Alvaro with his parents in April 2017, 6 months after the attack.

On 13 November 2016 at a church in East Borneo, Indonesia, four children were playing outside. When their parents attended the Sunday service, an attacker threw two petrol bombs into the church playground. 

Alvaro (4), Trinity (4) and Anita (2) were all severely wounded in the attack. Another child, Intan (aged 2), passed away a day later because of her injuries. 

Alvaro’s father was working in another part of the country when he heard his son was a victim of the attack. He hurried home.

“I cried all the way, thinking the worst, that my son’s leg or arm might have been gone,” he said.

Later he heard the news that one of the children, Intan, had died.

“That news broke my heart,” he recalled. “I remembered pleading and pleading with God, ‘O God, please don’t take Alvaro away from me too.’”

“I remember asking ‘Why? Why did this happen to us? Why my son? Have I sinned against God so badly?’ But then I realised I would have wronged God by thinking that way. We are all sinners after all.”

The children were traumatised by the incident. At one point, Alvaro was terrified whenever he saw his mother cooking. He will be screaming, ‘Put the fire out, Mama!’”

Alvaro and Trinity (2017 April)

Trinity and Alvaro continue to undergo treatment. Their injuries are very severe and complex.

At one point, the doctor said hair would never grow on Alvaro’s scarred scalp again. Later, the family learnt that Alvaro’s ears were functioning normally, and that a hair transplant could be an option.

Alvaro started his advanced treatment in Kuala Lumpur on 1 February 2018. Though it was beyond their means to pay for it, his parents decided to take him because the progress of healing back in their hometown was too slow, and they trusted God to provide.

Ten months later, in December 2018, the doctor released Alvaro to allow him to return back to Samarinda.

Has he fully recovered? “Not yet,” said Novita Sagala, Alvaro’s mother. “Not all of his right scalp is able to grow hair yet. The right side of his face still needs further operations. The index finger on his right hand can’t point straight. He can move those fingers easily but cannot make a strong grip, only partially. But with that, thank God, he can at least grip a pen.”

But then one day, Alvaro asked his mother, “So when will my right head, face and hand go back to normal like my left?

“It broke my heart to hear that,” she sighed. ”But I must be strong and put on a smile in front of him. So I said, ‘Not today, but the doctor said that they will check on it again, I promise.’ I did not want him to feel insecure.”

To the doctors and nurses in the hospital, Alvaro is known as a strong, cheerful and high-spirited boy, despite undergoing surgery after surgery. But his doctor has decided to pause the treatment. He told Alvaro’s parents, “I know that he is a very strong boy, but giving too much anesthetic at such a young age can’t be good for his long-term physical condition.”

So they will wait for another two to three years to re-check and re-plan for more surgeries to fix what is still left undone.

In the meantime, Alvaro will continue to attend the weekly psychological therapy provided by the Witness and Victim Protection Agency in Samarinda, as well as the therapy for his fingers in the local hospital.

And what about his mental health? Alvaro is becoming more confident in himself. Alvaro will re-enroll into kindergarten again.

His father, Hoddiman Sinaga, is now applying for a new job, after more than two years of not working as he was taking care of Alvaro full-time in Kuala Lumpur. His mother, Novita, continues to work as a staff member in Samarinda police station.

“TAKE ALL OF MY SKIN INSTEAD OF HERS” 

Trinity made her fourth visit to China for more operations at the end of May 2019. She went through two operations, which patched more skin on her left elbow, hand, wrist, palm, and planted a ‘balloon’ on her back. The ‘balloon’ will be grown for another 3 months to collect more skin and flesh to be use to patch her left-hand fingers and left leg, which is still not straight.

“I can’t bear to watch her in pain. Going through operation after operation, injections, skin patches. She is really in pain. More than we can imagine. It will cause me depression if I am drown in this feeling too deeply,” lamented Sarina.

She once told the doctor, “Please take my skin instead of hers. I don’t mind if you use all of my skin as long as it can bring hers back to normal. She is still little, she has a long way to go.” The doctor refused, telling her that, for genetic and medical reasons, it is not advisable to use another person’s skin. The best to use the skin of the person who needs the skin grafts.

“I believe God will provide the money we need for her treatment,” said Sarina, when asked about her financial condition. Individual donors from various places in Indonesia has helped to make it possible for Trinity to get treatment in China.

“I hope Trinity will be better by December. Then she can enroll into kindergarten in January 2020 and start elementary school in July the same year.” Trinity was 3½ years old when the bomb attack happened. She turns 7 this year, time to start her schooling.

Open Doors has provided some financial support for Alvaro’s treatment, support in prayers and also organised letter-writing campaigns from supporters for all three children who were victims of the Samarinda church bombing.

Almost three years after the attack, there’s still a long way to go on Alvaro and Trinty’s journey to healing. But they continue to show courage, joy and the desire to be fully healed. So let us continue to support them in the same spirit and prayers on the journey ahead!

PLEASE PRAY

  • Pray for abundant love and patience on Alvaro and Trinity and their families as they endure this long and painful journey to healing.
  • Pray that Alvaro’s father will get a job in the near future.
  • Pray that Alvaro and Trinity’s psychological and physical therapy will go well.

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