By Blake Tommey
On September 28, 2018, a 7.5 magnitude earthquake, the deadliest of 2018, struck the island of Sulawesi just outside of Palu, Indonesia, prompting a five-meter tsunami that devastated bayside homes and businesses. The quake’s deadliest effects, however, came as entire square miles of soil—one under a government-subsidized housing development—completely liquified, burying hundreds of homes and residents in the mudflow.
Next door in Malaysia, Eddy Ruble, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s international disaster response coordinator, jumped into action, but not to mobilize volunteers or collect tarps. For CBF, Ruble said, responding to earthquakes, typhoons and floods around the world is about resourcing and strengthening partners who belong to the affected country rather than rushing in with direct aid. That’s why Ruble immediately contacted his friends at Rebana Indonesia, an Indonesian Baptist relief and development organization.
“We’re not first responders, but we are early responders,” explained Ruble, who serves as one of CBF’s field personnel alongside his wife, Cindy.
“We arrive early because that’s when it’s easiest to assess needs, build relationships and support the people already responding in their own country. Through partnership, we want to assist and enhance the capacity of Baptists in the country affected by the disaster, rather than taking control and implementing assistance directly. We seek to work with and through the broader church rather than trying to be independent rescuers.”
More specifically, Ruble added, CBF is joining together with relief organizations across the world through the Baptist Forum for Aid and Development, a coalition initiative of the Baptist World Alliance. Together, BFAD’s member organizations are channeling their resources and expertise through Rebana as it responds to the 133,000 displaced people in Central Sulawesi.
Throughout October, Rebana, in conjunction with Australian partner Transform Aid International, deployed donated food, water and tarps among 200 families living in the Donggala and Sigi Districts of Central Sulawesi. In addition, Rebana mobilized mental health personnel among six villages and continues to work with individuals experiencing post-traumatic stress.
As of January 2019, Rebana transitioned to a recovery and rehabilitation phase, in which it expanded its distribution of resources to 600 Sulawesi families. A crucial component of Rebana’s second phase also includes providing assistance and start-up capital for families seeking to rebuild their livelihood as well as disaster preparedness training for schools and churches in partner communities. Rebana, one of Indonesia’s own Baptist organizations, was well positioned to formulate such a trusted and informed response, according to Ruble, which is why CBF is committed to BFAD’s partnership model for disaster response—a model he helped develop.
“Through the BFAD coalition of partnering agencies, CBF and Baptists around the world are able to more effectively support national Baptist efforts in disasters as they reach out and assist the survivors with the compassion of Christ,” Ruble said.
“Part of that model is to help a national organization strengthen their capacity as they are helping victims of the disaster. This tragic situation looks to be an optimal scenario for the newly formed BFAD coalition. We’ve got a solid partner with Rebana and now we’re able to build on that relationship and bring in other international donor partners. This will help them move to a higher level of operation with the support and assistance from a wide sector of Baptist organizations around the world.”
In November, Ruble and consultants with Transform Aid International traveled to Jakarta to work with Rebana in strengthening the quality and accountability of their humanitarian work. Rebana’s staff underwent training for organizational governance, proposal development and safeguarding against fraud and abuse.
Domestically, Rebana has already built trust within the Humanitarian Forum Indonesia, an interfaith coalition of development agencies that coordinate relief efforts together, so as to insure the most efficient delivery of aid to survivors, while also working stringently to maintain peace and harmony in Indonesia’s diverse ethnic and religious landscape. These improvements not only strengthen Rebana’s immediate response in Sulawesi, Ruble explained, but extend the compassionate reach of CBF and other international NGOs in future disasters.
“Our hope is to build up Rebana’s capacity to serve people in need and strengthen their position in Indonesia while also ensuring that Baptist funds are achieving their maximum impact,” Ruble explains.
“It will take years for Palu and the surrounding region to recover and rebuild. But through the Baptist Forum for Aid and Development, CBF and supporting Baptist organizations are combining resources and expertise to help facilitate Rebana and Indonesian Baptists, as they respond to this devastating tragedy. This global partnership of Baptists provides the most effective relief and recovery effort.”
Learn more about and support the relief efforts in Indonesia at www.cbf.net/tsunami.