A disaster response team from Yayasan MAF Indonesia (DR) team arrived in Palu Indonesia on the Monday following a devastating 7.4 earthquake and tsunami on 28 September, ready to do whatever was most needed in partnership with Ethnos360 Aviation and Helivida who shared a hangar at the airport.
Story and photos by LuAnne Cadd
Rick Emenaker, heading up the DR response for MAF, was surprised to see nearly 100 teens crowding the small compound. The students were all from the Wana people group where Ethnos360 has done long-term and good work over many years. These children of believers from the villages attend school in Palu where the missionaries provide a dorm and other support.
'Helivida pilot Matthias Geiger flew six girls the one-hour flight in the helicopter back while Ethnos360 Aviation flew the rest in the Kodiak aircraft.'
Following the earthquake, the Ethnos360 missionaries left and the students needed to return home to their villages. It was arranged for the Ethnos360 Aviation pilot to bring the plane and start shuttling the kids, but it didn’t go as quickly as planned. The children, along with all the Yayasan MAF Indonesia and Helivida teams, slept on the grass and hangar floors each night, hoping that they would leave the next day.
'On Wednesday, we were walking around the hanger and noticed the kids were very upset and some were crying,' Rick describes. 'So we inquired why since the day before they seemed cheery and joyful. We discovered that it was because they hadn’t been able to get back to their villages and the kids were hungry as there was no food for them. Food is hard to get here in Palu right now.'
The team knew they had to do something. They had received some rice the day before, so decided to give this to the 60-70 kids who were left. Although there was nothing to buy in town, they ran into a man with eggs and bought what he was willing to sell and that night the children ate a meal of rice and eggs.
'I was encouraged to see how in the midst of all their sorrows, they were able to be thankful for the things they still have.'Wilbert Rietveld
'It was really cool to see them change - not so hungry anymore, and the flight schedule started to pick up a little bit and we were able to get some out,' Rick said. 'We really felt like we bonded with the kids.'
By Wednesday night, a road opened and two bus-loads took most of the students on the long drive home, leaving the last 14 to wait one more day. Thursday night, Rick and Wilbert Rietveld, MAF’s IT specialist who speaks Indonesian, sat with the remaining group, eating, laughing and talking under the stars outside the hangar.
'I was encouraged to see how in the midst of all their sorrows, they were able to be thankful for the things they still have,' Wilbert said. 'There was one family where the wall fell on them and people had crush the wall to get them out. So one of the kid’s eye was a different color and lots of injuries.
'Two students were out on the beach and when the tsunami hit they ran and the water was right behind them, and eventually hit them but they were able to make it home the same day. Two other kids were not able to make it home that day because the water had cut them off. The whole dorm was anxious about what happened to them. They know a lot of people who died. They’re still processing it inside.'
On Friday, 6 October, Helivida pilot Matthias Geiger flew six girls the one-hour flight in the helicopter back to their village while Ethnos360 Aviation flew the rest in the Kodiak aircraft.
Matthias described the joyful reunion of parents and their children. 'I landed, left the engine running, opened the door, and the parents of the one girl sitting next to me came running and crying and hugging her. It was very emotional. They were all very, very happy to be home. They were so busy with hugging each other and being joyful, I just closed all the doors and left quietly with my helicopter. I was so happy to take them home.'
'Two students were out on the beach and when the tsunami hit they ran and the water was right behind them...' Wilbert Rietveld