Mission Aviation Fellowship moves into long-term tsunami recovery.

By February 9, 2005

Indonesia (MNN)–Troops skirmished with rebels this week in Banda Aceh, one of a number of deadly fights with members of the Free Aceh Movement.

The government and rebels had earlier agreed to put aside their differences in the face of the tsunami disaster. The accord worked out well for a little while, until accusations that the rebels were waylaying aid convoys came to light.

They responded with force. Renewed rebel attacks created a security problem that forced the government to restrict help into the region. Many NGO’s were frustrated trying to get humanitarian aid to areas that needed it desperately, but the restrictions held.

Mission Aviation Fellowship’s Kevin Swanson says they did not feel the impact of the crackdown as many others did. “Since MAF is a registered Indonesian organization, we have been welcomed more as ‘home folks’ rather than ‘foreigners’. We’ve even been told that when others are asked to leave, that’s not going to affect us, because they consider us Indonesians.”

In fact, the government asked MAF for help. The problem was how to get help where it was needed. MAF began getting flight and communication support to relief agencies distributing food, water, shelter, and mosquito fogging to seven interior villages that were severely affected by the tsunami.

The problem was that what was being used for airstrips in the isolated areas were undeveloped and dangerous. Communications were nearly nonexistent.

Teams set to work in Banda Aceh to install the second VSAT communications network. Housed under field tents, the network they installed in Meulaboh is a great help to agencies involved in relief efforts as it is providing clear and uninterrupted connection for voice and email communications.

As for developing airstrips, Swanson says, “they’re not totally discouraged.” The government refused an offer of help by a foreign military to clear the land. The likelihood of the bridges being repaired any time soon is remote, which leaves these villages totally isolated.

In many of these isolated villages, pilots are landing on the roads. Teams are working with local officials to obtain permission to clear airstrips that would enable the Cessna 206 to land with rehabilitation supplies.

Swanson says that when their teams start to develop day-to-day relationships with people in the isolated villages, ministry happens. “These folks have really felt cut off from any other help. They’re beginning to see that there’s some reality to the witness that our guys have, and that there’s a difference here. So, as relationships are built, opportunity is there to share Christ either in word or in deed.”

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