"All who call upon Me I will answer, I will be with them in distress, I will deliver them and give them honour"(Ps 91:15)
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1. A True Story from Meulaboh, West Aceh. Indonesia
Published by "Calvary Life Fellowship" 27 January 2005.
God Miraculously Protects His People, Christians in Meulaboh, from the Tsunami
We already knew how the dreadful earthquake and tsunami ruined and destroyed the city of Meulaboh in Aceh province of North Sumatera flat unto the ground. But there was a wonderful testimony from the city of Meulaboh where there were about 400 Christian people.
On December 25, 2004 they wanted to celebrate Christmas in the city, but the Moslem authorities did not allow them to do it. They were told, “If you Christians want to celebrate Christmas, you must do it outside the city, that is in a remote part of the mountain area!” Due to the great desire to hold a special worship service to celebrate the coming of the Savior, the 400 believers decided to go to a retreat in the mountains outside the city. After finishing the celebration, because the day was already dark, they decided to spend the night in the mountains. Then what happened?
As we already all knew that the next morning, very early on December 26, 2004 a dreadful earthquake and an enormous high tide of tsunami ruined and destroyed the city of Meulaboh where many were killed by the tsunami. Meulaboh city was made flat to the ground and all of the houses and buildings were washed away and fell to pieces. But all of the believers who went to the worship service in the mountains, the redeemed people of God in Christ Jesus were safe, they were not touched by the tsunami at all!
Some Moslems of Meulaboh who were rescued from the disaster even said: “The God of the Christian has punished us, because we have been rude and not kind to them.” Some even said, “Why did so many of our people die but none of the Christians died?”
If those 400 Christians in the city of Meulaboh insisted to hold their Christmas celebration inside the city instead of going to the mountain, for sure many of them would have died also. But because of their humbleness of heart and mind, even though forbidden to celebrate Christmas in the city, they were not angry or furious. In fact they would like to give in to the pressures and decided to celebrate Christmas in the mountains without realizing that the tsunami was about to come.
The result is, all of them were safe and they saw this as the wonderful work of God in Christ Jesus. Let us as the children of the Light do not take any revenge because the revenge belongs to the Lord (Romans 12:19-21).
Calvary Life Fellowship
c/o Pastor Hekman
Tower B 19E
Lippo Karawaci, Tangerang 15811
In order to confirm the previous news "Calvary Life Fellowship" stated:
We have confirmed the story via phone and email with Bill Hekman and through an Indonesian pastor who has heard the story from several persons with firsthand knowledge, as follows:
This is the account from the believers in Meulaboh. The 400 believers involved are from the Roman Catholic Church, GPIB Church and HKPB Church. They had requested permission from the District Leader (Camat), Police (POLRES) and DANDIM (Army) to celebrate Christmas in Meulaboh. They were told that since Meulaboh is under Sharia Islamic law it would better to go somewhere where there are no Moslems. So the believers left the morning of Dec. 25th and walked about 5 kms to a hill area. They were accompanied by some members of the Marine Corps who were also Christians. They celebrated Christmas the afternoon of Dec. 25th and stayed there for the night at a "Retreat". They had brought food, etc. to camp there for the night. The tsunami took place the morning of the 26th of Dec. These believers are now refugees living in Aceh Jaya.
2. Our Lady of Good Health in Vailankanni, India.
Church workers recover rotting bodies at Indian Marian shrine
By Anto Akkara
Catholic News Service. Dec-30-2004
VAILANKANNI, India (CNS) -- Amid the stench of rotting bodies and decaying garbage, Thanjavur Bishop Devadass Ambrose Mariadoss spent several days at India's most popular Marian shrine to oversee post-tsunami relief efforts. Barefoot volunteers, with faces covered by surgical masks or even handkerchiefs, removed rotting bodies from mountains of debris: houses, shops, remains of thatched sheds, boats and animal carcasses strewn around the scenic beach in front of the Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health. The shrine, which draws 20 million pilgrims annually, remained untouched.
