A time to build

A time to build

Tim & Diane Fonderlin – Malaysia


Tim Fonderlin

Diane Fonderlin

“My God, I want to do what you want.Your teachings are in my heart.”
Psalm 40: 8

We thought it unusual on that day after Christmas when the captain announced that the flight attendants would not be serving hot drinks or such during our flight from Kuching (Malaysian Borneo) to Kuala Lumpur (peninsular Malaysia). This had never happened before in our 3 years of flying in and out of Kuching but the captain said the weather was causing too much turbulence.

While we were in transit at the Kuala Lumpur airport our son, Shane, struck up a conversation with 2 young women from Scotland and learned that their flight to Phuket, Thailand had been canceled due to “an earthquake or something.” They did not know when they could get another flight into that beautiful resort area as no other available flights were posted.

When we finally landed in Bali, Indonesia, we learned immediately that an earthquake had happened near Sumutra and was of such magnitude that it created tsunami waves that wreaked unimaginable havoc on numerous countries. We rushed to the hotel’s Business Center to send out e-mail messages and to make phone calls to dear friends living in Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh, and Thailand and to find out if they were safe. Then we remembered our close friend from Kuching, Chai Say, and his family, were on holiday in the resort area of Langkawi on the western coast of peninsular Malaysia. It took some effort but, after a few days, we were finally able to track all down and learn that they were safe.

Like the rest of the world, we were stunned by the devastation this disaster had on the countries of South and Southeast Asia (and even Africa). For us, however, the news wasn’t about some far off nations that we knew little about. It was about our neighbors and the countries in which we had lived and worked. It was also about the families with whom we had worked so hard to build decent and low-cost houses through Habitat for Humanity.

Within 12 days of the earthquake and resulting tsunamis, Tim landed at the Medan airport in Indonesia and traveled from there to Banda Aceh, which was the worst hit of all the areas. He had seen devastation before: Homestead, Florida after Hurricane Andrew and Hyderabad, India after a tremendous flood but Banda Aceh and its surrounding communities looked like nothing he had ever seen before. Every person he met had a story of loss to tell: the taxi driver who had lost his entire family; a man who climbed a palm tree and held on to his young son with one hand and on to his wife with the other to escape the onslaught of water only to have his wife unable to hold on and swept away to her death; and a man and woman who had lost 2 of their 3 daughters to malaria in the weeks following the tsunami.

Tim has followed up that initial trip with several more and each time he returns home his stories are more about the resilience of the people of Banda Aceh, Peduli, and Meulabo than their loss. Now the talk is of reconstruction. People are getting needed health care. Schools have been set up in tents. Clean water is being provided by huge water filtration systems that have been donated.

Habitat for Humanity in Asia Pacific has asked Tim to set up one of five “building/training centers” to be located in five different areas of tsunami-affected Indonesia. He and four other men will each coordinate a particular center, which will enable Habitat to construct 10,000 homes over the next 2 years. That means 25 families a week per site will be able to move into decent and safe shelter.

For a man who loves figuring out challenges, Tim is the ideal person to have in such a position. At the same time, my husband is a man who has a heart for those who are poor and this work in Indonesia will allow him to be a part of helping to rebuild the lives of people whose worlds have fallen apart. You see he genuinely believes that in the reconstruction there will be healing.

Tim is able to do this work because Global Ministries sponsors us as missionaries and has seconded us to work with the international Christian housing ministry of Habitat for Humanity. This partnership has shown, once again, that words with action create a life-giving hope and a powerful witness.

Tim and Diane Fonderlin
Global Ministries Missionaries
Malaysia Tim and Diane Fonderlin are serving a four-year term as seconded staff to Habitat for Humanity International, based in Kuching, Malaysia. Diane serves as program developer. Tim serves as program development/ disaster response consultant. Tim and Diane both work on building relationships with the local churches in Asia Pacific and the USA.