Winnipeg, January 13, 2005 (ELCIC)
--Following the Tsunami in Asia, many people expressed concerns about the ELCIC missionaries in Thailand, Lori Endress and Elvira Sentes. Since both Lori and Elvira stayed at home in Chiang Mai for the Christmas break, they were out of harm’s way. Chiang Mai is a city in the north of Thailand where only the tremors from the earthquake were felt.
Lori is a Short-term Missionary developing and teaching English programs at the McGilvary Faculty of Theology and Seminary of Payap University. Elvira is a Volunteer in Mission helping to address the needs of the patients at the McKean Rehabilitation Center which includes the elderly disabled and people coping with leprosy. Payap University and the McKean Rehabilitation Center are affiliated with the Church of Christ in Thailand.
Elvira's January 10 email to family and friends included the following comments:
Since I have had several queries regarding the aftermath of the tsunami, I thought I would attempt to put together a short account of how things are being viewed from here.
Many foreigners have made the same comment in so many different ways about the generosity and kindness of the Thai people towards them. As I have expressed before, language is not a barrier when it comes to meaningful interaction. These are people who are groomed to be hospitable and caring, bypassing all the formalities of western culture.
Governments, Airlines and Hotels in Bangkok have made the exodus from Thailand free to the foreigners who had lost all documentation that day. The many who leave with the bodies of a loved one or worse yet without, makes one seek comfort in the only way that makes sense at a time like this; going to God.
Many, especially the elderly and the children, have been traumatized and still after 2 weeks, are in a state of shock. The hospitals are full of orphaned children who cannot speak which concerns psychiatrists who hope that these symptoms of trauma will diminish after 1to 6 months. Some children will continue to have flashbacks, nightmares and in the worse cases, it may even change their entire personality. The possibility of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder caused by suppressed pain is focusing medical teams to encourage adults and children alike, to process their emotions and reactions. Most of the physical problems originate from ingesting ocean water and broken bones from being hit by water propelled debris.
The influx of funds is overwhelming. All nations that were hit need this rebuilding process to begin and in many cases it has. A group from my church collected funds to purchase supplies such as hammers, saws, nails etc. and went as a group ready to assist in this immediate need of housing. The King's army has been down there since the 27th helping to clean up the debris and exhume bodies from mud piles generated by the waves.
Tourism is one of Thailand's biggest employers and makes a huge contribution to national revenues and gross domestic product. An estimated 10,000 workers in the tourist trade are now out of work. However, now the fear is of unregulated exploitation of the coastal areas. A quote from the Bangkok Times states, "The natural environment along the coast is fragile. Greed can destroy it almost as readily as a tsunami and the effects can be longer lasting. The people of the South need to resist the temptation of quick returns and look at more sustained, more environment-friendly tourism developments." (Jan. 5/05)
While I'm off on vacation with my son and daughter in law, a young man from the US will be taking my place at the village. Mike is a survivor of the tsunami. That Sunday, he and some friends had hired a boat to take them out to an island where they could do some snorkeling. He said that they felt a huge surge in the water but thought nothing of it. It wasn't until 15 minutes later when they came to this island that it was evident something destructive had preceded them. The driver, not understanding just what he was witnessing, suggested that they return to the mainland only to find overturned boats a block from the shore line and destruction everywhere. The water was now a dark brown as they maneuvered through the floating tables, chairs and debris.
How fragile is life. My family and I had tickets to go to this very area as of today. I thank God for the gift of life and time.
Established September, 1995. Page revised August 18, 2005.