More than 1,000 people, including hundreds of pilgrims, perished within a one-kilometer (.62 miles) radius of the basilica Dec. 26 when tsunamis triggered by a magnitude 9 earthquake deep in the Indian Ocean hit the coast. "The worst is over. We are gradually recovering from the shock," Bishop Mariadoss said Dec. 30. The same day, false warnings of another tsunami caused panic as people -- including the shrine's cooks -- fled to higher ground.
Father P. Xavier, shrine rector, praised the efforts of several hundred volunteers who rushed to the shrine Dec. 26; he said government officials left the entire relief and rescue work around the basilica to the church. "We cannot even keep these rotting bodies for identification," said Father Xavier. Volunteers photographed each of the bodies, then buried them in common graves. The photos were pasted on a notice board for relatives to identify victims.
The stench of rotting bodies was so strong that even on the basilica grounds dozens of priests wore surgical masks in their rooms while coordinating relief work and responding to anxious relatives of pilgrims missing in the tragedy. Basilica staffers, like others, functioned without electricity or running water. "This is an experience I will never forget in my life," said Jesuit scholastic John Michael, who with a dozen others traveled more than 100 miles from Madurai to join the lay youth volunteers from Thanjavur Diocese. "We have picked 15 bodies this morning (Dec. 28)," said a man identified only as Brother Michael, who wore a surgical mask and gloves. Later, another batch of church volunteers collected the rotting bodies in trucks for burial in a distant field where mass graves were dug with excavators.
By the evening of Dec. 29, the church volunteers had picked up 800 bodies; government sanitary workers equipped with a half-dozen earthmovers helped. It was the final day of the search for missing persons. "The search for the bodies is over. But, we are glad that it has ended in joy instead of despair," Father Joseph Lionel, Thanjavur diocesan chancellor, said Dec. 30. On Dec. 29, church volunteers picked up a 35-year-old mother, unconscious and clutching the decaying body of her child. The mother was taken to a hospital for treatment.
"The Holy Mother has worked wonders despite the tragedy here," said Father Lionel. In a Dec. 29 statement, basilica officials noted that ABOUT 2,000 PILGRIMS ATTENDING MASS WERE "MIRACULOUSLY SAVED" when the surging waves stopped at the gates of the shrine compound. The waves -- which rose as high as 40 feet -- hit hotels and houses on he same elevation just 330 feet from the shrine.
Bishop Mariadoss noted that the local bus stop on the same elevation as the basilica was farther from the beach, but it was inundated. "It was a miracle that the water did not enter the church," reiterated Sebastian Kannappilly, a businessman from neighboring Kerala state, who had come to Vailankanni with his wife and daughter. Although his family was at Mass and was spared, his driver perished in the disaster.
"How can we go back without his body?" Kannappilly asked two days after
the tragedy, as he and the driver's relatives continued the search.
With dozens rushing to Vailankanni in search of missing family members, church officials said they felt helpless. "I saw many people being washed away by the waves. We may never get to see these bodies again," said Father Xavier.
3. Santhome Cathedral - Chennai. India
CHENNAI (ICNS) – The tsunami waves have subsided, but a miracle is being talked about across Chennai. It is the story of how St Thomas’ miraculous post kept the invading waves away, sparing the newly renovated Santhome Cathedral.
The Cathedral, the world’s second basilica built on an apostle’s tomb, has been giving shelter to hundreds of tsunami victims ever since the waves ravaged many buildings across the coast. But even though the killer tsunami waves devastated the Chennai coast, Father Lawrence Raj, the parish priest of the Santhome Cathedral Basilica, says “the sea did not touch our church.” The reason? “We believe the miraculous post of St Thomas prevented the sea waters from entering the church,” says Father Raj.
The church that sits at the site where St. Thomas, one of the 12 Apostles of Jesus Christ, was buried after his death in the year 72 is located a few metres from the sea. While all the buildings on either side of the church were hit by the tsunami waves, the Santhome Cathedral remained unaffected. Local people now say it is the St Thomas’ miraculous post that has kept the sea away on December 26.
