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Indonesia Digging Mass Graves After 'Apocalyptic' Natural Disasters: What World Vision is Doing to Help

Credit: World Vision
Credit: World Vision

Indonesia's disaster agency says the death toll from last week's earthquake and tsunami has soared past 1,500, with hundreds more still missing. Meanwhile, residents on Palu Island remain uneasy following Wednesday's sudden volcanic eruption on Mount Soputan.

Tim Costello, Chief Advocate of World Vision Australia, calls the back-to-back natural disasters "an unholy trinity."

"First an earthquake, then a tsunami, now a volcano – you wonder if there's a forth apocalyptic horseman about to hit," he tells CBN News.

World Vision is on the ground ministering to the physical and spiritual needs of the people, even though their own local offices were destroyed by the quake.

"I'm seeing devastated buildings. It's bringing back memories for me of the Asian tsunami in 2004. It is exactly that sort of destruction, thankfully not the loss of life like the Asian Tsunami in 2004," Costello explains.

"The roads out into remote areas are cracked, they've run out of gas supplies. In fact, now the army is protecting gas stations because there's no gas. The aftershocks, though, continue to cause terror. Often with an aftershock it feels as strong as an earthquake and people start running and shouting, 'Tsunami! Tsunami!" He says.

While rescue workers earnestly search for hundreds of people still buried under rubble, volunteers are digging mass graves for those who didn't survive. Meanwhile, World Vision is providing food, supplies, and hygiene kits to families still shocked by the quake.

"We've been distributing beds, water systems, family hygiene kits with soap, sanitation pads, and tooth paste," Costello says.

Children are often times the most vulnerable after natural disasters. Human traffickers and child predators target children who've been separated from their parents.

Costello says World Vision is tackling that problem head-on.

"The most significant thing for World Vision perhaps is our child-friendly spaces...traumatized children in our child-friendly spaces are protected, they're watched. We sing, dance, paint with them and help them think the world is safe again," he explains.

Christians are a small minority in Indonesia, which has the largest Muslim population in the world. That hasn't stopped them from sharing the love of Jesus in this chaotic and fearful time.

"Often, Muslims can be surprised that Christians are caring. I always say, 'Jesus didn't say just love Christians, for God so loved the world.'" he shares. "The most important thing for World Vision, we just had devotions here with our staff, is to recognize that in reaching out and caring we are saying, 'you are not abandoned. You're not abandoned by God, and as a Christian agency, God, who has shown his love in Jesus, is here."

World Vision has a long journey ahead and plans on staying in Indonesia for many months.

Costello asks believers everywhere to pray for his staff "because they are traumatized themselves, but are still ministering, still reaching out."


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