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Reporting from the Field: Helping the Brethren in the Covid Pandemic

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Reporting from the Field: Helping the Brethren in the Covid Pandemic

Pastors Soo Chuang and Aisu Chuah

Editor’s note: This sharing comes from two private WhatsApp chats, July 14/15, 2021, which were not originally written for the public. I felt, however, that this sharing by Soo Chuang and Aisu, a pastor couple, could be shared with the public because of its helpful content. So I got their permiss­ion to publish their sharing, which I edited and then double-checked with them for accuracy. The sharing is helpful for showing us how God works in people’s lives during the covid pandemic in Indonesia. For privacy, some names are written in initials.

Yes, it’s really a difficult time for many people here in Jakarta. Getting infected is the norm; not getting infected seems to be the exception now.

Ten families in the Jakarta church have been infected. Two persons have died. One is a doctor; he is the husband of a church sister and the brother-in-law of a church brother. In the past week alone, three teams of coworkers have been infected, in Surabaya, Jogyakarta and Kupang. Many church members in the Surabaya church have been infected in the past few days. The infections were not due to any church assemblies because we have suspended in-person church gatherings for a long time, in fact well before the government imposed the suspension nationwide.

Our Surabaya team recently handled three cases of people with breathing pro­blems. We had only one oxygen tank which we circulated among the people. A man used it for two days until he was finally admitted to hospital. The oxygen tank was then rushed to the second person while she was looking for a hospital. When she got admitted, the tank was rushed to a third patient. (This unrelent­ing pressure could lead to a heart attack, one might think!)

The second of these cases is a woman six months pregnant, the sister of our coworker in Jakarta. She finally got admitted to hospital, but the doctor said that if her situation worsens, they may have to abort the baby to save the mother.

We try to supply people with medications as quickly as possi­ble and as soon as they show symptoms or are tested positive. Because it takes a long time for them to be admitted to hospital due to a shortage of beds, we have stocked up on meds. But we are run­ning out of them, and these are very hard to get. Antibiotics and antivirus are needed, but we cannot bring them from overseas into Indonesia. So we would buy them locally, but the prices have really shot up. We need to buy azithromycin, a powerful antibiotic that is prescribed together with the anti­virus Oseltamivir/Avigan. The prices have gone up from HKD 41 for a box of 20 tablets two weeks ago to HKD 482 yesterday. As of now, we still have sufficient supply for ten patients but it is such a struggle to pay HKD 482 for something for which we paid only HKD 41 two weeks ago. But despite the high prices, we may need to get them eventually. Lianhua is effective against the previous covid variant but not against the delta variant for which we need very powerful antibiotics and antivirus.

Our supply of vitamins and supplements is adequate since we buy them from iHerb.

The doctor we mentioned died and was taken to the burial grounds directly from the hospital. He had been vac­cin­ated with Sinovac yet contracted the virus. The sister and the children are coping well, and are very appreciative of the support the church had shown them.

Most of the people we have helped so far have recovered or are recovering, and the key seems to be early treatment. The situation of the doctor worsened because he was late in getting treated. Likewise, the brother-in-law of the church brother passed away because nobody knew that he was sick (since he was staying alone). By the time he contacted the brother at night, it was too late, and he passed away the next morning. This brother had been in close contact with us, and we immed­iately sent vitamins and medicat­ions to the whole family. They are showing light symptoms now.

We are also helping a church sister, Dolly, with her immed­iate family, of which three members have recovered. But she was late in extending help to her half-siblings, and four family members died in the past three weeks: the stepmother, two half brothers, and one half sister. This is the kind of situation we are dealing with on a daily basis.

At the end of June 2021, a brother in Kupang contacted us via Pira, our coworker there, telling us that he had a friend in Jakarta who was living alone in a room and suffering from covid symptoms, with no one to buy him medication. That same night we bought all the needed meds and got a brother to deliver them. This sick man was called P, and we didn’t know him at all. He was very grateful and kept on asking us why we helped him des­pite not knowing him. The brother in Kupang told the coworkers that P was on the verge of losing his faith due to some other issues. So hopefully this incident can speak to him in some way.

This incident made us realize that many are in this situation, so we started to source for covid treatment medications. In the end we managed to get about 25 covid treatment packets based on the prescriptions and treatments which are standard for the health­care system here. It is not easy to buy them but we got help from coworkers in Bali and Kupang, and a pharmacy contact, to buy them, so that we can prepare for the worst.

Now that we have the supplies, we asked God to send us the people who are in need of medication. Amazingly, right after that, we received a phone call from a man in Papua. His name is K, a civil servant. He already had our phone num­ber for some time, but couldn’t remember where he got it from. He asked for prayer support because his family of four—his wife and three children—were stranded in Jakarta, cramped in a hotel room, with everyone suffering from covid symptoms. The second daughter, 21 years old, was having breathing problems, yet got turned away from all the hospitals they had approached. She was advised to go home and buy her own oxygen tank.

