Flood in Manado: Thoughts on Miracles and Rebuilding

PRAY FOR NEPAL. These heartsick moments cause me to reflect often, pray a bit more fervently, and hold my loved ones closer.  

As long as I've been a photographer, some photos still paralyze me. I wait for the perfect time to share them or adequate words to sum them up. Those adequate words don't come and I hold off until tomorrow, but tomorrows add up. This is a habit I plan on breaking. Some people deflect what they feel in the deepest parts of their soul and instead talk about the weather. Sometimes, I am guilty of this with my photography. I hold my cards close. I deflect. I post photos of birds or what I ate for breakfast and keep these photos that truly mean something to me in the que. 

So, everyone, this is Novi Pontororing Welan. I told him I would take his story home with me, and share it. So finally, I am. Of course, my words will fall short, but my hope is that these photos pick up where I leave off. 

A tragic flood in Manado, Indonesia left many families displaced and desolate. I learned of grandmas and children on roofs for days with no food. I learned of a doctor who was killed, but her son survived. Her son recounted the story by saying, "It was a miracle. I felt someone lift me from the taxi and when I opened my eyes, I was out of the cab." Driving down the streets of Manado, I looked out my window to see people sweeping the dirt from their sidewalks, hosing off the mud from their houses, and carrying beams to rebuild. I was astounded by their attitude to get right back to work. Last year, a few things in my life seemed like a metaphorical mudslide. When the temptation comes to take a seat in the middle of my figurative dilapidated house and mope for a moment, I think of the strength of my Indonesian friends. One Indonesian man said to me, "Rebuilding is our only choice." Seeing these people gave me the perspective and strength to dust myself off, sweep out the rubble, and start rebuilding. Now, I am no architect, but I quite like my new remodel.

Novi is a heroic man. He lost his wife, Yani in the flood. His son, Regan was completely buried in the rubble. Only Regan's hand was visible, sticking up out of the debris. Novi reached for his son's hand and pulled him out. Novi told me his story in Bahasa Indonesian. Someone translated for me. Standing in the mud and rubble of what used to be this family's home, I took Novi's hand and we just cried. We could hardly communicate in words, but that simple handshake spoke volumes. After that he motioned me over to his tree and picked some fruit to give to me. Of course, the tears came again. I just learned of this man's deep loss. His wife. His home. Through his anguish, he had the kindness to give all of what little he had. 

I hope you can see the love of a father and husband in Novi's eyes. I hope you can foster a strength to rebuild in this mud. I hope you can see the miracle of life in this child's face. My hope is that you can embrace the miracle in your own life and the hands that lift you out of the mud.