THE LOCAL TSUNAMI
Ten-year-old Zulfahmi cried into his grandmother's arms inside a hospital in Banda Aceh after they were reunited for the first time yesterday, 12 days after the earthquake-triggered tsunami in northwest Indonesia. Zulfahmi lost his parents, brother and sister and was rescued by Medicins Sans Frontiers (Doctors Without Borders) with the help of U.S. Navy Seahawk helicopters from the carrier USS Abraham Lincoln. More than 101,000 people were killed in the disaster in Indonesia.
Isle worshippers contribute
thousands of dollars in aid
through their churches
and charity groups
There was $22,000 in the special collections last Sunday for southern Asia tsunami survivors at Maria Lanakila Church in Lahaina. And $8,000 was collected at St. Michael Church in Kailua-Kona on the Big Island.
The collections at two Catholic parishes, bolstered by vacationers in the pews, give an inkling of the outpouring of support here for people who are struggling to survive in countries devastated by the Dec. 26 earthquakes and tidal waves.
Island churches large and small are responding to the international relief effort. Most denominations have relief organizations of their own. With individuals sending contributions abroad and through the Internet, the exact magnitude of local charity is difficult to track.
"This is when the basic element of community shines through, people helping people," said the Rev. Veryl Henderson, Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention executive. He said the Baptist International Mission Board, which has volunteers in 150 nations, already "has water purification teams on site. We have a contract with the international Red Cross where they provide the food and we cook it wherever there is a disaster. We do have personnel from Hawaii ready to go; right now, they have called up people according to their expertise."
He said Baptist church members are as likely to contribute directly to the mission board based in Richmond, Va., as to collections in local churches. "It's important to people that they know 100 percent is going to the response," Henderson said. Baptists across the United States gave $1 million since last Saturday, said Janet Chen, Hawaii coordinator.
Methodist minister Gary Barbaree said the daily televised information from scenes where nearly 150,000 people died "really has been disturbing to people. They need to connect, to convey to those people that they are not alone and our hearts are with them.
"It seems to put things in perspective ... after the kind of spending we seemed to enjoy this holiday season," said Barbaree. "Recently our biggest concern has been the war and what is happening for peace in the world.
"Suddenly in an instant, our focus is on people who have lost all security. Deep compassion has come forward. I hope it can transform daily lives."
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Marlene Loui of Olivet Baptist Church wrote this consoling note and sent her birthday money to tsunami victims. Some local Baptists are contributing to disaster relief through the Baptist International Mission Board.
Harris United Methodist Church, where Barbaree is pastor, will be the scene of a concert next Saturday to benefit international aid efforts. Musicians and dancers from several countries bordering the Indian Ocean will perform at the 6:30 p.m. event at the church, 20 S. Vineyard Blvd. The Tsunami Relief Concert will be co-sponsored by the Open Table ecumenical organization, All Believers Network and the Milun Association representing residents from India, Indonesia, Sumatra, Sri Lanka and other countries affected by the tsunami. The suggested donation is $10.
Harris Church members gave more than $2,000 last Sunday, he said. Methodists are giving to their national United Methodist Church Committee on Overseas Relief, which works with other relief agencies.
Carol Ignacio, director of the Catholic Office of Social Ministry, keeps parishes updated with information from the Catholic Relief Service, which has branches in 94 countries.
The agency has committed to $25 million in aid from Americans, she said, which means much more than the initial outpouring this month. "We will encourage parishes that it is an ongoing mission, and will send updates so people know where the money is going," Ignacio said. The international Catholic agency received about $48,000 from Hawaii Catholics during the annual Operation Rice Bowl collections last Lent, and $33,000 for Sudan in a fall campaign.
"It's the typical instinct of Americans -- people want to do something," Ignacio said. "People want to be assured that donations will go where they say it will go."
Ignacio said it is not practical to collect food or blankets and medical supplies locally. A simple example is Hawaii's all-purpose relief food Spam, which contains pork forbidden by Muslim belief.
"These are different cultures. Every area hit has different needs," Ignacio said. "Mainly, it is the cost of shipping. It just doesn't work."
Jack Hoag, spokesman for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said members were reminded last weekend to give generously. "The church has a centralized and successful network for humanitarian aid," Hoag said. "My check from last Sunday is already in headquarters. We usually link with the Red Cross."
Money donated in Episcopal Church parishes will be sent to Episcopal Relief and Development, the emergency outreach arm of the church in America. Bishop Richard Chang called for each parish to take offerings during the month of January, and the national church has a Web site where donations can be made directly.
"This almost gives a whole new meaning to Christmas and New Year, a way to live the faith they have celebrated over the holidays," said the Rev. Charles Buck, United Church of Christ Hawaii Conference minister. Giving to those in need "is another way for folks to express their faith."
Gifts given here will be forwarded to the international denomination's Wider Church Ministries based in Cleveland. Buck's memo to congregations also outlined the options of direct contributions by mail or through the Internet. "With our own mission board, we know that 100 percent will go to relief ... as opposed to some percentage for administration, a concern people have about their gifts."
Buck said the most important thing for people to understand is that "six weeks later, when we find the energy may have died down, there will still be the need to support and be present for these people. It is a commitment, a journey that God sends us on, that may take years."
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hollyann Loui of Olivet Baptist Church donated to help victims of the Dec. 26 earthquake and tsunamis. Island churches large and small are responding to the international relief effort. With individuals sending contributions abroad and through the Internet, the exact magnitude of local charity is difficult to track.