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The Story of Erny - a survivor of the 2004 Tsunami
by Erny (Wife of a Businessman, 36 years old)
This is the story of Erny, the wife of an Indonesian business man. She is a survivor of the December 26, 2004 tsunami.
My name is Erny; my husband's name is Akiong. Everyone calls me Ernie Acing and I am an elder of the Indonesia Mission Gospel Church (GMII).
My husband and I own a business selling motorbike spare parts and a repair workshop for motorbikes. I have often shared with people that before I knew the Lord Jesus, my business was just normal but after knowing the Lord personally through our teacher and evangelist Mirna, who frequently comes to Malabo, I could see the abundant blessing of God upon our family and business. More importantly, I have become God fearing, leaving my bad-temper, my old sinful habits and all that is not related to God. So successful was our workshop business that we became well-known from the western part of Ache to the regions of Sin bang. Not only were we blessed materially, but more importantly, we were blessed spiritually as well. We had peace, marital joy, good children, good health and a purposeful life serving the Lord. These are the blessings that I received from the goodness of our Lord Jesus. He is so kind to those who believe and love Him.
Because of all this I cannot live a life without God. Everyday, I would begin the day with morning devotion. Pastor Mirna taught me to do daily devotions. On the 26th, December, 2004, I woke up early to do my morning devotions. Acing, my husband and I did our devotions together, enjoying the fellowship with God, singing praises to Him, reading His word, meditating on it and praying and surrendering our lives to Him all morning. Humbly before God, we were immersed in His presence and enjoyed His beauty.
As my morning devotion came to an end and before I could move from my seat, my husband suddenly said to me,
I could feel the tremor and hear the loud rumblings. Buildings along Blangapulo Street with other permanent structures, were shaken by the quake and they rumbled simultaneously. Rising to my feet, I said,
I staggered towards my children's room because my house was like a vessel hit by a storm. I was surprised at how the house shook. I could not walk straight and with each step I kept shouting,
Finally Akiong and I reached the children's room. Their room felt so far away when, in fact, it was only 3 meters away from where we were seated a while ago. I woke Ronny up and my husband woke Kristy,
The four of us staggered as we tried to run out of the house. I was still calling out the name of our Lord Jesus as we went down the stairs. It was like climbing down from a steep cliff. After much struggling, we finally reached the ground level but we were not able to go out through the front door of the house because of debris and the many shelves that had toppled to the ground. So we ran out through the back door.
As we came out to the open, we saw crowds of people in hysteria, shouting and screaming. Suddenly we heard a man crying out in pain. It was my neighbor, Avin. He was trapped by the rubble from his half crumbled house. Everybody panicked and the hysteria got worse. I said to Akiong, "Go and help Avin!.... let me take care of the children." Akiong got hold of a steel-cutting machine to cut the iron that was trapping Alvin's feet.
Because of the panic and commotion that was going on my children became frightened. So I told Kristy and Ronny to go to their aunts' house which was not far from where we were. It was a 3 storey building and was within sight.
While my neighbors were busy, I approached my husband and said,
My husband was silent and felt uneasy. Then I continued,
But my husband did not want me to go back into the house because he was afraid that the house would collapse on me. But, I said I would go in because no one knew if there would be any more aftershocks. He relented and allowed me to go back into the house to retrieve the money while he and the rest of our neighbors got busy attending to Avin, who had fractured his legs. During that time, I went to the restroom and also asked for a glass of water from my neighbor. Suddenly, people were screaming,
Although I could not see the water yet, it was like God gave me a vision that the impending water was massive. So, hurriedly I grabbed my husband's hand and we ran as fast as we could. We ran past the traditional market and went towards National Road where the Sony shop was located. It was a 3 storey building where we usually worship. While running, my husband reprimanded me for asking our children to go to their aunts home. I told him it was no use blaming me. Instead, we had to pray to God and ask Him to save them. We kept praying as we ran.
When we reached the front of the Sony shop and before I could catch a glimpse of the collapsed buildings, my attention was directed to the water that came rushing towards us. It reached my feet as I ran toward the SDS building. I was doubtful if the building was strong enough because unlike the other buildings it was not a permanent structure. It was made of wood. But my husband said,
We entered the building and ran immediately toward the stairs. We remained there as the waves came crashing into the building. It went up as high as 4 meters, flooding the ground level and reaching our knees while we were on the 2nd floor of the building.
