On Friday, February 6, an earthquake rocked the town of Nabire in Irian Jaya, measuring 6.9 on the Richter scale. The next day, another quake hit the small town of 26,000. This quake topped the previous day with a measurement of 7.1 on the scale. The quakes resulted in 22 deaths. Luke Society Director, Dr. Julius Surjadi, sat with his family in their bedroom. "We could not even stand because everything was falling down," he said. "I tried to open the door, but it shut by itself many times."
After the shaking stopped on Friday, the Surjadis stepped outside the house to survey the damage. "Our fence fell down, but our house was still standing, even though there was broken glass everywhere and our cupboards had moved from their place," said Julius. Their water tank had also fallen over, and the city electricity and telecommunications were down. "We put our valuable things in the car, and slept in the car the next three days," Julius said. "From the car we could see our house swaying back and forth when the quakes returned."
The damage in the city was severe. The bridges were destroyed, the airstrip was cracked and the airport control tower was damaged. In a village 10 miles from Nabire, over 300 houses were demolished, leaving people living under tarps. Because their houses were destroyed, the people had no water source. "Usually they drink rain water, but after the houses were broken, they could not collect the water," Julius said. "And they could not drink their well water because it's oily and tastes bad."
Julius immediately began to help the injured. People came to his house, and he started a clinic on his front porch. "Fear and trauma overwhelmed the people," Julius said. "While I was working, there was another quake, and suddenly my patient ran away, leaving me with bloody gloves."
Julius knew he had to work fast to help the people in Nabire. "God gave us the idea to help people by giving them safe drinking water to prevent a diarrhea outbreak and also as a bridge to share God's love," he said. "So we got about 15 volunteers, a big truck supplying 400 gallons of drinking water, three bicycles, a motorcycle and our car to distribute the water."
Julius's wife, Debby, was also anxious to help, so she started her own ministry. "While the water team was distributing drinking water, she started a bicycle team to visit the people," said Julius. "They encouraged and loved the people by hugging, smiling and sharing rehydration fluid." The village is 80% Muslim, so Debby was aware of the potential impact she could have as a Christian.
"Debby prayed for a man with his family in front of his broken house, and he agreed that she should pray in Jesus' name," said Julius. "After praying the man was crying, and with tears in his eyes, he said that our team was the only ones to hug and to share our hearts with the people. Other organizations were just dropping the aid and leaving. We found many of the people were ready for the Gospel, and we plan to run the Jesus film soon."
After four days, the Surjadis' group had supplied about 1,600 gallons of drinking water, 6,000 units of rehydration formula, 200 eggs and over 500 people came to Dr. Julius' medical clinic. "We plan to continue this program to supply 500 gallons a day in the coming week," said Julius.
On March 1, Julius invited three doctors, two midwives and some young volunteers to distribute vitamin A for babies and children. After evaluating the families they visited, Julius found that there was not an increase in diarrhea cases. Therefore, he stopped the Living Water program with the assurance that the people had regained access to their water supply.
Julius, Debby and their team of volunteers continued to be encouraged by the responses of the Muslim people. Distributing cooking oil was the final step of their earthquake outreach. "Two by two, the ladies from our church visited broken houses or tents and gave a liter of cooking oil for every family, while encouraging them by smiling, hugging and even praying," said Julius. "Most of the people are so grateful to our team, and we believe it was because of Jesus."
"We closed the cooking oil distribution by showing a Christian movie on a big screen on the Hindu temple's square," said Julius. Many people came to see the movie and were moved by its message. While the people were watching the movie, volunteers from the church visited the people who began to open their hearts to Jesus.