K called us for prayer support and healing for his family, especially N, the sick daughter, who was suffering the worst symptoms. We got his wife’s phone number and contacted her immediately. She herself was feverish and was very worried for the sick daughter who had just come back from several pharmacies but couldn’t get a small oxygen unit. The big type costs around HKD 1000 or US$129, but she didn’t have enough money for it. So she came back cry­ing hysterical­ly. We immediately transferred her some funds for the oxygen tank and all the medical paraphernalia. We also got a brother who works as motorcycle delivery man to deliver two packets of covid treatment medications for the mother and the elder daughter, named M. But the other daughter, N, was already in a critical state, so we dared not prescribe her medication. In any case, she still had the meds from her earlier consultation with a doctor at a clinic. M and the mother recovered relatively fast with the medicat­ion. N was not improving but could at least breathe with the aid of oxygen. We spent the next few days via phone to direct them to download an app for consulting an online doctor. We paid for everything via e-wallet.

Throughout the entire period, the family was extremely grateful. The father is a Christian but his wife and children are Muslims. They were unfamiliar with Christian terms and concepts, so the mother kept referring to us as their guardian angels (malaikat pelindung). Later they referred to us as Dewa, a term referring to God.

This family of four, including a four-year-old girl, have fully recovered. We helped them with medications as well as money to buy nutritious food, and sent them black garlic and vitamins. In one of our conversations, the mom kept thanking us and we told her that it was God who answered her husband’s prayer and who directed us to help, so she should be grateful to God instead. She told us directly, “you are my god”.

They want to come and visit us. We are still in communica­tion with them; the father called us and invited us to start a min­istry in Papua. He said he will bring us to the villages in Papua and help us in whatever we want to do there.

This whole episode is very touching, for it shows us how God works, ensuring that the family would be helped at the right time, and indeed all have totally recovered by now. The mom would call us every day to report on their daily progress. Yesterday they sent the oxygen tank back to us so that others could use it.

In the same period, Dolly, a church sister, called us one night to inform us that her friend’s entire family, including the wife and the children aged 2 and 4, were down with covid. They had just moved to Jakarta after losing their jobs, and are now staying in a kost, a small rented house with no bedroom. The friend, F, and his wife had lost their sense of smell, and had been running a fever for the past few days. They were taking only paracetamol because they, being new to Jakarta, had no government issued health card, and had no money to see a doctor. Again we asked our brother who works in delivery to immediately send them two packets of medi­cation. We then transferred them some money so that the children could see a doctor. F is very grateful for the help and was amazed that we would help them despite not know­ing him. All four of them have recovered very well. F wants to visit us with the children but this will have to wait until the pandemic is over. Just today he said that he will start selling coconut tomor­row at a stall not far from our place. We told him we will be his first customer, but on second thought, we are not sure if it is safe to buy coconut from him, haha.

The church brethren directed us to a few other new contacts to provide them with medications.

Through this whole experience, we see God’s grace working in the midst of suffering from the pandemic. We also helped with cases in Surabaya where the whole team of coworkers had been infected, as also five or six church members. We have been sending things over to them, but one of the most important and urgent packets got lost when the courier guy dropped it somewhere. It contained one of our last supplies of antivirus and antibiotics. That same night, a young man knocked on the door of the coworkers’ house to say that he had found a packet on the roadside. He was unfamiliar with the area, yet went out of his way to look for the coworkers’ house to deliver the packet.

So we experienced many encouraging moments. The Surabaya team themselves experienced the Lord’s help in handling the cases there even though they were sick themselves. In due time, maybe we will get them to write their testimonies.

In Yogyakarta, our two coworkers Susan and Yeni have more or less recovered. Susan has many underlying health issues so we were most worried for her, and from the start we were looking for a hospital to admit her. But in their guidelines, hospitals will ad­mit a covid patient only when the oxygen saturation goes below 80. Susan did a covid test because a church couple had been tested positive, and she had been in contact with them. Susan knew she was covid positive before she exhibited any symptoms, and this helped her greatly as she was able to treat it immediately and showed very light symptoms throughout. The Kupang coworkers are also showing light symptoms.

From our limited experience in helping the covid cases here, we have learned that those who take supplements regularly, espe­cially vitamin D3, tend to exhibit no or very light symptoms. Early treatment is also very important.

We are grateful that none of our church members has so far died from Covid-19. Please continue to pray for Ighid, a co­worker who has been hospitalized since February. Her situation is very unstable. Pray for a speedy recovery.

The two photos are illustrative stock photos, not photos of people in this sharing

(c) 2021 Christian Disciples Church