Indonesian Christian Worker Kidnapped, Escapes in Aceh

Monday, June 20, 2005

Mission leader tells of horrific aftermath of Tentena bombings

By: John M. Lindner
Special to ASSIST News Service

JAKARTA (ANS) -- An Indonesian ministry says one of its workers escaped after being kidnapped in Aceh, and reports finding Tentena bombing victims in horrific condition.

Jeff Hammond, director of Jakarta-based Bless Indonesia Today, told ANS that one of its staff members was kidnapped at gunpoint at 3 a.m. Monday, June 13, by Islamic separatist rebels in Aceh. After being held for 24 hours the worker was able to undo his ropes and escape into the night. He spent Wednesday being de-briefed by the police.

The worker said the kidnappers were from GAM (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka or Aceh Independence Movement) and were demanding money.

“It highlights the dangers that do exist and the importance of continually being covered in prayer,” Hammond said. “We thank the Lord for this miraculous escape.”

After the May 28 Tentena bombing on Sulawesi Island that killed 22 and injured at least 50 more, Hammond said he went to take assistance to some of the victims and was shocked to find that several patients were in dire straits.

Hammond found one woman with a hole in her face and shrapnel in her breast who was developing gangrene. Two others were critical with large pieces of shrapnel in their lungs, near the heart, with severed intestines and other internal injuries.

“We took the six worst-affected patients to Jakarta accompanied by a medical team. Altogether we needed 18 seats on the planes--16 the first day and two the next,” Hammond said.

Many patients are still undergoing surgery. Some surgeries had to be delayed until the patients stabilized, including 19-year-old Ronal who is still in a highly critical condition.

According to Hammond, 32 of the victims had severe broken bones and another six had "regular" breaks.

“The 20 worst need orthopedic specialists to help them and we have provided one to the Tentena hospital which they say is sufficient for the present. The eight worst cases are being treated in Surabaya,” he said. (Pictured: Some of the 211 graves--men, women and children--from the massacre at Duma).

Hammond told ANS he and his wife were heading to Duma for the 5-year memorial of the massacre of 211 in the Duma church June 18, 2000. That church, located on the northern tip of Halmahera Island in the Maluku Island group (once called Spice Islands), was the first church planted in the area by Dutch missionaries in 1866.

Hammond said he and his wife would be looking at two projects there:

The first is transforming the ruins of the old church into "A House of Prayer for All Nations." The plan is to put an inner wall and roof on the outer shell, dividing the inner section into prayer rooms, then painting scenes of the history of Duma around the inside wall starting from when the gospel first came there through to the time of the massacre. (Pictured: The Duma church held 1000 worshippers before it was destroyed by jihad terrorists in June 2000).

The second project is to build a new church for surviving Duma Christians, starting in September.

After Duma the Hammonds plan to go to Manado in North Sulawesi to visit the Lata-lata construction site. This is a project to build new homes for the 1,500 Christians that Hammond and his team rescued from the jihad after they had been held in captivity two years by Islamic hardliners on the island of Lata-lata.

“The project has been grinding along slowly due to government red tape, but we expect to finalize everything when we are there and, hopefully, the building program will go to full throttle,” Hammond said.

“This is our normal round of activity without a minute to spare,” Hammond said.

Jeff Hammond and his wife, Annette, are Australian citizens and have lived in Indonesia for over 30 years and speak Indonesian fluently.