Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Tsunami Experiences

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

I apologize that the photos did not post... I am reposting this article at the following link... please go there toview the photos.



click the tsunami info link

As I read through this letter I received, I found myself weeping for these people. This tragedy happened a month ago, and most of us have forgotten about it. These people are in dire need. Please pray for them and prayfor those that are trying to help them. Please read this with conviction...


Sumatra, Indonesia

I have returned safe and sound (though it was questionable if that would happen!) from my trip to Indonesia to help with the tsunami relief efforts in this devastated country. I was part of a 14-person medical team sent out by International Service Partners, and NGO that is under the auspices of my home church, Antioch Community Church. We specifically focused our efforts on the region of Aceh, the northern most province of Sumatra, and the one hardest hit by the tsunami.

Our team consisted of 3 doctors, 2 nurses, a medical assistant, 3 translators, and support personnel. Our goal was to try and reach villages that had yet to receive any medical assistance and to be able to serve them and bring hope that they are not a forgotten, rejected people. We also provided games, “school”, and lots of fun for the children. The Acehnese people were so thankful for our help and so welcoming to us – it made it so easy to be there and to endure all the trials of getting there just to see the genuine gratefulness of the people and to know that we were really making a difference to them. This was truly the most rewarding time of my life.

Every person in the clinic, every child we saw had lost someone - a friend, neighbor, relative or close family member. One older man who came into the clinic told this horrific tale – right before the tsunami hit, he was standing in his house with his wife, all his children, and all his grandchildren. When the tsunami came, he could see his family being tumbled about but was powerless to save them. He was carried by the wave for over a mile and when he landed, the wave was so fierce that it had ripped all his clothes from his body. He soon discovered that all family was dead – he was the only survivor. He pointed to the shirt he was wearing and said, “Someone gave me this shirt, and this is all I have.” (Here is the man below)

Many people told us they had no more tears to spend. How do you possibly give words or comfort to someone who has gone through so much? One thing we could do, aside from medical help and playing with the kids, was to ask them to tell their story - what happened to them that fateful morning of December 26th. Counselors told us before we left that one part of the healing process was to be able to tell their story again and again. So we would listen and lend meager words – “I’m so sorry. Our hearts hurt for you.”

The number of missing is still great. The loss of not only lives, but homes, livelihoods, and hope is staggering. Time after time, we had no answer to the questions of “What do we do now? Where do we go?”

However challenging our days, we felt Jesus with us every step of the way. At every turn, we were confronted with taxing logistical problems – no phone or other form of communication, no gas, no transportation, no electricity, no running water, and limited food and water supplies (we had to carry in all our own food and water). But God always provided what we needed – a rescue ship, a motorcycle, an extra box of bottled water, a miracle 10 liters of diesel for a truck, a break in the storm, a borrowed satellite phone, a helicopter lift (more to come on these stories)

Getting There

In attaining our goal of reaching a place that had not yet received help, it meant that we had hard travel time to put in as the most accessible places already had help. We heard about one such village along the coast, called Teunom, an 8 hour boat ride (no roads there as most were destroyed in tsunami) from Banda Aceh. To get to Banda Aceh, we traveled from Medan, a large city on the east coast, by way of a begged ride on a C-130 military cargo plane. That was an experience! Arriving in Banda Aceh at 1:30am, there was no phones and no transportation so we rolled out our sleeping bags right there on the floor of the crude airport and slept a few hours with the rats crawling over us and an earthquake in the middle of the night. The next day, we headed to the waterfront and witnessed firsthand the staggering devastation of this nation. It looked as if a nuclear bomb had been detonated in the fishing village. As far as you could see, there was just heaps of rubble and people picking through the piles or just wandering about in a daze. We saw teams pulling bodies from under the debris and could smell the odor of death in the air. It was incomprehensible.

