the Huttemans: the rest of the earthquake story

Where we were when the earthquake hit and how far we’ve come since.

an update on how the earthquake/tsunami has and continues to affect our ministry in Asia Pacific
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Seeing Light through a dark time

“…weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Psalm 30:5b (NLT)

“the faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.” Lamentations 3:22-23

“Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, ‘I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.’” John 8:12

On the morning of September 28th we drove from our home in Lauje to Palu, Sulawesi. Three hours after we arrived, at about 6:00 pm, a massive earthquake shook our world. Immediately, the entire Palu valley was bathed in darkness and quiet as the power lines and cell towers were damaged.

The house we were staying in sustained minimal damage, and our family was all able to run out to the road. We spent tense hours sitting in the road as aftershock after aftershock rolled through. It felt like the ground would never quit shaking. As we sat on the unsettled ground, we looked into the sky and saw beautiful stars lavishly splashed across the heavens. The boys enjoyed picking out the milky way and the little dipper. The darkness revealed the stars.

We spent a sleepless night in a neighbor’s yard, jolting awake with each aftershock. In the morning, “joy comes in the morning” replayed over and over again in my head. The power was not on, communication was still down, and the disaster was far from over, but we found joy in the light of the world.

Over the next few days we were able to hear from our organization’s 130 (ish) personnel that each and every one of them was okay. There was damage to houses. One family’s house fell in on a woman and her daughters, but neighbors dug through the rubble and freed them. The guesthouse where we usually stay sustained significant damage and is no longer livable. As the stories came rolling in the massive destruction began to dawn on us. We found out that a tsunami had struck the beach area. We also heard about the mud that swallowed a whole neighborhood which is just walking distance from the guesthouse.

Conditions in the city rapidly deteriorated, and by Sunday morning it became clear that we would need to evacuate all of our personnel from Palu. So on Monday, the twelve expats from our organization waited for eight very hot and thirsty hours to board an Indonesian Hercules military transporter. We were crammed into every tiny little inch on the aircraft along with over a hundred other foreigners, sick and injured, mothers and their children.

When we arrived in Makassar (a city in the far south of Sulawesi) we were well taken care of. There was a team of people waiting there to help with incident debriefing, helping our kids, and the simple details that we were initially unable to handle. Ezra still talks about how shaky it was in Palu. Each of us have felt nervous when we hear rumbling noises like a jackhammer, but we have been able to process the trauma quite well and are encouraged as we see God’s mercies with each new day, and we praise God that through the devastation that struck Palu, He protected our family and our coworkers from the severe loss and grief that so many others experienced there.

From the beginning Michael felt the burden of caring for and then mobilizing as one of our only leaders “on the ground” in Palu. And, over the next several days, he continued to help with the ongoing evacuation efforts. Cell phone communication in Palu was still spotty, but they could usually get through to him. The rest of our personnel were able to be evacuated by car and by Kodiak flights. The entire evacuation process took a massive amount of effort by our coworker Jerry, the flight team, and others.

In the weeks since the earthquake, our organization has been partnering with local churches and NGO’s to bring help and supplies to communities on the fringe of Palu who are the last to gain access to international aid. We will work on a future email detailing the encouraging things that have come of that.

From Makassar, we relocated to Manado (a city in the far north of Sulawesi). From here we are planning how and when we can return to our home and work among the Lauje. Although our ministry location didn’t sustain any damage in the earthquake, our usual supply route in and out of Palu has been greatly affected. And as we consider alternative routes to Lauje territory, all options involve longer distances overland. That’s why we are beginning to see a truck/SUV as a major need in our new ministry context.

Thankyou for praying for us even while you were “in the dark”. We value your partnership with us as we work to see the Light shine here. We do not know what the future looks like for us, but we will let you know when we do.

In Him.
Amy (for the Huttemans)

Gifts for the ongoing relief effort in Palu can be sent to Ethnos360 with designation:

Any gifts given toward the purchase of a ministry vehicle can be sent to Ethnos360 with designation, “MICHAEL HUTTEMAN—VEHICLE FUND”.

*thanks to Alan and Jason for photos

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