Westmont Magazine Relief in Actions
Three weeks after the tsunami devastated Indonesia in December, history major John Michael Ehrenfeldt ’03 flew to Sumatra. He became one of the few Americans aiding Banda Aceh, the center of the catastrophe. A certified EMT and lifeguard, John knew he could help.
He believes God put people in his path who encouraged him to go, gave him frequent flier miles and helped him financially. It took him only a week to make the arrangements and find a substitute teacher for his class.
“I’m not the kind of person who thinks about going to the mission field,” John admits. “This had to be God all the way. I loved it!”
Getting supplies and medical attention to the people who needed it the most involved forging alliances with different groups. John fostered relationships with Christian missionary groups, the Indonesian army, international relief organizations, the Sumatran governor and even Sumatran rebels. Using an improvised bartering system, he worked to match supplies with needs.
Armed with a motorcycle and an assertive attitude, John spent three weeks traveling through the Sumatran villages talking to locals and finding out their true needs.
“I saw that many patients close to Banda Aceh were suffering from too much medication and too little instruction,” John says. “The doctors who used their own resources to aid the victims usually started in the villages closest to the city, so the same victims were being treated again and again while the outer villages were suffering from lack of medical supplies and attention. With the motorcycle I was able to reach the unreachable and give them medical attention and set up nursing units.”
John learned to be resourceful. Acquiring 23 tons of rice from the governor’s palace, he traded it to the Indonesian army for antibiotics and medical supplies. He then distributed the medicine to people who had had little access to doctors.
Until recently John taught physical education at El Montecito Early School in Santa Barbara. He has enlisted in the U. S. Army and hopes to join a special forces unit and receive medical training. That way, he will gain additional skills and be able to bring relief to Third World Countries in the future.