We arrived at the water and hired a shrimp boat (one of the 10% of vessels that were left) to take us down to Teunom. Alas, an hour out to sea, we were confronted with a monsoon and the boat was tossed about like a toy. The tiny junker was no match for the large waves, and almost everyone on our team was soon throwing up overboard. The monsoon rain pelted us for hours, and there wasn’t enough shelter to keep us dry. Several of the teammates laid flat on top of our luggage under an overhang, and the rest of us laid out flat on the deck in plastic (provided by the boat’s crew) which we later found out to be body bags! (See pic below) After seven hours being sick, wet, cold, and thinking the boat was about to capsize, we were informed that due to the storm, it would be eight more hours!

I uncoiled myself from my miserable position, got our translator, and said “We have to do something. We cannot keep going like this.” The crew said there was no option but to keep going (most docks had been washed away in tsunami) and we could not just drop anchor. The crew had been sending SOS messages and about this time we spotted a large, military vessel so decided to pull up next to it and see if we could get aboard. We got closer, and saw that it was an Indonesian navy ship. How thankful we were when we were permitted to dock alongside the anchored boat!! We all somehow managed to climb up the rope ladder that was tossed down onto our deck (their ship was at least 10 times the size of ours) to the their deck where we were escorted to a small lounge area where we all collapsed on the floor and snatched a few hours sleep.

We were so thankful for the graciousness of the captain of this ship! Most of the team stopped vomiting, and the crew fed us a hot breakfast the next day. We were all in jovial spirits, talking about our exciting adventure the night before which now seemed funny. Then a group of ladies with sad faces entered the lounge to have breakfast with us. One older lady related a story of how she was consumed with worry since the tsunami hit, thinking about her children who lived along the coast. She cried telling us how she took a bus from Jakarta and was traveling for four days. Other younger ladies were looking for their parents. We could only offer listening ears and offered to pray for them. It immediately made us somber again – this wasn’t about our team having this exciting adventure but about showing the love of God for a people who have suffered in ways beyond imagining.

So after the few hours respite, we got back on the junker and after a short ride, landed on the dirt-side (the port had been blown away) of a little town called Lamno. We were still trying to reach Teunom but realized that making it by boat was not going to work. So in Lamno (which we found already had medical assistance), we headed out to a field where we heard the US military was doing food and water drops. Just then a U.S. Blackhawk helicopter flew by, and the commander jumped up and ran into the road, motioning the team to follow him. “Black Hawk, Black Hawk, Black Hawk” he said in a thick Indonesian accent to the helicopter flying overhead. When the helicopter landed, we

communicated (by way of written notes, the noise from the rotors made it too loud to hear) with the heli crew and they agreed to fky us to Teunom. Thank God for the U.S. Navy!! It took us the rest of the day (and 4 helis) to get all of our team and all of our stuff to Teunom, but we made it!! We spent the day there in Lamno talking with the villagers, sharing food with them, resting, playing with the children, and telling stories from the Bible. (here is a pic of one of our team talking with a group of children)

Flying along the coast in the helicopter was amazing. We had already seen so much destruction along the harbor in Banda Aceh. But seeing that kind of destruction for miles and miles was hard to imagine. Flying over a fishing village and seeing only the foundation of houses and nothing else, or how much a bite the tsunami took out of mountains, was hard to take in.

When the crew landed in Tuenom, a bunch of villagers were there, apparently grabbing whatever food or water they could get from the helicopters that were dropping supplies. The crowd gathered, anxious to know what was in all those containers. One of our team members jumped on one of the 20+ crates of supplies we brought with us and explained to them that these were medical supplies and that if we all work together we can be the most effective (meaning don’t steal our stuff). They all chanted enthusiastic shouts of approval and really seemed to want their community to get this help. “The world has not forgotten you,” he said. “God has not forgotten you.” (see crowd below)

In Teunom, we learned that the village was so destroyed that no one slept there anymore. Survivors would come to dig through rubble or try to get food and water from the helicopters, but then would go to stay with friend or neighbors for the night. The Indonesian military who were posted there seemed nervous about us staying the night, considering the GAM (rebel group) was so close so they took us back to one of their rustic outposts for the night. The next morning, we headed for Tanah Anou, the closest village to Teunom where there were still people. They had received nothing by way of assistance up to that point. We even beat the UN there! The people there greeted us warmly and the head of the mosque said we could use the courtyard. So we set up our tents, set up the medical clinic, and started playing with kids. The clinic was immediately put to work, but it wasn’t the critical treatment we had imagined: amputations or severe wounds. Those people had already either died or been taken elsewhere. Most of the injuries we saw and treated were deep, infected wounds caused by debris. There were also many illnesses, everything from leprosy and tetanus to back pain and acid reflux. There were so many needing to be treated. Our nurses and doctors worked very hard in the hot sun, treating the people who lined up outside the outdoor clinic. After listening to their stories, treating them with medicine, they would also offer to pray for them. The people there seemed to really appreciate the practical care and attention and always warmly accepted our prayers.

