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How can we help?

Questions and answers about tsunami relief

Since the tsunami, I've received many inquiries from individuals and congregations. They ask what they can do to help survivors in Indonesia, where I serve as an ELCA missionary. Sending money to a relief organization seems so impersonal, some write. Couldn't we go as volunteers or send our youth group to help clean?

Could we send clothing and blankets? What about adopting children who have lost their parents? Shouldn't we use this as an opportunity to evangelize? Why should we route our money through relief agencies if our congregation can send it directly to individual churches or companion synods in India, Thailand or Indonesia?

Survivors will long need help to rebuild their shattered lives. Our hearts go out to them. As Christians we want to be an active part of the solution. But what kind of help should we offer? Here are a few tips from my vantage point in Indonesia.

Couldn't we serve as volunteers?

It may sound impersonal, but the best way to help tsunami survivors is to send a financial donation to a reliable relief agency. Volunteers are rarely needed because disaster relief requires professionals with technical skills and prior disaster experience. International disasters are more complicated than domestic ones, normally requiring passports, visas, fluency in another language and cross-cultural skills.

(As the article continues, Kameo also answers: "Why not send clothing and blankets?" "What about adopting orphans from affected areas?" "Some Christian relief agencies proselytize as well as distributing aid. Is this a good thing to do for the kingdom of God?" and "Why bother routing our money through relief agencies if our congregations can send it directly to churches or companion synods in Asia?")


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