The tsunami disaster in Indonesia has allowed United Methodists to reconnect with their Methodist counterparts here.
The Jan. 12 arrival of a United Methodist delegation "is of great significance to our church," said Bishop Rusman Pungka Mual Tambunan of the North and Central Sumatran Conference of the Gereja Methodist Indonesia (Methodist Church of Indonesia).
The tsunami tragedy is "so sad and so vast," the bishop said, then added through a translator: "Our heart is comforted by your presence. I thank you for being with us as members of one family."
United Methodist Bishop Joel Martinez of San Antonio, who is president of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, brought greetings on behalf of the delegation. He noted that the Board of Global Ministries, the Council of Bishops and United Methodist Communications — as well as United Methodists everywhere — "have been of one heart in prayer for you."
One purpose of the delegation’s Jan. 12-16 visit to Indonesia is to provide pastoral support. "We want to pray with you, we want to walk with you, we want to offer what ministry of consolation that we can to your people," he said.
The delegation also comes in a spirit of partnership, according to Martinez, "as we work with you to respond to the crisis that has struck the people of Indonesia."
The fact-finding mission should help United Methodist agencies determine the needs and opportunities arising from the disaster. "We want to work with you as long as it takes," he added. Part of the delegation’s mission included delivering antibiotics and other medicine for tsunami survivors.
This year, the Gereja Methodist Indonesia is celebrating its 100th anniversary. Started as an outreach ministry of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Singapore, the denomination became autonomous in 1964 and serves a constituency of about 100,000 people.
In the Aceh Province, Methodist churches and schools can be found in the tsunami-damaged cities of Banda Aceh, Bireuen, Lhokeumawem and Meulaboh. Most church members in that province are of Chinese descent.
In addition to the North and Central Sumatran Conference, the church has a South Sumatran and Java Conference, led by Bishop Baktiar Kwee. Each of the conferences has its own seminary, and most of the current pastors are graduates of those seminaries.
Besides Martinez, other members of the United Methodist delegation include the Rev. R. Randy Day, chief executive, and the Rev. David Wu, staff executive and Asia specialist, from the Board of Global Ministries; the Rev. Paul Dirdak, director of the United Methodist Committee on Relief; Kyung Za Jim, president of the board’s Women’s Division; the Rev. Larry Hollon, chief executive of United Methodist Communications; and the Rev. Henry Leono, a native of Indonesia and pastor of St. Paul United Methodist Church in Willingboro, N.J.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759; Stephen Drachler, (615) 742-5411; or [email protected]