While the clinics were going on, there were lots of children standing around and doing nothing. All their schools were destroyed, and they really had nothing to do to pass the time. We organized games and contests for them while the clinic ran, and they were delighted to play “Duck, Duck Goose” or “Simon Says” or running races. They really took to learning new English words and would great us with a hearty “Hello, good morning!” every time they saw us. We would respond with “Salamut Pagi! Appa Kabar!”

Another way we blessed the village was to just be there. We became like a “center of gravity” for them, attracting Indonesian soldiers there to guard us, which eventually attracted more food and water. Once we were there, the Indonesian military felt responsible for us and there was a spill-over effect for the community. Once established, we also had visits from U.N. representatives and once from a Navy surgeon. Us being there paved the way for more help to come.

Coordination for next teams

We were also able to make the way and coordinate for the two other teams coming, one from a church in Austin and another one from Waco. Both teams were also medical teams and were following us so as to extend the time we could be with the villages. Please pray for these teams in their final days there. I’m sure by now they are tired, hot and thirsty, the novelty has worn off, and they need encouragement and endurance.

Why did this happen?

Indonesians typically see a spiritual reason for natural phenomenon. There were many theories as to why this happened. Whereas an American might ask, “How could God let this happen?” and Indonesian would look inward and say, “What sin did I commit?” or ‘What did my people do for God to do this to us?” Some said it was because the Muslims of Aceh weren’t devout enough – and God was judging them for their mixture of Western influence into their religion. But most people we spoke to said God was judging Aceh because of the civil war that has been raging there – Muslims killing Muslims. He was showing his displeasure toward them.

Once Jesus was shown a man born blind and was asked, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?”

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” Jesus went on to heal the man (John 9).

I certainly don’t have a handle on natural disasters and human suffering, and don’t have answers to all the questions that come about at a time like this. But one thing I do know and see in the life of Jesus, as a reflection of God, is always a heart of compassion to move toward those in need. Jesus continually sought out the poor and needy and offered help and hope. Following his example, this was what we tried to offer in the humblest of ways. Our prayer is that the work of God might be displayed in their desperate lives.

Thank you for praying and reading all this story! There’s a lot more to tell and hopefully I will be able to tell you face to face.

For His Glory,


Wednesday, January 12, 2005

A Novel Begins

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Hello everyone. I find myself inspired by the Poem posted below. I have decided to post the first portion on the book I am writing. If you don't know me, I'll tell you that I absolutely LOVE Fantasy novels. Anything Weis & Hickman, Salvatore, Jordan, Mallory, Tolken... If you don't recognize these names then consider yourself far removed from the world of fantasy novels, but for those of you that recognized a minimum of 2 of these authors, I'd really appreciate your opinion of what you read... Well here goes...

Chapter 1

He woke as the fourth moon was rising. If only I could sleep through one night, he thought to himself. He looked across the smoldering ashes of the fire and could see the glow reflected back from her auburn hair. She had loved him once… It was long ago when the Vadim was still standing and Humans and Elves alike flocked to their doors to receive the gift of Magic. Few were chosen, but on one fated day two strangers were accepted, not knowing that their lives would forever be entwined. It was said that the gods themselves ruled the Vadim and blessed the lives of those chosen, but what was legend was nowhere near truth, a truth that he must remain silent about or forever lose the Magic and his life. He never thought that they would be brought back together. There had actually been an easing to the pain in his heart, but seeing her there sleeping by the fire, he was reminded of the innocence she once held. The gods, or rather their absence had taken that from her and given her Magic and immortality. Immortality… quite a change in living for a human, but as an Elf he was accustomed to seeing his friends grow old and die. If she could just understand why he made the choice he did.

