'Break Their Hearts, Lord': Hiroshima Again
By John Schafer
The 700 Club
CBN.com -- Editor's note: This is part three of the story of a CBN producer's struggle with the calling on his life. By leaving the comforts of home and reaching out to the tsunami survivors, his world was transformed forever.
Destruction from the Air
As our plane made its final approach into Banda Aceh, it became reverently quiet as everyone stared out of his or her window. All the aerial news footage on television could not fully reflect the magnitude of the destruction that laid Banda Aceh to waste. Everything was annihilated as far as the eye could see. The only way to begin to comprehend what I was seeing was to reference the images of Hiroshima. This time the devastation was not engineered by man, but by the sheer force of nature. The water that sustained sea life, provided a livelihood for many in that region, and offered beautiful recreational escapes had become the destructive force that could not be turned back. In the demonstration of its power, the water certainly revealed human frailty.
No Room at the Inn
Our team landed in Banda Aceh. It was inspiring to see our teams from Indonesia, Philippines, and the United States putting our collective foot down on the Aceh soil and claiming it for God.
Operation Blessing sent a driver to pick us up at the airport and transport us to the OB post. The first thing the driver told us was that there was no place in Banda Aceh for us to stay. The Operation Blessing command post team was concerned. If Mike and I stayed the night, we might draw the attention of some of the stricter Muslims who were already very skeptical about Operation Blessing. White, Christian Westerners were not particularly popular in that region, in spite of the fact that our intent was to provide relief for them. Even though only a small group of Muslims felt that way, they could still pose a threat.
Our plans included traveling to Sigli, which was only two hours away. One major concern was that in order to reach our destination, we would have to travel through rebel territory. Our faces reflected our fears, but none of us wanted to give power to those fears by putting words to them and speaking them out loud. We immediately formed a circle, held hands, and made three very specific requests. We asked the Lord to find us a place in Banda Aceh to stay the night. We asked Him to help us accomplish all of the tasks that lay before us over the next 24 hours. Lastly, and most importantly, we asked God to give us divine appointments beyond our assignments in Banda Aceh.
Into the Heart of Banda Aceh
After we prayed, there was a sense of peace that rested on us. We all agreed that we gave all of our burdens and concerns to God and that we needed to leave them with Him. From that point on, we all agreed that this assignment and our safety was God’s responsibility and that we need not be concerned or operate in fear. We climbed into our vehicle and headed to the Operation Blessing post where we would drop off two doctors who had joined us.
On the way to the Operation Blessing post, we saw vehicles of every make and model that were literally ripped in two. The driver explained that it was a beautiful morning and families were gathering for breakfast. Then out of nowhere, the earthquake hit. People ran into the streets to avoid being killed if their homes or other buildings were to collapse. It was not just a small quake. It started in the Indian Ocean at a magnitude of 9.2 and rippled its earth shaking vengeance onto the mainland.
The earthquake had subsided and people were coming to the aid of the injured and trapped. The streets were filled with people when they saw a wall of water coming toward them. Reports about the height of the wave vary. Some say it was 30 feet high, and others claim it was 100 feet high. We were told that the tsunami looked like a giant cobra with its hood fully extended as it roared into town and crashed down. The water immediately began to recede, taking cars, buildings, debris, and families with it. People began to gather in the streets again to help victims and to find loved ones swept away by the initial wave. Then the second wave slammed the shore and the town. This time it carried cars, homes, debris, and bodies and pulverized everything beneath it. Debris became a projectile, tearing through anything in its path, including people.
The driver started slowing down, which I welcomed because he was driving as if he were qualifying for the Indianapolis 500. We came to a full stop. All I can remember is how strong the smell of death was. I will never forget that smell as long as I live. To the left side of our vehicle was the mass gravesite of Banda Aceh. The stench was unbearable and very nauseating. They were still placing bodies there, and by the grace of God they were in body bags by the time we arrived. It was hard to believe that thousands, and possibly tens of thousands, were buried there. The sight and smell of this gravesite reminded me that this was nothing compared to what hell would be like. Out of this death and destruction, I believe that millions of Indonesians will come to know God.
It’s a Small World
We got back on the road and soon arrived at the Operation Blessing post. There was little activity since it was a Muslim holiday. Olive introduced us to the lady in charge of the post. Her name was Non, and she looked very familiar to me.
As she approached to shake my hand, she said, “You are the one who prayed for me! You are the one who prayed for me in Virginia Beach!”
Then it dawned on me. Almost a year ago, I attended a CBN Partner’s Weekend. One morning I saw this lady sitting in the lobby of the Founders Inn. She looked uncomfortable and a little nervous. I felt this bubbling sensation in my chest and felt a prompting to go and pray with her. I approached her and asked if everything was all right. She told me she was nervous because she had to speak to the Partners in less than an hour. I asked her if she would like to pray. She motioned for other CBN directors to join us, and I prayed for all of them. She thanked me and told me she hoped she could return the kind favor someday.
Now here she was smiling and hugging me tightly as if we were longtime friends reuniting. It really is a small world when you consider the vast scope of even the little we understand of God’s plans.
Mike and I were briefed on what we could and could not do at the hospital we would be visiting. Our meeting was short because we needed to get interviews with doctors volunteering for Operation Blessing and World Harvest at the local hospital. A new driver was assigned to us. Praise God that he was not like the Mario Andretti who drove us there. However, he did not have a clue about how to get to any of our locations. I just hoped that he wouldn’t drive us to the doorsteps of the rebels or to al Qaeda’s makeshift relief camp.
Surveying the devastation from the ground was completely different from our aerial view earlier that morning. We saw a shopping mall completely leveled. Small flags were standing throughout the rubble indicating the location of bodies that needed to be recovered. Entire city blocks were reduced to nothing more than rubble and debris. We saw elephants being used to move large pieces of debris, while people stood in the rubble in a trance-like state. Small fishing boats populated the roadways. The amazing thing was how many cats were wandering around -- not even a tsunami can kill those creatures. It was such a surreal scene. From the air you could see the vastness of the destruction, and from the ground you could see staggering detail.
View a slide show of John's trip to the victims of the tsunami in Indonesia
Read part one -- An American Views Tsunami Aftermath
Read part two -- Lost in Translation
Read part four -- Deeply Overwhelmed
You can help the victims of the tsunami -- give to Operation Blessing's tsunami fund today.
CBN IS HERE FOR YOU!
Are you seeking answers in life? Are you hurting?
Are you facing a difficult situation?
A caring friend will be there to pray with you in your time of need.