This is the story of 15 year old Maikel Siregar who survived the devastating Indonesian Tsunami on December 26, 2004
One of the things I enjoy most is to go on morning walks with my mother. I will never forget that early morning walk with her on 26th December, 2004. It was our very last. My brother, Yohanes was with us that morning. What a special time we had together. As we walked along, enjoying the refreshing air of the countryside, we thanked God for His blessings on our lives and also for the previous days’ Christmas celebration.
My mother had been deeply hurt after my father took a young Acehnese woman for a second wife. She went through depression for some time, but after counseling from Pastor Mirna, she regained her self assurance and confidence and was able to carry on life with the knowledge that our Lord Jesus cared for her and loved her. Thank God that with Jesus in her heart she learned to overcome her problems. I was very proud of her and loved her very much.
We got home from our walk about 7:00 a.m. and each of us went to our routine tasks. Suddenly, I felt the house and the ground shaking. I felt everything swaying from side to side with the rocking movement of the ground. Immediately I realized what was happening and I shouted, “Earthquake!! Earthquake!!….” I called out to my mother,
I ran out of the house and shouted to my brother who was doing some cleaning outside.
The tremor got worse and the whole house shook terribly. We dashed out of the house without further thought. I prayed to God to help and save us. My brother was also praying fervently, calling out to the Lord, and Mom also called out the name of Jesus. Most of our neighbors were already out on the streets.
We watched the houses in our neighborhood breaking up and collapsing. Some of them were half fallen, tilting perilously, but just a few seconds later they too went down. People screamed in despair as they watched helplessly their houses going down in dust.
All of us just watched in disbelief. The crowd began to swell as more people gathered, some shouting, others crying. The ground beneath us continued to shake and roll and we went up and down with it like a roller-coaster. Everywhere the asphalt road cracked and buckled up. The atmosphere was so tense. We were frightened and unsure what would happen next. We continued calling the name of Jesus to help us.
The tremor lasted about 40 minutes. But for me it seemed like it was four hours. Shortly after, many children and adults headed to the beach. I wondered what was happening. I asked a neighbor what was going on and he answered,
“C’mon, let’s go and catch fish. The water levelin the sea has fallen all of a sudden and the sea seems to have driedup a long way out. A lot of fish are just flapping about on the seabed”.
I kept quiet, wondering how strange that was but also thinking how easy it was to get all kinds of fish for free. It was tempting, but somehow, I decided against joining them. I wanted to be with my Mom to support her.
“Poor Mom, she must be feeling lonely and unsure without Dad around. At least I can give her some comfort and security“, I thought.
In hindsight, it must have been the Holy Spirit who convicted me to stay with my Mom.
I was glad I made the right decision to stay home to be with my Mom. Although she did not show it, I knew she was pleased that I was by her side, helping her to clean up the mess from all the pots and pans that had fallen. I helped her put things back to their proper places.
“Thanks, my son!” Mom said.
That made me feel proud and I was happy to know that I was a joy to her. When we had almost finished clearing the mess, we heard a commotion outside the house. People were running and shouting at the top of their voices,
Immediately, we stopped and looked around in total bewilderment, wondering what was happening. Mom had the presence of mind to look for the key to her motorcycle. After she found the key, she got the motorcycle out of the house, started it up, and called out to us,
“Maikel! Anes! Let’s go!”.
As I went to the motorcycle my brother locked the doors of our house. The three of us immediately rode off on my Mom’s motorcycle. We could not go far as the streets and the whole neighborhood was already jammed with people running about in all directions, falling, colliding with each other, everyone desperately shouting and yelling. People were running into their houses, then running out, totally at a loss as to what to do. Others ran towards town and still others ran away from the town center in the opposite direction.
There was total chaos and confusion. Clearly no one knew what they were doing.
Our house was situated at Ujung Karang, a coastal peninsula jutting out into the sea. That means that we were surrounded by sea on three sides. There was only one way by road to the town center. Unfortunately, it was absolutely packed with people, cars and motorcycles. The only other way to go was along the sea shore.
People were undecided which route to take and as a result it seemed like no one was getting anywhere. It was pandemonium. It was everyone for himself trying to head for higher ground towards the town center. Meanwhile, we could see massive waves approaching. I had never seen or experienced such desperation, chaos and confusion before. As it appeared impossible to fight through the crowds of people, we decided to go by shore to try to reach higher ground. But, it was too late.
We found ourselves trapped by the oncoming gigantic waves that were about 40 ft. high. It looked like a dragon about to swallow its prey. There was nothing anyone could do except to wait to be swept away. There were others with us in the same predicament. Their screams of fear, screams for help, screams of death, were drowned by the thunderous sound of the approaching wave. We called and cried out to the Lord in the name of Jesus.
With a tremendous roaring sound it smashed into us. There was no time to think. The next thing I knew, we were completely engulfed and swallowed up by this massive wall of black, muddy and oily water. The force of the wave as it hit us was so tremendous it is hard to describe what we went through. We were hurled along and rolled under and over by the wave. I was separated from my Mom and brother. I felt like I was in the greatest battle, fighting for my life, and yet I was unable to do anything, totally at the mercy of the waves. I thought this was the end of our lives on earth; that the end of the world had come. Indeed many had shouted as the wave approached,
“It’s doomsday…. doomsday!”
But, I thought of the mighty name of Jesus – the name above all other names. He was my only hope in that moment. I prayed and called out to the Lord,
“Lord Jesus, save me, my brother and my Mom. O Lord Jesus, if this is the end of the world, I ask that You lift our spirits up to be with You. Do not let us suffer.” .