According to Father Raj, the legend is that when St Thomas planted the post at the top of the steps leading to the Cathedral, he said the sea would not pass that point. The priest saw from the terrace of church the angry sea in action, as it surged across the road and flooded the huts in front of St Thomas’ post, which is an innocuous looking log of wood, mounted on a cement pedestal. The belief goes that a village in the Mylapore area was flooded when a huge tree trunk fell across the river. The local king brought a royal pachyderm to lug it away, but the task seemed impossible. Then, according to legend, St Thomas came along, removed the girdle from his waist and handed it to a bystander and asked him to yank the log with it. He did so and the log was moved easily.
A mural in the Cathedral museum illustrates this incident. Father Raj says the current post is believed to be from that same log of wood. Hundreds of homeless survivors who have been staying in the church ever since the tragedy hit them have prayed to St Thomas for saving them. “It is St Thomas who has saved me. This church was untouched by the waters because of the miraculous power of the St Thomas post,” said K Sebastiraj, a fisherman who sought shelter in the Santhome Cathedral.
"In the village of Batiagon which is in the Jagatsinghpur(Orissa) District.... just 4 km from the sea, there were just two buildings made of concrete: a church and a rich man's house. The rest of the buildings were straw and clay. People rushed into the two buildings for shelter. About 300 people, both Christians and non-Christians, jammed into the church. They cried out to the Lord for His protection.
"At around 11 a.m., a massive tidal wave 30 feet high slammed into the village, instantly destroying the shacks and sweeping away the rich man's house. Witnesses inside the church say the wave seemed to split and go around both sides of the building. All 300 people who had taken shelter inside the church survived.... All the people in Batiagon village confessed that God had graciously saved their lives. The Hindus declared they would never again oppose Christianity.
This news comes from an email received 1-4-05. After writing to Asia Harvest at http://www.asiaharvest.org to verify the indicated source, we received a confirmation from Paul Hattaway, the co-author of The Heavenly Man. Our God reigns over the forces of nature! And in the midst of destruction and despair, He demonstrates His love and mercy!
5. Clinging to the Word of God
"I always have the habit of bringing my Bible wherever I go." For Uma, "wherever I go" included a terrifying water ride and helicopter rescue December 26.
Uma is a Believers church member in Tamil Nadu, India. Taking her Bible with her as usual, she was drawing water at the river, talking with a couple of other villagers, when she saw the huge wave sweeping inland only a few yards away.
Calling to the others to join her, she watched the water blast through her village with a noise she described as "like a freight train." When a second and larger wave broke, she and the two people standing with her clung together as the water swept them away. And Uma clung to her Bible.
Uma cried out for the Lord to rescue them. She held on to the young man and woman, and at the same time grasped her precious Word of God. They clung to a palm tree, and when it was uprooted were swept with it for miles. Eventually, the young woman grew weak, and she died holding Uma's hand.
The waters kept carrying Uma, dragging her through a thick clump of long, sharp thorns. She was badly cut, adding her own blood to the water already full of death around her. Separated from both the young man and woman, Uma grabbed hold of a damaged boat that floated near her. It was her own fishing boat. What had been the source of her livelihood was now her source of survival, and she held onto it until a helicopter pilot spotted her and rescued her. It had been ten hours since the wave swept her away.
When a GFA correspondent spoke with her a month later, Uma still clutched her beloved Bible. She thanks the Lord for saving her despite her injuries and the hours of danger. Poor even before the tsunami, the only thing she has to hold onto now is her faith. Her husband, a leader in their village, was once a strong believer but is not walking closely with the Lord. Please pray for his renewed faith through their recent experiences, and continued strength and recovery for Uma as she continues sharing her amazing story.