Ruairc heard a faint twig snap and whispered across the smoldering fire, ”Shallis…”

“I know I heard it too”, she whispered in response with her back still facing him… It seemed she was unable to sleep as well.

“I’ll go check it out”, he whispered back. In a silent instant Ruairc was consumed by the darkness with his Elven senses and Magic scouring ahead of him in search for the intruder. Knowing he should see nothing he glanced back towards the camp and only saw the protective shield created by the Magic. Only those gifted with Magic or entranced by a spell could see it’s effects and all was as it should be. If someone had found them it would mean they were sent specifically looking for them. They were camped high in the Stone Mountains, which was known for it’s vast Dwarvish colonies buried beneath them, but none dared to climb this high without Magical protection, as the air was thin. There were very few people left in this world with the gift of Magic, all of whom he knew by name and none of whom except for Shallis did he care to meet again.

Although she knew the Magical canopy held in all sound and light, Shallis quietly rolled off her pallet and drew her sword. Her sword glowed a faint green showing the presence of an Elf, most likely Ruairc, but you can never be too sure. Her swords Magic had saved her many times warning her of the presence of other beings. She had come to rely on it and think of it as a companion. She quickly remembered the potential danger she was in just as a figure broke into the protective circle of the Magic. Her sword seemed to act before she did swinging directly for the figures neck. It stopped just short of a kill leaving a thin line of blood as a pair of familiar elvish eyes stared down at her with no seeming emotion. Shallis had learned long ago to control the Magic of the sword though it always seemed to be just within her grasp. She withdrew her sword from the unflinching neck of Ruairc and returned it to its sheath as she casually asked,

“Well…? Did you see anything?”

It had always bothered her how Ruairc would never share his feelings… his hatred, his fears…. his Love.

“There was nothing… nothing I could see, but something wasn’t right. I could feel something that seemed familiar, but so distant… It was nothing, I’m sure.”

There he went again choosing not to talk about things. She had learned a long time ago that it was futile to think of pulling thoughts out of Ruairc. He would talk about things when and where he wanted.

It seemed there would be no sleep for either of them tonight and with no spoken words Ruairc stoked the fire and started making some tea. The elves were known for having a tea for every occasion, but you always wondered where they carried it all. Shallis dug into her pack and pulled out her healing salve. It was the natural way to heal surface wounds and Ruairc obviously needed some attention, though he would never admit it.

They sat silently by the fire sipping their tea. Why hadn’t he chosen to stay with her; he could have waited for her to recovery, but instead he rushed off and had been unreachable. They had pledged their lives to each other. They were bound by their Magic, but he left her there alone to heal and didn’t return. She was surprised when he finally showed up.


“I’ll take another.” Shallis told the guy behind the bar.

“Haven’t you had enough there, Lady. Are you sure you can handle it?” He said with a scruffy voice. If he only knew who she was and what she was capable of, he never would have questioned her.

“I’m fine. Just leave the bottle.” One more time Shallis found herself losing her thoughts in the whisky she was drinking. It always made her forget, at least for a little while the pain she felt, being abandoned by the one she loved. Why had he left, when she needed him most. She was completely alone; she had outlived her entire family and all her friends and the one person she had counted on… had left her to seemingly die.

As she became lost in her thoughts a cloaked figure entered the tavern. He wore a dark green cloak with the hood pulled forward. No one paid him any attention, but a close look would reveal a pair of emerald eyes glaring from beneath the hood. He explored the tavern with his bow tucked beneath the cloak and moved as if he were gliding on air. To the trained eye there was no mistaking that this was an elf. He stood nearly a head taller than most in the room but didn’t have that large massive strength humans often carry, but there was no mistaking that he could best anyone in the place… except for maybe the lady sitting at the bar. Elves were not welcome in this town. They were thought to have been the reason for the uprising and even thirty years since the fall of the Vadim, the people still placed their blame on anyone but themselves.

Well... that's all I got... What do you think? Really I want to know..