Then I remembered the story of Jonah who prayed inside a big fish and God heard his prayer. I did not know how many big wooden beams, planks and trees smashed into my body and my head. All I felt was pain in every part of my body. I was sure I was badly bruised and cut up. Perhaps I had a huge bump on my head and deep cuts on my stomach, I did not know.
The impact of the waves was like I was being thrown against a concrete wall at 100 km. per hour. I must have been under the waves for a while, but somehow I remained conscious. I was surprised that I did not die. I remember thinking that I could still think although not too clearly, which meant that I was still alive. My stomach and my mouth were full of mud. My hands were intact as I could feel myself holding on to something, but I did not know what.
I was still conscious and alive, I said a simple prayer in my heart:
“Thank You, Lord….”.
As soon as I uttered this prayer, the waves brought me to the surface and I gasped for air desperately, like a drowning man. But together with air, I also swallowed a lot of mud, almost choking to death in the process.
“Oh Lord, why don’t You let me die and take me away with You?” I asked the Lord. “I can’t take it any more. Help me Lord, have mercy on me and forgive my sins”, I cried in my heart to the Lord.
I continued to be hurled along, engulfed and dragged under by the waves over and over again for I don’t know how long. I felt so drained of all energy and could not endure the punishment any longer. Just then, somehow I resurfaced for another gasp of air, and quickly noticed that an empty wardrobe was being tossed about by the waves near me. With whatever energy left in me, I swam close to it and managed to grab it. I opened the door and found it was empty and also large enough for me to sit inside. With excruciating pain, I climbed into the wardrobe and sat inside and began giving praise to God for hearing and answering my desperate cry for mercy.
Even as I appeared to be out of danger from the oncoming waves I did not know how long this ordeal would last. But the one thing I knew from the Bible is that God is in control and I had to surrender to Him. So I continue to pray,
“Lord, You are sovereign; whatever Your plans are for me, let it be so.”
I repented of my past sins and asked God for forgiveness, as salvation is by His grace through our faith and belief in Him. As the apostle Paul said in the Bible, salvation is by the grace of God alone, not because of any good works. It is a free gift from God if we trust and receive Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, I am saved. but I thought I have to make sure I get right with God just before I die, so I kept asking God to forgive me, knowing that as a young man I was full of sin.
Then I remembered my hatred toward my father for breaking my mothers’ heart when he took in the other woman. I quarreled with him frequently for breaking up our family. I could not accept whatever reasons he gave for taking in the other woman.
“Lord, help me to overcome this feeling of hatred toward him and to forgive him for the hurt he had caused me and my mother,”
I prayed. Through the whole ordeal I kept praying, asking God for His grace and mercy, resigned to whether He would let me live or let me die.
But, eventually, in that wardrobe, it became obvious to me that I wasn’t going to die even though the pain was so unbearable. Slowly, I began to feel which part of my body had been injured. I felt my head and found I had not suffered any serious bumps or open wounds. I felt my body and realized, thankfully that my intestines were not hanging out. I felt my legs and knew I had not broken any bones although I had some cuts, and I could still move my arms. I exclaimed,
“Hallelujah, thank You Lord Jesus, thank you for the miracles”.
This was indeed a miracle. Surely it was God’s hand of protection on me. Slowly I began singing and felt myself overcoming the sense of darkness about me,
“In the name of Jesus, in the name of Jesus, we have the victory…”
I wanted His victory over the terrible situation I found myself in. As I kept singing, I felt my spirit growing stronger and stronger and overcoming the earlier despair I felt. Then I remembered to pray for my Mom and brother, Anes. I prayed to the Lord that He would protect and look after them wherever they were.
I must have been crouching in the wardrobe for a long time. Exhausted, I soon fell asleep. When I awoke I realized that the wardrobe I was in was no longer rocking but drifting along calmly. I opened the door, like how Noah opened the door of the ark, and realized that I was close to the beach caught amongst piles of debris.
Without a moment to waste, I climbed out of the wardrobe and stepped into the water. It was waist deep. Slowly I managed to struggle for 2 hours through all the mud, rubble and debris and finally arrived at an emergency field hospital in utter exhaustion.
As I collapsed to the ground, a man came and helped me up. I looked and recognized that it was my father, the father whom I had hated for a long time. I then remembered I had earlier asked God to forgive me for hating him.
“Lord, help me not to hate him, help me Lord, I need him so much”, I cried out in my heart.
With that, my previous ill feelings toward him began to disappear as he hugged me tightly in his arms.
All through the rest of the day and the whole night, he went about looking for Mom and my brother, Anes. He found my brother in a tent being tended to by some medical workers. Anes told us that when the massive wave separated us, he was thrown up and rolled over by the waves. Then found himself caught under a coconut tree trunk. He grabbled hold of it and hung on to it. With his eyes closed, he held his breath, praying earnestly each time as the waves passed over. There he remained until evening. Thank God that he was not as badly injured as I was.
My heart was broken when we finally accepted that my Mom had died in the tsunami. I cried all night, recalling what a wonderful morning walk we had together. How proud I felt that I had chosen to stay home and help her clean the mess. Her last words to me,
“Thank you, my son”, will forever remain etched in my heart.
The whole night I could not sleep as I cried until I had no more tears left.
“Oh Mom…my dear, dear Mom, now your pain and sadness is over and your broken heart is finally healed. I know you won’t have to weep any more. In heaven you will have the true, true love of Jesus…. the love that never fails; the love that never ends….. How happy you must be in heaven….”
by Maikel Siregar
Used with Permission. Indonesian Mission Church.