On December 26, 2004, Fr. Charles Hewawasam was celebrating Holy Mass with about 100 parishioners. As he began to give out Holy Communion, he heard a woman’s scream, looked up and saw a van wobbling toward the church. It was such a strange, unsettling sight that he yelled to the congregation to run. Only after reaching the second floor of the adjacent building did he realize that the van was being pushed by the waves of the sea. As the first wave of the tsunami withdrew, Fr. Charles went back into the church to rescue the precious statue of Our Lady that Catholics of Sri Lanka love so much. But the statue had disappeared from its glass case. One young boy who saw it disappear said it headed straight out to sea as if propelled by a motor. Fr. Charles survived but he lost some 20 of his congregation.
The miraculous statue of Our Lady of Matara for the 3rd time went into the sea. Last two times occurred some years ago. This time after 3 days we found the statue miraculously ashore about 1 kilometer away from the church in shoreline debris! The wave washed away a precious relic, a 500-year-old statue of the Virgin Mary holding the crowned Infant Jesus, which was likewise said to have miraculous powers. Jesus was still wearing His golden crown and the statue was completely undamaged!
You can read here the complete history of this statue.
7. Catholic priest's over-long sermon saves his 1,500 congregation
By Caroline Davies in Mullaittivu
The Roman Catholic priest surveyed what remained of St Peter's church and shook his head in bewilderment.
James Pattinathan should have been dead. So, too, should the 1,500 Catholics
who, every Sunday, fill his four churches along the beach in Mullaittivu,
a small town in Tamil Tiger controlled territory on Sri Lanka's north-eastern
But yesterday, one week after the tsunami razed the town claiming 1,900 lives and leaving 2,500 missing, he was still there. His churches were flattened, but many of his people were safe.
The 30ft wave rolled over the town on Boxing Day just as Mass should
have been held - yet his churches were empty. It was one of only three
days each year when Fr Pattinathan cancels Mass in the churches so worshippers
can gather instead for a service at St Joseph's shrine, higher up on the
outskirts of the town.
Some 1,500 men, women and children had gathered for the ceremony, which overran by 15 minutes. "The sermon was too long. You know how people complain about that," he said.
"But, in this case, it saved their lives. Had it ended on time, they would have been walking back to their homes just as the wave struck." He added: "It was a providential act. We have no explanation."
Fr Pattinathan looked down at the statue of St Bernadette, standing virtually undamaged amid the debris of the church. It was small solace for a town virtually obliterated by the tsunami.
The sandy beach is carpeted with debris. A hundred yards from St Peter's, there once stood the Pentecostal church. The whole congregation of around 80 was lost.
8. Missionnary saves orphans using faith and a good boat
Published: Dec 30, 2004
Dayalan Sanders, an American who was born in Sri Lanka and built an
orphanage there, rides in the same launch he used to rescue the 28 children
in his care when the tsunami struck.
Washington Post. Photo and text by John Lancaster
NAVALADY, SRI LANKA -- Two hundred yards away from the beach, in the orphanage he had built, Dayalan Sanders lounged in his bed early Sunday morning. He was thinking, he said, about the sermon he was due to deliver in the chapel in half an hour. A few yards away, most of the 28 children under his care were still in their rooms, getting ready for services. Then he heard the pounding of feet in the corridor outside his room, and his wife burst through the door, a frantic look on her face.
"The sea is coming!" she said. "Come! Come! Look at the sea!"
Thanks to quick thinking, blind luck and an outboard motor that somehow started on the first pull, the orphans and their caretakers joined the ranks of countless survivors of the epic earthquake and coastal disaster that so far has claimed the lives of an estimated 78,000 people in Sri Lanka and 11 other countries. This is their story.
It is also the story of their chief rescuer, Sanders, a Sri Lankan-born missionary and U.S. citizen whose mother and siblings live in Gaithersburg, Md., where he once owned a townhouse.
A member of the country's Tamil ethnic minority, Sanders, 50, studied to be an accountant before founding a missionary group and moving to Switzerland in the 1980s to work with Tamil refugees displaced by fighting between Tamil rebels and Sri Lankan government forces, which have been observing a cease-fire since 2002.
