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Volcanic eruptions cripple mountain communities in North Sumatra

Adventist schools sheltering displaced families; January 25 offering to go toward relief efforts

Volcanic eruptions cripple mountain communities in North Sumatra

Joseph Peranginangin, president of the church’s West Indonesian Union Mission, visits Berastepu, a village in Indonesia’s North Sumatra province, where the farmlands of Adventists were destroyed by volcanic ash. Mount Sinabang, in the background, has been erupting all month. [photo courtesy Southern Asia-Pacific Division]

Seventh-day Adventist schools in West Indonesia are among institutions serving as shelters in the wake of a series of major volcanic eruptions that displaced more than 25,000 people and left nearby villages mired in ash and mud.

Mount Sinabung in North Sumatra erupted several times last week, spewing lava, volcanic ash and gases as high as 16,000 feet (5,000 meters) in the air and affecting communities well outside the established danger zone surrounding the volcano.

The mountain has erupted intermittently since September, with activity intensifying this month. Local sources say lava has flowed continuously since mid-January, with more than 200 eruptions reported in one week.

Three of the 37 Adventist churches near Mount Sinabung withstood damage in the latest series of eruptions, local church leaders said.

“With continuing eruptions, damage assessment is not an option, so it’s difficult to determine the extent of the damage to churches and homes,” said Adventist pastor Trisawaty Sinuhaji.

Adventist schools in Sumbul Kaban Jahe are accommodating an estimated 700 displaced people. Medicine, blankets, clothing and clean water are all urgent needs, church leaders said. 

Adventist churches in West Indonesia on January 25 collected offerings to assist families displaced by the eruption. Offerings will also go toward those affected by flooding in Jakarta and Manado earlier this month.

Mount Sinabung is one of 130 active volcanoes in Indonesia. Prior to 2010, the volcano had been dormant for centuries.