Images by

Article link…

Rev. Rebecca Young is shown with a child during the disaster prepared meeing in Indonesia.

By Tammy Real-McKeighan/News Editor

The Rev. Becca Young saw tragedy of epic proportions after a tsunami hit Aceh Province in 2004.

She remembers the woman who dug a grave with her hands to bury her baby, the girl stranded on a rooftop for hours and a man who lost his family then went on to paint pictures of villages to help people recall what they looked like.

Recently, the professor and clergywoman shared her experiences at The Presbyterian Church of Fremont. The church has helped provide financial support for Young, who has worked in Indonesia for years.

The daughter of Presbyterian ministers, Young grew up in Blacksburg, Va., She earned a master’s degree in public health with a major in maternal and child nutrition.

After working as a nutritionist for the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) program, she went to Papua, an Indonesian province. There, she helped women learn about having better nutrition and hygiene. She also preached.

Eventually, the government started telling them to leave the province. The situation saddened Young, who’d been there three years.

“I felt like I’d invested a lot of time and knew the language and loved the people. I’d made good friends,” she said.

Young returned home and graduated from Columbia Seminary in Atlanta, Ga. She was ordained in 1998. In 2003, she earned a doctorate in contemporary systematic theology — which shows how the Bible and what the church says about God applies to life today.

She applied for full-time professorships, but jobs were going to adjuncts instead of tenured positions with benefits. So she taught part time.

Young was selling her own baked, organic scones at a farmer’s market when someone suggested she help people affected by the tsunami. So she contacted church headquarters.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) had raised $16 million for tsunami relief. Young called, saying she was a pastor who spoke the language and had a degree in public health.

She was sent to Indonesia.

Young arrived in 2005, just 3 1/2 weeks after the tsunami hit and was put in charge of coordinating the work of mainline denominations, which together had donated between $200 million and $300 million.

The Rev. Rebecca Young holds a baby born during flooding in Jakarta. Young is a professor at Jakarta Theological Seminary.

She learned the wave, which was 50 feet high and going 500 mph, hit three times.

The first “clean wave” carried away people, who couldn’t get to higher ground, along with cars and houses. The second “dirty” wave swept in with debris, acting like a steel wool pad that scrubbed away everything on the ground. The third wave took whatever was left.

Anything not heavy or tied down was gone. Survivors didn’t even have debris to pick through. Young said 200,000 people died from the tsunami which came 4 miles inland.

One woman was holding her baby when the wave came in and when she landed, her child was dead. With no home, cemetery or hospital available, she and her sister dug a grave with their hands to bury the baby.

A teen girl, who’d come to Banda Aceh to take school entrance exams, was staying with an aunt. Carried away by the first wave, she landed before the second. She crawled onto the roof of a two-story house, surviving the next two waves. Unable to get down, she was stuck on the roof for 10 to 11 hours, including time in the hot sun. That night, someone with a flashlight helped her get down.

With all of her aunt’s family gone, she walked all night to reach her parents’ home.

A fisherman lost his wife, five children and all his possessions. He began painting scenes of the different villages.

Young, who put in long hours, seven days a week, saw the resilience of the human spirit as survivors began their lives again. The woman who lost her baby married a man who’d lost his children. Together, they had more children. Young believes the teen girl was hired by a relief agency.

One tsunami survivor wanted to help Americans.

“I feel like we’re always putting our hand out like beggars to the United States,” he said. “I wish there was something I could do to give back to the U.S. for all they did for us.”

So Young later took tsunami survivors to Mississippi to help those affected by Hurricane Katrina. Tsunami survivors repaired homes, painted and cleaned up trash.

“They were thrilled to help Americans,” she said. “They had no idea that there were poor people in America.”

Tsunami survivors were impressed by senior citizens who rode a bus 24 hours to get there to work on houses.

Today, Young is a professor of systematic theology at Jakarta Theological Seminary. She works with undergraduate and graduate students. She does guest preaching and speaks at youth groups.

Young said the predominately Muslim nation has 25 million Christians and 400 seminaries; 34 denominations send students to the Jakarta seminary.

The Rev. Rebecca Young is shown with students in Indonesia. Young is professor at Jakarta Theological Seminary.

“Christianity is alive and thriving in Indonesia; the government is secular,” she said, adding, “There’s plenty of stuff to do. There’s a great demand for pastors and for knowledge about God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

“My idea is to be there until I retire, helping them learn about God and preparing pastors to serve in a huge country of Christians.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *