A mobile phone going off after the Sunday service of the Indonesian City Blessing Church in Queens, New York, signaled that the tsunami had struck their homeland.
"No one knew in church. My fiancé called in a panic," recounts Gris Rustandi. Some church members only found out when they went to lunch at a local Indonesian restaurant. Some heard on their car radios. Lacking almost any information, immediate prayers and then phone calls went out to their families back in Indonesia.
Gris, a young jewelry company manager, had been in disaster situations before. She was caught up in the riots of Jakarta and fled to the United States for asylum. She was in school in Oklahoma City when the Murrah Federal Building was bombed in 1995. Now she faced the emotional tension of not knowing what had happened. She calmed down her fiancé and told him, "Pay attention to what island was hit."
Most of the earthquakes in Indonesia take place in the east side of the island archipelago, the side where most church members' relatives are located. Two months ago, a large quake in Irian Jiya hurt one of the church's missionaries.
As news came in that the earthquake and tsunami were in the remote western region of Sumatra island, near Banda Aceh, Gris and the congregation felt a momentary relief.
But still no one could get through by phone. Congregation members started to wonder if their friends on Sumatra were okay. A few members also told others that they indeed did have family near Banda Aceh. One member's cousin was in the earthquake center. A new round of prayer took place through the week.
It turned out that the worst physical results to immediate family members and friends were a stiff shaking and streets full of refugees. So City Blessing ...1
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