Indonesia: Soccer Helps Ease The Trauma on Mentawai Islands

Matthew Ley

Map of Mentawai Islands

It’s been almost four months since a devastating 7.7 magnitude earthquake producing a tsunami with 9 foot high waves hit the Mentawai Islands of Indonesia causing over 500 casualties and leaving over 11,000 homeless. Since that time reconstruction and aid has been consistent but slow on account of the difficulty actually getting there (only one weekly boat trip from Sumatra to the islands) and the lack of working communications once there (limited phone lines, spotty cell phone reception and rolling brown outs). The ELCA, through the ACT Alliance, has helped to support the ongoing response of its partners on the ground.

What I was really excited to see when reading the ACT Alliance update on the situation was that along side the much needed aid of mobile clinics, home reconstruction and sanitation, one of the partners (Yakkum Emergency Unit (YEU)) had also built a football (soccer) field. The field now gets daily use and YEU has reported that they see happier faces than prior to the the field being built.

Why this excited me was seeing the recognition of life as more than subsistence alone. In the call to serve the neighbor, I believe Christ means not only to their physical needs but also their spiritual well being. What a gift to bring the gift of a smile to a player or fan and the joy of a hard played game as well as the comfort of a warm meal, a solid roof over one’s head and the caring hand of a medical professional in one’s illness. It is amazing to see all the ways that Christ continues to work.

So as you continue to pray for those affected by this natural disaster and those who are dedicating themselves to meeting their needs, add a few prayers that the weather may be fair, the soccer balls ample and the shots true.

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is a member of the ACT Alliance