Serving Indonesia with Relief and Healing
The Indonesian mountain called Cyclops has been a “fortress of strength” in the backyard of Paraclete Associate Jacinda Basinger’s home for much of her life. “Now when I look at it, I feel vulnerable,” said Basinger, who grew up in Indonesia and is now a counselor and administrator for the Christian school, Sekolah Papua Harapan (Papuan School of Hope). “That night, all of a sudden, it felt like what I tended to look at as something sure, was really something fragile.”
That rainy night—March 16, 2019—the flood and landslide from Cyclops narrowly missed her own home and blasted through homes of neighbors, co-workers, students and friends. Her own family—parents, siblings, their spouses and kids—also live on the edge of the flood zone.
“In the wee hours of the morning I heard a booming sound different than thunderstorm— more eerie and deep,” she wrote on Facebook, where she chronicled the natural disaster and its aftermath with photos of ruins, somber selfies in the dark during night watches, and then the SPH school community bringing relief and care. “Our phones flashed with incessant updates,” she wrote. “ ‘My house is flooding.’ ‘The road outside is a river.’ ‘Does anyone know how X is doing?’ ‘We are praying.’”
Helena Tabuni, SPH’s physical education teacher, was out walking when the flood overtook the area. She managed to flee to safety, but watched as “many people ran, yelling, and some didn’t make it.”
The community, including some tied to SPH—a school from preschool through high school with a vision to train the next generation of Papuan leaders—lost over 100 people, with 10,000 more displaced. Those who could sprang into action, helping with medical, housing and food needs.
“It was really overwhelming to be in the midst of a disaster zone because these were my neighbors and my friends and my family,” Basinger said. “It affected my own family, as well as my own physical needs at home. I also so desperately wanted to help because these are people that I know, and I love.”
After initial physical needs were met, Basinger began training her staff and parents in how to address the psychological and spiritual effects from their trauma. “There’s a (wrong) belief that if there’s a great disaster and you’re saved from it, and other people died, other people are sinners, and you’re not because you are a righteous person,” explained Femi Susanti Boki, another SPH teacher.
Discussing a biblical worldview and using the Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing bilateral stimulation “butterfly hug,” group trauma healing, and listening to stories, Basinger and her staff, including Boki and Tabuni, helped the children feel heard, safe and capable of healing from the trauma. It helped that the school already had a relational culture, Boki explained, in which teachers care about the students, sit and eat lunch with them and intentionally disciple them. “One of the ways to help with the trauma is to listen to people, to help them speak,” Boki said of Basinger’s training.
“That’s the key to trauma recovery, being able to tell our stories and feel those feelings that seem like they’re going to crush us,” Basinger said. “But if we can experience them in a safe, controlled environment instead of the wild uncontrolled reality in which we felt them, then we can start to release the trauma that’s trapped in our minds and our bodies. As I look back on the year, we’re more aware of our fragility. We’re more aware that each day is a gift to be used to love and serve others.”
To learn more, read Tegi Bagubau’s “Cries From the People: An Account of 2019 Flood in Papua, Indonesia.”
Read more stories of hope in the Paraclete 2020 Summary of Ministries.