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July 11, 2012

Banda Aceh: Bridge Over Troubled Water

In November of 2004, Kerry and I received a call asking us to come to Indonesia. We had some requests for our church to help make a difference in Indonesia. We said, “Hey, we’ll pray about it.” Well, just like you, a month later we watched with our jaws dropping as all the television news footage started coming in that there had been a tsunami of epic proportion in Southeast Asia. Hour-by-hour, if you’ll remember, the death toll seemed to rise – not by a few, but by tens and hundreds of thousands. Kerry and I looked at each other and said, “I think we have our answer. We need to go.”

We went to Banda Aceh, the very corner of Indonesia, the very epicenter of the tsunami. This was a country that for forty years no outsiders had been allowed in, and literally overnight, the walls had come down, and outsiders in the form of aid relief could come in.

As Kerry and I arrived, we traveled along washed out roads among absolute rubble and devastation along the coast. We came to a bridge, a large, well-built, cement and metal, steel bridge.  It seemingly led to no where. This huge bridge just stopped, literally, in the ocean. I asked our guide, our translator, “Tell me about this. What happened? Where does this bridge go? Was it to the other side somewhere –a really long bridge?” He said, “No. Right here below you in this water was a community of 70,000 people, and they’re gone.”

I remember standing on the edge of that bridge, and I literally couldn’t breathe. The weight of what had happened was just crushing. I just stood there, and I thought, “We’re too late. Yeah, we came all this way, but we’re too late – too late for all these people.” But yet, I turned around, and I could see way down the coast, little scattered remnants of villages – just tin shacks and tarps thrown together. I thought, “But we’re not too late for those people. There’s a lot more that we’re not too late for, and we are going to make a difference. We can touch the world.”