All of us screamed together at the same time in great panic. And we shouted out the name of Jesus. Gathered in the building too were my congregation mates, sister Aven and Efendy, an elder of GMII. We prayed and called out to our Lord Jesus, our Helper and Friend. We prayed and sang wholeheartedly. Suddenly, the wall of the next building collapsed and I could see sister Akiuk in that building, also Delima, the theological college student in our congregation and many more Acehnese whom I did not know. It was crowded with people.
These people from the surrounding houses had crowded into the building which is situated at the end of the row of shop houses along National Road. Because of the collapsed wall, many people fell into the water, swimming desperately to reach the 2nd floor of the building. The building was overcrowded and it was threatening to collapse.
We all prayed to God and asked that the building would not collapse even though it was loaded beyond capacity. Everyone cried aloud the name of Jesus. Sister Delima took the initiative and we all held hands to pray and sing together. I prayed, "Lord help us! We surrender our lives into your hands. Help us, Lord…!" And we sang, "I Surrender all… I surrender all, all to Jesus, Lord our Savor, I surrender all". After praying we all calmed down.
At that moment I remembered a story from the Bible when Paul was imprisoned. They praised and worshipped God and then the miracle happened. The jail door opened and their chains came off. With this faith and hope, we praised and worshipped. We hoped we would be spared from this terrible disaster. Also, at the same time, we commanded the water to retreat back to the seas,
Not long afterwards, the water receded. In our midst was a non-Christian and he said,
We all thanked God because of his faith. Seeing that the water had subsided, my husband suggested,
I was worried but yet longed to know the well being of our children and finally said to him, "It's up to you." Then he left to look for them.
Not long after that the water came again and this time the waves were even bigger. It reached up to our chest on the 2nd level. I took the initiative to remove the corrugated iron sheets which formed the roof of the building and one by one we pulled each other up. We sat on the rooftop ridge of the building. There we continued our praise and worship and also prayed to God. That was the only thing we could do.
Then I recalled the preaching of sister Mirna 5 days earlier,
I felt I was privileged to remain alive, so I raise my request to God,
Finally, the water receded again, but I had no idea if my husband and children were still alive. I didn't want to go down because I was afraid that I might see the dead bodies of my family. At that moment, I thought to myself, " I am alone in this world now, how am I going to go on without my husband and children?" But quickly I cast out those awful thoughts and made my way down slowly from the roof. Wading through the waist deep water. I used my feet to grope beneath the water, cautiously avoiding nails and broken pieces of corrugated iron sheets. I also stumbled on bodies and it was such a horrible experience I did not want to carry on but I knew it was useless to stop, so I cried as I walked over beams and heaps of rubble which were obstructing the road. After hours of struggling, I reached the general hospital which was flooded by the sea water.
I was relieved a little when I met pastor Amyati there. She is the shepherd of our congregation and she greeted and hugged me. I whispered in her ear, "Sister, I am all alone in this world now." Then she reprimanded me and said, "Sister, don't have such awful thoughts, we do not know yet. Put your hope in God. Come, let us pray for them." Shortly afterwards, someone greeted me and told me my children and husband are safe. I shouted for joy, giving thanks to God because He saved my most precious possession. I cannot describe the relief I felt. I cried and cried. Thank you Lord. Even though our 4 shops and the two cars (totaling five billion rupiahs) were destroyed, our lives are more precious than all of these. Once again, Amyati asked me to pray and give thanks to God for His mighty love.
That night, many thoughts went through my mind. We had lost all our possessions. I had plans to redecorate our home, to make it more beautiful. I had plans to increase my wealth and also various plans for the future right up to our retirement age, because I am already 41. But human thoughts and plans are futile. The glory of the world is like vapor, God says. Then I understood the part in the Bible where God says, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways". One wonderful lesson I've learned from this is that from now on, I must be faithful in tithing and be grateful that our Lord is most gracious and loving - He did not repay me my wrong doings but gave safety to my family. I believe that as I tithe, everything that was lost will be returned. God's Word is never wrong. I was one that was wrong all the while and in the future I will strive to be faithful in all things.