In 1994, Sanders founded the Samaritan Children's Home in Navalady, a small fishing village that occupies a narrow peninsula on Sri Lanka's economically depressed east coast, about 150 miles northeast of Colombo, the capital. He built the orphanage with donations and money from the sale of his Maryland townhouse, he said.
It was a busy, happy time at the orphanage. On Friday, the children sang, danced and performed the Nativity scene at their annual Christmas pageant, followed the next day by Christmas services and dinner for 250 guests, many of them Hindus from the village. Sanders was so exhausted by his duties as host, he said, that he went to bed early Saturday night. He also forgot to check, as he usually does, on whether the outboard motor had been removed from the orphanage launch, as it was supposed to be each night as a precaution against theft.
It proved to be the luckiest mistake he ever made.
On Sunday morning, Sanders said, he rose at his customary hour of 4 a.m. to wander the grounds and pray, then went back to bed. He woke up again around 7:30. He recalled the stillness. Not a breath of air stirred the surface of the sea. Small waves rolled listlessly onto the beach, then retreated with a gentle hiss.
"It was so calm and so still," he recalled. "The surface of the ocean was like a sheet of glass. Not a leaf moved." Two young men on his staff wandered down to the ocean for a swim.
It isn't clear who saw the wave first. His wife, Kohila, said she was alerted by one of the orphans, a girl who burst into the kitchen as Kohila was mixing powdered milk for her 3-year-daughter. Kohila ran into the brilliant sunshine and saw the building sea. Even the color of the water was wrong: It looked, she said, "like ash."
Kohila ran to tell her husband, who told her not to panic, he recalled. "I said, 'Be calm. God is with us. Nothing will ever harm us without his permission.' "
Wrapped in a sarong, he ran outside and looked toward the ocean. There on the horizon, he said, was a "30-foot wall of water," racing toward the wispy casuarina pines that marked the landward side of the beach.
He ran toward the lagoon side of the compound, where the launch with its outboard motor chafed at a pier. By then, many of the children had heard the commotion and had run outside, some of them half-dressed. Sanders urged them all toward the boat.
Desperate, he asked if anyone had seen his daughter, and a moment later one of the older girls thrust the toddler into his arms. Sanders heaved her into the boat, along with the other small children, as the older ones, joined by his wife and the orphanage staff, clambered aboard on their own. One of his employees yanked on the starter cord and the engine sputtered instantly to life something that Sanders swears had never happened before.
"Usually, you have to pull it four or five times," he said.
Crammed with more than 30 people, the dangerously overloaded launch roared into the lagoon at almost precisely the same moment, Sanders said, that the wall of water overwhelmed the orphanage, swamping its single-story buildings to the rafters.
"It was a thunderous roar, and black sea," he said.
As the compound receded behind the boat, Sanders said, he watched in amazement as the surging current smashed a garage and ejected a brand-new Toyota pickup. "The roof came flying off it just splintered in every direction," he recalled. "I saw the Toyota just pop out of the garage."
The vehicle bobbed briefly on the surface, collided with a palm tree the mark of its impact was clearly visible Wednesday then slid over the edge of the compound in the torrent before slipping beneath the rapidly rising surface of the lagoon. Another vehicle, a maroon van, was smashed against a palm tree. A three-wheeled motorized rickshaw parked on the property whirled around as if it were circling a drain, Kohila Sanders recalled.
The orphans' ordeal did not end when their boat pulled away from the shore.
Not only was water cascading over the lagoon side of the peninsula, but it also was pouring in from the mouth of the estuary about two miles away. Sanders feared the converging currents would swamp the small craft. At that point, Sanders said, he recalled a line from the Book of Isaiah: "When the enemy comes in like a flood, the spirit of the Lord shall raise up a standard against it."
He raised his hand toward the flood and shouted, "I command you in the name of Jesus stop!" The water then seemed to "stall, momentarily," he said.
As the waters began to roll back out to sea, the turbulence subsided. It was then, Sanders and his wife recalled, that they became aware of the people crying for help as they bobbed in the water nearby. They were villagers who had been swept off the peninsula. The passengers rescued one young man, who was "howling for his missing wife and daughters," Kohila Sanders said. But they had to leave the rest behind. There wasn't any room.
