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Spring 2005 | Volume 28, Number 1 | Features

The Healing Love of Christ

All it took was a news report and Seattle Pacific alumnus Dick Frederick knew that his Christmas holiday had been cut short. “Disaster knows no season,” says the executive director of Northwest Medical Teams, one of the country’s largest nonprofit humanitarian aid organizations. “You just have to be prepared.”

In a tsunami-devastated area of Sri Lanka, a Northwest Medical Teams volunteer stops to smile at one of the natural disaster’s youngest survivors. “Even amid the wreckage,” says Dick Frederick, “there is still rebirth and resilience.”

While most people in the Northwest were enjoying a holiday dinner with family, Frederick drove to his Bellevue, Washington, office, picked up the phone, and began assembling volunteers. “Would you be able to join a relief team to Asia?” he asked a nurse on the phone. “My bags are packed,” the nurse responded.

Within eight hours, Frederick and his assistants had three teams of eight people fully staffed, and help was on the way. “When you’re a first-in relief team, you never know what you’ll encounter,” says Frederick. “Sometimes the unexpected happens.”

That’s what happened when pilots mistakenly dropped off the organization’s first team in a remote area of Indonesia, far from the site where they planned to land. But it wasn’t just an accident, says Frederick: “The villagers brought a sick 11-year-old boy to them. One of the nurses examined the child, and then the practitioner reached into his pocket and pulled out his personal supply of emergency antibiotics. It was enough to save the boy’s life.”

When the volunteers made it to their destination, Indonesia’s Aceh Province, they set up triage centers on the ground — often in front of local mosques, so villagers would feel safe. Thousands were treated for puncture wounds, severe skin abrasions, infection, and respiratory complications from saltwater inhalation.

“This is an opportunity to demonstrate the love of Christ to people experiencing trauma in their lives,” says Frederick. “We’re breaking down barriers of culture and religion, and just caring for these people as Jesus would have us do.”

While the tsunami is now off the radar screen of most people’s lives, Northwest Medical Teams remains focused. “We expect to have a presence in Sri Lanka for about three to five years,” Frederick emphasizes. “The biggest need now is for trauma counseling. The people have been traumatized, physically and mentally. They are so busy trying to rebuild that they’re not getting
back to a normal mental state.”

Despite the devastation, there’s hope, says Frederick. “What we haven’t heard a lot about is the incredible resilience of the human spirit. Our doctors and nurses tell story after story.”

For instance, volunteers met a 78-year-old Indonesian man who climbed a 30-foot tree and waited there for hours with all the strength he could muster as the wave destroyed his home and every member of his family. “But he survived,” says Frederick.“He fought to survive, and he did. Now he’s reclaiming his life.“

I don’t understand why things like this happen, but I do think the Lord uses these kinds of tragedies to get us to reprioritize,” he continues. “What really matters in life, after all? One of our nurses sent an email from her location in Asia. She wrote, ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff; tell your kids you love them; help out a friend.’ It’s a simple statement, but to me it’s pretty moving.”

Emily Drury: Lost and Found
Naam Khampee: A Father's Promise
Sarah O'Banion: Beyond the Call of Duty


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