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Tsunami: An Open Letter to the Churches


Mesach Krisetya ministers at Mennonite Church Canada's annual assembly in Abbotsford, B.C. (2001). Mesach, from Indonesia, was the president of Mennonite World Conference at the time. He and other church leaders in Indonesia are discerning how best to respond to the Tsunami victims and survivors. -file photo

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January 1, 2005

The huge disaster caused by a tsunami in countries surrounding the Indian Ocean has been covered in depth by news agencies. We have seen the pictures and read the first-hand accounts. We may have imagined ourselves in that or similar disastrous situations. And many have also asked "where is God in times of disaster?" and "what does God ask of us in response?"

Our sister churches in Indonesia are close but not located in the areas immediately hit by the devastation. They have been responding with aid as they are able. They invite our contributions and prayers as well.

Our relationship with our Indonesian sister churches is highlighted by our connection with Mesach Krisetya, a past president of Mennonite World Conference, and guest speaker at MC Canada's 2001 assembly in Abbotsford, BC. Pray for Mesach and other Indonesian Christian church leaders.

I urge you to respond to the material needs of the survivors whose lives have been devastated and are even now at risk from disease and inadequate water, food and medical help. Many agencies are responding and will use your contributions well. I recommend that you join me in contributing through our own relief and service agency, Mennonite Central Committee. MCC has a record of effectiveness and efficiency in responding to human need and exhibits values and convictions that we share. In addition, contributions to MCC may qualify for a matching grant from the Canadian Government through the CIDA program.

I also urge you to respond to the spiritual needs of survivors and those who are assisting them. Pray for healing and signs of hope. Pray for strength and wisdom and compassion. Pray for miracles of survival, re-connection and recovery. And pray with your heart and mind open to hearing what God may want us here in Canada to learn through this event.

Besides personal prayers I hope all our congregations will include in their worship services corporate prayer for this situation and perhaps also some reflection on its implications. The internet site for MCC has up-to-date information about its work and the situation on the ground that can be useful in your reporting and discussion. MC Canada leaders will stay tuned to our Mennonite World Conference and MCC contacts and keep congregations apprised of special spiritual needs or developments.

As you pray, it will also be helpful to know something of the context of the Indonesian religious scene: Out of Indonesia's 230 million people, an estimated 16 percent are Christian. In addition, the Christian church in regions of Indonesia is a target of oppression. This will be an especially challenging time of witness for Indonesian Christians.

Among the disturbing pictures that have been distributed is one of a couple of sunbathing tourists on beach chairs oblivious to the disaster so evident around them. Let this not represent our attitude and response in this time of great need.

Dan Nighswander
General Secretary
Mennonite Church Canada