Three weeks before Allison was to visit Palu, Sulawesi island was hit by a devastating earthquake and tsunami. The following is the story of her experience:
I was meant to meet Henny and her husband Agus when I arrived in Palu but the plan had to change when the island was severely damaged by the natural disasters.
I remember the shock of thinking, I could have been there and been injured like so many others. There was also a part of me that wanted to help but that wasn’t an option in the way I had expected. I couldn't be there on the ground but I was determined to help in some way. My prayers were answered when I was able to provide advice for The Waterjars and other organisations to best direct financial aid and I was able to gather more financial support. While I was in Bali, I was able to connect water filter distributors with people and organisations who wanted to help Palu. With my skills in aid and development I was able to give what little aid I could to help in an overwhelming situation.
A few days after arriving in Indonesia Henny and her family, and Shane and his family got in touch with me, letting me know they were in Jakarta. I caught a train from Bandung to Jakarta amazed by the way God had orchestrated our meeting. Henny was staying 10 minutes from the station and Shane was only five minutes away from where Henny was.
When we met, Henny told us their experience of the disaster. Her nine year old daughter was traumatised and had lost three of her school friends. Even being on the upper floors of their hotel scared her.
Agus’ mother had been living in the house he had built for her for only six months before the disaster. The house had been completely destroyed in the quake.
In their 14 house compound, Henny’s was the only one left with running water. At the time of the earthquake Agus had been on his motorbike and the shaking had been so bad that it threw him to the ground multiple times. His workplace had been by the beach and was destroyed.
While we were speaking we watched as Shane’s daughter playing with Henny’s and breathed a sigh of relief. We were happy to see them take advantage of the chance to be carefree children. Henny’s daughter was proud to have the opportunity to practice her English and showoff how much she knew.
We made it a priority to allow Henny to express her grief. It’s an essential part of the healing process and by sharing, that healing would come to the whole community. Henny was born in Palu and felt a deep commitment to the town, it’s people and her local community. She shared photos and videos of the devastation. Hundreds were missing, thousands were dead and over 70,000 had been left homeless. There were no words of consolation we could give that would soothe her but as friends, the best we could do was to encourage Henny as a person and as a woman when everything in her life had been shaken so deeply.
The next morning we sat together in the presence of God with Henny, Shane and his wife because we knew God would provide wisdom and guidance. We spent time worshipping and during our prayer I was reminded of Romans 8:35-39 and our Lord’s promise that no circumstance we face will seperate us from His love and mercy. The only thing you have in these situations is the love of God.
With this truth in our heart we drew a mind map to identify the groups Henny and Agus were connected with, a total of 75 families. With this Henny could go back with a clear task she could manage without feeling overwhelmed. Even so, it will be a long rebuilding process, one that some may never fully recover from. We must simply keep moving and never lose hope.
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” - Romans 8:38-39
Allison is a friend of the Waterjars and a Water, Sanitation & Hygiene (WASH) Consultant. Involved in several ministries, she and her husband lead Chandelier Ministries. Find out more here.