"People were crying, 'Help us, help us,' " Kohila Sanders said. "Children were crying."
The boat made it to the opposite shore, about a mile and a half distant in the city of Batticaloa. The Sanders, their daughter and perhaps a dozen of the orphaned and now displaced children have found temporary refuge in a tiny church; the rest have been sent elsewhere.
9. "God's Miracle Saved My Husband"
most precious experience in my life and truly God answered my praying is
when I finally met my husband, this old companion (pointing to his husband,
about 70 years old). The earthquake suddently came and followed by water
and everybody shouted, "…water…water…!" They were taking my husband to
a becak (an Indonesian bicycle-taxi). Suddently, most of the people were
separated and blown by big waves of water. My husband also was blown away.
We kept on running to reach a store with a second floor. I was praying
to God, "Please lead my husband, O Lord!" My praying was answered by God.
A big wave of water threw my husband just to the second floor of the store
where we were. Sunddenly again, a big wave of water threw a big ship that
destroyed some houses just near the store and almost touched the floor
where we were trying to protect ourselves from that big disaster.
It doesn't make sense, all we are in that place, either Muslim or Christian, all of us were praying.
When the waves were calmed, my husband stepped down from the second floor of the store to our houses with water deep up to his chest, he was trying to find out where our child was. God saved our child and took our child to his father. Then, we managed to reach Ketapang (the refugees camps). In Ketapang, from Hutahaean's house, we saw there were a lot of refugees. We reached the refugees camps and we were there for several days before departed to Medan. God saved us there. Accidently, there are water-machine pumps without electricity there. We do hope that HKBP's leaders support us, all of us from HKBP Banda Aceh.
Mrs. St. Pakpahan Napitupulu
10. Fighting Tsunami, Catholic Priest Saves Hundreds
KANYAKUMARI (ICNS) -- An alert Catholic parish priest in the southern tip of India is being hailed as the saviour of hundreds of lives of his area when the tsunami waves struck devastation across the coastal villages on Dec. 26.
Reports emanating from Kovalam, a coastal village in Kanyakumari, the southern most district of mainland India, say Father Susai Antony’s alertness and personal heroism saved all the lives in his village while the tsunami waves struck massive destruction all around.
Father Antony is the parish priest of St. Ignatius Church in Kovalam.
Kovalam village suffered massively, but did not lose a single life because of the determination of the priest who narrowly escaped death. Some 180 houses, a large number of catamarans and fishing gears and boats in the coastal village were destroyed or washed away in the invading waves. But all the residents were safe, thanks to the priest.
“I won’t say that I saved them. It’s God who did it,” says Father Antony.
As soon as the first waves of the tsunami swept away the catamarans of his village, Father Antony rang up priests in the nearby villages. The priests then told him about the devastation that the waves had caused in their areas.
Father Antony lost no time in making announcements through the public announcement system, asking people to immediately vacate their coastal houses. But people were reluctant. So Father Antony himself went down the seashore and forced each one of them to move to safety.
As he was frantically chasing away residents from the shore, the waves struck again. The priest was caught in the waves as he was trying to take a 60-year-old resident to safety.
Father Antony recalled that he “got caught in the tides that rose above me. I could hear people crying that the Father had died.” But the brave priest clung on to the concrete structure of a house and escaped. “It is because of God's grace and miracle that I am alive today,” the priest says.
The Catholic priest's bravery is all the more significant given the fact that in villages ahead and before Kovalam, hundreds of people lost lives. In fact, Kanyakumari district was one of the worst hit, with thousands of lives being lost to the killer tsunami, and there are no accurate numbers still available.
Now Father Antony is engaged in building temporary shelters with the assistance of voluntary groups and humanitarian aid workers for the people who lost their homes in the village.
Most of the residents of the village who miraculously espcaped the tsunami waves are now staying in the Stella Mary’s Convent in Kanyakumari.
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