Christian Living

Spiritual Life

'Break Their Hearts, Lord': The Final Chapter

Editor's note: This is part five of the story of a CBN producer who left the comforts of home to reach out to the survivors of the tsunami -- and as a result, his world was transformed forever.

Reconciliation after Tragedy

Our team met Mitch, a doctor from the U.S. who was volunteering with World Harvest. He briefed us about the hospital. This facility prior to the tsunami had more than 300 medical staff; only 20 had returned. No one knew if the others fled to the mountains or perished in the sea. Every piece of medical equipment had been destroyed, so several countries brought all of the equipment that was now there to support the facility.

Moments after Mitch started briefing us, we were joined by Mario, another volunteer with World Harvest who served as our translator at the refugee camps. The camps are known as IDP – Internally Displaced People. Mitch described the situation we were about to enter.

There were two villages located near each other before the tsunami hit. Every citizen of one village fled to the mountains and did not return for five days. During those five days, the people of the other village that stayed were recovering bodies and clearing debris. World Harvest was able to set up a small medical team on site. When the other villagers finally made it down the mountain, they were shocked to see their entire village gone. They were ashamed that they did not help the other village with the massive clean up efforts. Because of their shame, they decided to move their camp across the road.

Mitch told us that there had been a breakthrough in the situation. World Harvest sent a medical team to the village that had moved across the road in order to assess the needs there. Mitch led that team with Mario as his translator. They met with the chief and offered medical assistance for the villagers. His people would have to come across the road to the medical unit because the operation was too small to set up another unit in the other village. The chief declined because he and his villagers were so ashamed of what they had done that they would not travel across the road.

The chief did share his concern about the fact that his people were running out of food and that some rice would help them greatly. Mitch knew the other village had a huge supply of rice from relief support. He approached the other chief and told him of his neighbor’s predicament. The chief told Mitch that if the other chief would come to him and ask for help, he would give the rice to him and his people. Mitch explained that they wouldn’t come and ask because they were so ashamed. He suggested, “Why don’t you make the first step and send some of your people with 15 bags of rice?” The chief responded, “I will send 20 bags to their village.”

So, with that, we made our way to the two villages. It took a while to get there, and the devastation was beyond imagination. We traveled near the base of the mountain where everything ended up -- and I mean everything! Bodies would never be recovered from there and debris would take months, if not a year, to clear away. This was by far the worst part of the disaster Mike and I had seen to date. We had to travel with our windows down because the air-conditioning in our vehicle was not working. The smell was putrid in the sultry, tropical heat.

When we reached our destination, we saw that there were clearly two villages separated by a roadway. Mitch went to the village that received the rice the day before. Mario introduced Mike and me to the chief. After our introductions, the chief welcomed us to his village. We started to wander around the village. Mitch told us to meet them across the road when we were finished.

Not long after that, Mike and I headed across the road. We could not find Mitch, Mario, or the CBN Asia news team in the village. We saw a tent full of men sitting down and what looked like a cleric speaking very intensely with them. It did not feel comfortable to be so white in that crowd, especially when we heard the cleric’s tone of voice.

There was no more wandering around for us. We became more serious about our attempt to find our team. When we did find them, Mitch was lying on the ground playing with the village children while Mario was translating what the cleric was saying. Basically, the cleric told these men that they brought this upon themselves. They were not being good Muslims, and they needed to repent. His lecture went on for about ten more minutes.

Then Mitch spotted the village chief. He introduced Mike and me to him and translated what the chief was saying to Mario. The chief from the other village had come to ask for help and they both shook hands for the first time. Mitch was happy to hear this news, and told the chief that he was wise and that God was going to bless him. It was amazing to see how God used Mitch to help reconcile these two chiefs and their villagers.

The chief invited us to join him in his tent to eat. Mitch looked concerned for a moment but told the chief we would be honored to join him. As we walked toward the tent, I must admit that I felt a little tense about entering. In many of the movies I’d seen, this particular scenario did not work out very well for the guests.

We removed our shoes at the entryway of the tent. It was very dark except for light coming through the front and rear entries. There were a number of women toward the back of the tent, cooking in large pots. What caught my eye were the thousands of flies swarming above those pots. All of a sudden, I lost my appetite. We all sat down and Mitch asked Mike and me, “Boys, how strong are your stomachs?”

