‘We Realized Something Was Very Different’

Post a Comment » Written on December 30th, 2004     
Filed under: News
BANGKOK, THAILAND (December 30, 2004)  – The following is a first-person  account from Don and Lillian Dwight, Evangelical Covenant Missionaries  who were vacationing with their children on Phi Phi Island, off the  coast of Thailand, when the tsumani struck the island Sunday morning.

By Don and Lillian Dwight

So much has transpired in the last few days and so many Christians all  over the world  have been praying for us that we wanted to take this  opportunity 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 our 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 a.m. 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 that 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 . . . 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. They were from London. One other British couple who had met them the day before were also very  helpful and stayed with them 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 (the father and son) and Trish’s (the wife’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  than 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 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 and 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.  In about 30 minutes, a very large ferry came and several hundred people  were able to get on. 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 and a half boat ride to  Phuket. From the dock we were taken to a processing center at 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’s wait for many of our  friends to hear this news. We are so appreciative of hearing about all  of the people who were praying for us.

I believe that God’s hand was truly protecting 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 are  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. 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 than us. Please pray for the  rescue and relief efforts that are ongoing and, if possible, please give  a monetary gift to an organization (Covenant World Relief) that is doing  relief work in the affected areas (see related story for details on how  to donate to Covenant World Relief’s efforts). Pray that Christians in  those areas will take a leading role in caring for the millions in need.

In Christ, Don, Lillian, Peter, Matthew, Andy, Olivia and Megan Dwight

Copyright © 2011 The Evangelical Covenant Church.

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