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Mike Tigchelaar is a member of Bethel CRC, Waterdown, Ontario. He went to Indonesia in February to assist in the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee’s (CRWRC) tsunami relief efforts. This story is an excerpt from his letters home.


I went early in the week to see the transitional shelters being constructed in various areas around Banda Aceh.

At one place we met the village chief, who is allowing many units for his village to be constructed on his own land. Most of the other land is torn up, flooded, or strewn with debris.

The chief is a very unassuming, gentle person who lost his parents and most of his siblings and cousins. He told me his story, as most want to, and I will share it with you.

He is a fisherman by trade and augments his income from that with a part-time watchman’s job. On Dec. 26 he came home just before the tsunami struck. His family was just getting up, and he was outside feeding the chickens and doing odd jobs when he heard strange noises coming from the sea.

He saw the water pull far back from its usual place and then far out a huge wave rose up “like a cobra.” He yelled to his wife and anyone who could hear to run because the water was coming.

He and his wife grabbed their two young children and ran toward a nearby hill. They barely made it; the water nearly overtook them as they scrambled up the steep hill. Most of their friends and fellow villagers didn’t make it. The family watched in horror as the first wave swept over the village, crushing some of the houses and buildings.

When it passed there were still people swimming and struggling. But then the next wave hit, and when it passed there were no more people and very few buildings.

The third wave carried all kinds of debris and knocked over anything that was left. The water from this wave stayed for two days.

The chief’s wife was pregnant and gave birth right there on the mountain. They called their new son Mohammed Tsunami!

I have spent much time at Lhoong, where the rebuilding program is centered. There are weekly meetings with the village chiefs, and all manner of concerns are aired. It is interesting to witness the involvement of the village in the decision-making process.

We met with this group to discuss the accommodation of the volunteers from Canada. The villagers are vying for the honor of hosting a volunteer, and we have to be careful that all villages have equal time.

I have been very impressed with the service being rendered here by CRWRC. The team has jumped in with both feet and is bringing hope, relief, and much-needed help and support to a population that has been devastated by 30 years of war and then the tsunami disaster.

I have sensed a respect for CRWRC’s contribution from the recipients as well as from our fellow NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and government officials. In my humble opinion, I think it is well deserved.

For information about volunteer opportunities with the Christian Reformed Church, visit

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