Called to Minister Overseas

Majors Jim and Marcia Cocker were first featured in Priority! when they were serving in Papua New Guinea (Spring 2008, Summer 2009). Now they are serving another three–year missionary tour, this time in Indonesia (Spring 2014). Marcia writes about their work there. 

On the news, we watch as Christians in the Middle East flee for their lives; as conflict escalates in Ukraine, and the Ebola virus spreads in Western Africa. We watch as tsunamis race across island nations and fire, earthquakes, and civil unrest ravage communities and property. It all speaks to the constant uncertainty of life. As Christians, we are immediately drawn to do something. But this past week I was reminded that just because something has stopped being newsworthy doesn’t mean it is over.

Back in September 2013, the Mount Sinabung volcano erupted here in North Sumatra. In the early days of the disaster, 14 people died, and the local Salvation Army responded in force. In February 2014, the volcano erupted a second time, killing even more. Since then, despite living right here in Indonesia, like everyone else, I had stopped thinking about it.

This week I was reminded that a disaster isn’t over just because the media no longer cover it or because I fail to remember it. For almost a year, more than 2,000 refugees have been living in a temporary refugee camp complex 15 kilometers from the nearest Salvation Army. Despite the tireless efforts of the local soldiers in the area, we heard today that 16 more people have died due to psychiatric and stress–related illnesses. The local authorities have now determined that the residents of three evacuated villages will never be able to return to their homes; each entire village, like the ancient city of Pompeii, is buried beneath 15 feet of grey volcanic ash.

To help these people move forward, the Indonesian government has donated valuable land to The Salvation Army to help relocate the refugees into a new community. We will take full responsibility for 370 families and provide community services such as schools, a clinic, a pre–school center and a training center to teach the residents how to farm new and different crops from what they are used to. Each family will be given their own plot of land to farm with coffee—a great income–bearing crop for this area. Once people have a means to support their families, we believe they can begin living their lives once again. The Army will be instrumental in this new community development with donated funds from around the globe.

One might ask why a Muslim–dominated country would ask The Salvation Army to lead the rebuilding of lives and property. The response was “because we know you will do it well as a reflection of your faith and love for God and people.” No doubt, many who are helped will come to Christ!

So the next time you see the world erupt in violence or disaster— remember that the pain will last long after the news crews go home and every scar can be an opportunity to share the Gospel.

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