FIRST HAND ACCOUNT
This is from a very moving and detailed email that is being circulated among the family, friends, and supporters of Don and Lillian Dwight, Covenant missionaries in Taiwan. They were in Thailand on holiday when the tsunami hit.
Thursday, Dec. 30, 2004
So much has transpired in the last few days and so many Christians all over the world have been praying for us we wanted to take this chance to thank all of those who were praying. We are home safe and feeling relieved and thankful to God for preserving our lives during the tsunamis that hit the Indian Ocean on Sunday morning.
Most of you know by now that we took a family vacation to Thailand in celebration of Lillian and my 25th wedding anniversary. We brought all of our kids with us. On Saturday we took a ferry to Phi Phi Island off the coast of Thailand. This is a beautiful tropical island no more then a mile long. We enjoyed the beauty that afternoon and evening with not a thought at all that the next morning it would be devastated. There is a small village with many shops and hotels a few feet from the beach.
I believe that the Lord was guiding our steps even months before our trip. When we had tried to make reservations for a beach bungalow almost three months ago they where full. The proprietor recommended a hotel with bungalows on the side of the hill and we were able to make reservations there. Sunday morning we went down to the hotel restaurant for breakfast. The day was beautiful and bright with the clear blue water shimmering a few feet from where we were eating.
At 10:00 AM we finished eating and returned to our rooms up the hill. We rested for a bit and at 10:15 we heard some yelling. We opened our bungalow door and saw some smoke on the top of the hill so we figured it was a brush fire which the staff was yelling about. There didn't seem to be any immediate danger.
In a few minutes we decided to go swimming and put on our swim suits. As we walked down the path to the shore we realized something was very different. The water level reached up into the hotel restaurant and the bay was full of debris including large pieces of furniture. At first I thought that there must have been some weird high tide that had washed into the beach side shops. I had no idea of the devastation that had already hit this island much less the destruction that would hit other areas. All we knew was that we couldn't go swimming so we just stood there and watched.
In a few minutes several people carried a lady up the sidewalk and laid her down right where we were standing. She wasn't breathing. Her husband was crying for help. After yelling once or twice that somebody should start CPR nobody did, so Lillian and I decided that we needed to do it. We started the process then a couple of men joined us. Peter, our son, took a couple of rotations to give us a rest, also. Unfortunately, after working for an hour we were not able to revive her.
As Lillian and I put our arms around her husband and son, Mike and Adam, (13 years old) Lillian prayed for them. I knew that it was hard enough to lose your wife and mother to a tragedy like this, but being thousands of miles from home and all alone without any family or friends would make it even worse. So I felt the nudge of the Holy Spirit to stay with them and help them any way I could. Mike, Trish (the wife), and Adam were from London. One other British couple who had meet Mike and Trish the day before were also very helpful and stayed with Mike and Adam for many hours.
By this time, of course, we were getting an idea of the local devastation. When we asked for a doctor's help the locals told us that was impossible because everything was wiped out. Furthermore, a half mile walk along the beach to get to the clinic -- which was already wiped out -- was considered too dangerous because of the possibilities of further tsunamis. All communications and power had been wiped out. A walk along the beach later that afternoon did confirm the massive destruction. Meanwhile, we heard possibilities of evacuation and, indeed, helicopters started to fly over the island. All that afternoon and night we waited. The locals graciously made rice and sausages over an open fire for dinner.
On Monday morning we decided that nobody was going to come to our side of the island to evacuate us, so we needed to get to the pier which was about half a mile away. A hotel staff person arranged for a motor boat to take Mike and Adam and Trish's body to the other side of the island where a makeshift helipad had been set up. As we put them into the boat and sent them off that is the last I saw of them. I assume that a helicopter took them to the Thai mainland to receive the help that they needed. Please pray for Mike and Adam. I gave Mike my email address. I would like more of a chance to share the love of Jesus with him and Adam some day.
Then it was our turn to leave. Fortunately, we had everything in backpacks, so the walk to the pier climbing over the rubble was easier then if we were dragging suitcases. You have seen the pictures, we saw the destruction with our own eyes. We finally made it to the pier and began the wait. I myself was quite nervous about getting on the pier because there appeared to be about a thousand people on it and I was afraid it would collapse. Every 30 minutes or so a boat would come in a take about 50 people. More people kept coming to the
pier. If we didn't get on the pier we wouldn't get evacuated, at least not anytime soon.
After a prayer for wisdom we decided to go ahead and get on the pier. Low and behold, in about 30 minutes a very large ferry came and several hundred people were able to get on this. Our family was one of the last to get on. There was quite a bit of shoving and pushing to get on so it was a bit wild, but the Lord kept us together and we made the hour an a half boat ride to Phuket.
From the dock we were taken to a processing center at the city hall. It was here that I was able to finally call my family and let everybody know that we were safe. This was over a day wait for many of our friends to hear this news. We are so appreciative of hearing about all of the people that were praying for us. I believe that God's hand was truly protecting us. Us being in our first choice of hotels or staying for breakfast a few minutes longer or going swimming a few minutes sooner and this letter would be very different. It was at the processing center that these thoughts overwhelmed me and the tears started to come. I don't mean to imply that my family or I am any better than any of those who lost their lives, but God has chosen to give us the gift of life and it is a gift we accept thankfully. I, also, feel strongly that God has said that we -- my family -- have more work to do here and we will continue to serve Him the rest of our days.
From the processing center we were taken to the Phuket airport and amazingly we got on a flight to Bangkok that afternoon. The airport was packed with thousands trying to get home and I thought that there was no chance we would get out that day, but God surprised us with another blessing again. When we got to the hotel in Bangkok some missionary friends were there to greet us and we felt God's love and the love of brothers and sisters in Christ pouring over us.
As we began to see the news reports we have become aware that many many people have had a much harder time then us. Please pray for the rescue and relief efforts that are ongoing and if possible please give a monetary gift to an organization which is doing relief work in the effected areas. Pray that Christians in those areas will take a leading role in caring for the millions in need.
This is all for now.
Don, Lillian, Peter, Matthew, Andy, Olivia, and Megan Dwight