In the late evening glow above Ground Floor, a new cereal restaurant advertised its business on the deck of Townhouse 255B. A new business selling cereal to hungry students won’t just silent a hungry stomach, it will also benefit a greater cause.
On March 16, heavy rains overtook the city of Sentani, Indonesia and resulted in flash floods and landslides, killing at least 113 people, according to CNN. Sentani is located in the Papua province in eastern Indonesia. The flooding displaced 11,500, including the younger brother of First Floor Fruit Loops’ founder.
Junior construction management major Noah Hubert lived in and graduated high school from Hillcrest, a school in Sentani. His younger brother and his friends still reside in the area, so when he first heard about the flooding he was concerned for his brother. He also wondered how the community would come together to help. Hubert heard stories about his brother climbing a telephone pole to restore cell service to the area and he wanted to do something here at JBU.
“We don’t have a shovel that we can reach the mud over there with but … we’re doing what we can,” Hubert said.
Hubert and the rest of his townhouse had joked earlier in the semester about building some sort of business through their townhouse, but it never came happened. Early on Tuesday, April 9, Hubert decided he wanted to do it. He took some wood, constructed a table and a bar and recruited some of his friends to establish First Floor Fruit Loops. After he built some tables in a single morning, he went to chapel where Edward Graham spoke. Hubert and freshman outdoor leadership ministry major Emma Erickson talked to Graham about bringing Samaritan’s Purse to Sentani. Graham could not say whether Samaritan’s Purse could make it to Sentani because of government approval, and Hubert did not feel like that was enough.
“I got back here [to my townhouse] and I was like, I built a restaurant today just for the heck of it and we happened to talk to Edward Graham today, so what if we could connect the two of those. Hence First Floor Fruit Loops,” Hubert said.
This devastation affected a major part of Hubert and Erickson’s homes. According to the Mongaby News, “The district in the foothills of the Cyclops Mountains was reportedly drenched in heavy rain for seven hours non-stop. The rain caused Papua’s biggest lake, Sentani, to overflow, causing flooding in at least nine administrative villages in its vicinity.”
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies published a report on March 20, which stated that 11,725 households were affected, 43 people were still missing and 74 people were injured. It rained practically nonstop for a week and Erickson said no one could recover from the flash floods, landslides and torrential rain during that time.
“There was no point where it was like, ‘okay it happened, it’s done. Now let’s recover.’ It was like it happened and then the morning would come where there is a bit of stopping from the rain, and then the next night it would rain and the next night it would rain and the next,” Erickson said. “It’s like you get socked in the face, nailed to the ground and then you stand back up and you get punched again, and you stand back up and you get punched again.”
When she first heard about the flood, Erickson said she felt hopeless. It was the beginning of spring break when she heard about what happened and throughout the week she kept hearing devastating updates about her home in Sentani.
“One thing that I was struggling with in the moment was understanding why God would do this to a people who already have so little and close to nothing,” Erickson said. “Why would he allow everything to get destroyed and people to be taken from them and loved ones to die? I was really struggling with the why question.”
Erickson said she has never prayed as hard as she did for Sentani, but she still felt useless. “I remember feeling like, ‘this isn’t doing anything, like I’m way over here and I can pray as hard as I want, but the rain still comes,’” Erickson said. “In the moment it was like ‘this isn’t worth anything, I’m not doing anything to make a difference.’”
As the weeks passed between the initial devastation and the creation of First Floor Fruit Loops, Hubert and Erickson got together. Soon they knew that the cereal business could not only help raise awareness for their friends and family in Sentani but also bring the power of prayer to the city through the JBU community.
Hubert’s townhouse started planning what they could do to support Sentani. One friend pitched in by creating a sign for First Floor Fruit Loops, another developed a social media account and another helped with the business plan.
First Floor Fruit Loops had its soft opening with close friends and family on Wednesday, April 10. Although they have served plenty of JBU students between the first night and today, they plan on having one big event on Wednesday April 24, which will help raise awareness about Sentani. The goal of the event is to gather the JBU community to enjoy some cereal while praying for the island recovering from the rain. It will take place from 7-11 p.m. for all members of the community.
“As a townhouse, we’ve come together with this project but I’m really excited to see what JBU will do with a fundraiser like this, because I don’t think a fundraiser like this has ever happened before,” Hubert said. “I’m hoping as a community we can come over [Sentani]. By coming over and just praying about it because nobody knows about this. We’re raising awareness for it.”
Through the little amount of time they have worked on First Floor Fruit Loops, Hubert said his mindset has changed slightly.
“At first I thought it was about how much money we could raise for Sentani and then one of my good friends said you can’t measure your success off the donations … It’s not just about the dollar-a-bowl of fruit loops that we’re trying to raise, as fun as that is,” Hubert said. “There could be impacts from this that we have no idea about.”
“I’m glad that I feel like I’m doing something to help now, here more with my hands. Because really at first it’s like, ‘all I can do is pray.’ That’s the worse because you don’t really feel that right away,” Erickson said. “This is like, ‘we’re actually doing something because you can see donations in the jar.’”
Anytime Hubert sits out on the porch with the First Floor Fruit Loops sign draping from the balcony, he can see the reaction of people passing by. When people see their motto—level up your breakfast—he knows it can create a laugh from others.
“I love the smiles people have when they walk by. I love it when they see the ‘level up your breakfast’ and it clicks that we’re First Floor Fruit Loops, right above Ground Floor Coffee,” Hubert said. “I’ll see someone walk by and you can tell when they notice. They kind of have a chuckle when they’re walking … it’s not a dis. It’s a joke. It builds community.”