Prayer ‘keeps us going’

Mennonite community at centre of COVID-19 response in Kudus, Indonesia

July 15, 2020 | News | Volume 24 Issue 15
Mennonite World Conference
Hotel staff wear protective equipment to distribute lunches to hospital workers in quarantine. (Photo by Tris Suyitno)

As the world deals with the COVID-19 pandemic, the Mennonite community in Kudus, Central Java, Indonesia, joins hands and works with the local government to mitigate the risk and manage the spread of cases in the city of more than 800,000 residents.

Mardi Rahayu Hospital was built in 1969 by members of the Gereja Kristen Muria Indonesia (GKMI) Kudus congregation after five years of running a clinic beside the church building. The hospital has been treating COVID-19 cases since March 20.

“The hospital has made some upgrades by adding isolation beds, four with ventilators,” says managing director Dr. Pujianto. “We have stepped up handwashing and hygiene procedures, applied a no-visitation policy, trained staff on how to pre-screen every person prior to entering the building, and handled suspected and confirmed COVID-19 cases, as well as applied a ‘one patient per room’ policy at no extra cost, to prevent contagion.”

“It’s a trying time for us all, physically and emotionally,” says Rina Ristanami, a Gereja Injili Tanah Jawa church member who works at the hospital. “COVID-19 spreads so fast, and we are learning as we go about how to handle patients from the moment they come in the door until they are discharged. We often don’t know whether a patient has the virus until several days later.”

The hospital also needs to be prudent with personal protective equipment. N95 masks, examination gloves and protective suits are in short supply. “We are thankful for individuals and organizations who have dropped off protective equipment, sanitizers, meal boxes or little gifts of appreciation,” Ristanami says. “We know our brothers and sisters are also praying for our health and safety. This keeps us going.”

Isolation hotel

Patients who come to the hospital unaware they have COVID-19, or who even lie about symptoms and contact history, take a toll on its staff. All 1,400 hospital staff are currently taking rapid tests for SARS CoV2 antibodies. As of May 3, 13 staff were confirmed to have COVID-19. Those who return reactive results are quarantined at two local hotels until they receive their swab test results. One of the hotels is managed by a Mennonite, Tris Suyitno from the GKMI Kudus church.

“The hotel is empty, and home-based quarantine is not practical for many people,” he says. “By serving quarantine at our hotel, each person has a dedicated living space, and does not have to worry about food, internet connection or passing on the virus to their household members.”

Initially, Suyitno was concerned about exposing his staff and family to the virus. “But it’s not right to just stay behind and not offer our place when staff members need work and the government is in dire need for quarantine facilities other than hospitals,” he says.

In addition, Mennonite churches in Kudus are also distributing lunch boxes and providing low-cost food staples for those who have no income or savings.

“The city-level government, provincial government, non-profits, businesses and community of faith are working together to manage this,” Pujianto says. “Please support us by praying for the health of medical and essential workers, and that people will adhere to government instructions to minimize the spread of the virus.” 

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COVID-19 outbreak in Bolivian colonies
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Hotel staff wear protective equipment to distribute lunches to hospital workers in quarantine. (Photo by Tris Suyitno)

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