expertise of the body of Christ when the people see how we can assist them.”
As devastating as the tsunami has been, God’s been at work to bring blessing in the midst of tremendous suffering. As we listen for His heart in how to evaluate, listen to people’s stories, respond and communicate in a holistic, integrated manner, God shows up and we and the people we serve are never the same again.