Mike’s response was fitting: “We’re glad that you’re a doctor!” Mitch laughed, “We have medicines for almost everything.”

Other village men began to enter the tent. Mario said these men were like elders and this was the first time most of them had seen Americans. This was the first time for any of them to eat with Americans.

When in Rome

The women brought large bowls of food and placed them near us. Then they handed us plates. The chief gestured for us to start eating. I put very small portions on my plate, thinking I could eat a little from everything to make the chief happy and that amount would be manageable. The chief raised his voice at me and Mario translated, “You need to eat much, much more. Put more on your plate.” You can imagine how quickly I complied. When in Rome… do what the chief says to do.

When everyone had food on his plate, it was time to start eating. I silently prayed over my food. Actually, this was the first time I had ever asked God to heal me before I was sick. To my amazement and relief, the meal was delicious. It was the best meal we’d had since arriving in Medan and Banda Aceh. The CBN news team joined us, and we had a great time of fellowship at the feast. I felt bad for our translator because every time he was about to take a bite of his food, he would have to translate for someone.

Then three very suspicious looking men dressed completely in black entered the tent. They greeted us with a nod, and the chief explained to them who we were. They joined us for the meal. After everyone was finished, the chief offered us a smoke. We declined. Thankfully, he was not as forceful about the smokes as he was about the food. He still wanted to smoke and rolled his own. Later, we found out it was marijuana and that it was commonly used in the Aceh province. The chief told us how grateful he was that we would travel so far to help his people. The chief made a profound statement when he said that if the tsunami never happened, we never would have met. That was a pinnacle moment for all of us.

Everything Comes Full Circle

Afterward, the chief allowed our team to interview him outside the tent. Many people from the village gathered around. This was just as exciting for them as it was for us. As we prepared to wrap the interview, I got that bubbly sensation in my chest again. The words Bo gave me from the Lord came to mind: “Hold them tightly in your arms and tell them you love them. They will see Me through your actions more than they would if you preach to them.”

I asked Mario if he would ask the chief if I could hug him. Of course, I thought to myself that this man was very proud, very masculine, and there could be no way a hug would happen. The look Mario gave me confirmed what I was thinking. He said, “I’ll ask.” I watched the chief’s reaction as Mario made the request. The chief smiled at Mario, and Mario looked at me and said that is would be all right. I stepped forward and we hugged each other. For a small man, he embraced me tightly. I spoke into his ear, “God loves you. God bless you.” After he hugged me, everyone began hugging each other.

The leader of the men dressed in black garb approached me with an extended hand. I shook his hand and then I said, “Give me a hug.” I embraced him. He hugged to each side of the head. I told him that God loves him and so do I. His men began to hug our team members.

We left the camp. As we rode, Mario and Olive told Mitch, Mike, and me that they could not believe those men in black hugged us. We learned that they were members of the radical fundamental Muslims. They are very hardcore in that region. One of my fears about coming to Indonesia was gone. We not only had a run-in with these men, but we feasted together and we embraced each other. We were no longer Acehians, Americans, Filipinos, Indonesians, or rebels; we were friends. So what Gordon says IS true… Love never fails.

Mitch told us one final thing during our drive back. All of the doctors had been hearing one similar comment from a number of the Muslims that they treated in the past week. The Muslims were saying, “We have been taught to hate Christians. Now we do not know why.” I told Mitch that I watched a lot of news and specials after 9/11 and began to fear Muslims. Now I don’t know why.

As we dropped off Mitch at the hospital, he told us, “This has not happened all week, but five doctors decided to spend the night at the hospital, so we have room in our home for you to stay in Banda Aceh.” There were five of us from CBN.

We instantly remembered the three specific prayers we prayed that morning. We asked the Lord to find us a place in Banda Aceh to stay that night, to help us accomplish all of the tasks required of us during the next 24 hours, and to give us divine appointments beyond our assigned tasks. Every prayer was answered beyond anything we had ever imagined.

God is faithful to keep His promises to us. It saddens me that it would take so many perishing in a massive tsunami across the lands surrounding the Indian Ocean to wake me up and become the man God called me to be. Nevertheless, my heart is broken and I am awake.

I pray that God will break your heart. Do not wait on a catastrophic event, and do not use the excuse that you are waiting on God. Seek God for this revelation; He’s been waiting for you to ask.

THE END… or maybe it’s just the beginning.


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