Tsunami survivors find consolation in church personnel
On Thailand's southwestern coast, tsunami survivors, traumatized and shocked by the devastation and loss of their loved ones, poured out their grief to church personnel.
Construction worker Chaisin Ngodpho-oad found his wife's corpse on 30 December, four days after tsunamis hit 12 countries in Asia and Africa.
According to the Catholic News Service, Chaisin was one of the survivors from Phi Phi Island, a popular tourist destination in southern Thailand. Following the tsunamis he was evacuated to Krabi, about 25 miles northeast of the island and 400 miles southwest of Bangkok.
"Although I had wounds all over my body, I did not feel the pain because the loss of my wife hurt so much," Chaisin said.
Stigmatine Father Pornchai Techapitakhtam, parish priest of St. Agnes Church in Krabi says Chaisin's story is one of many personal tragedies church workers have heard since the disaster.
He said that at the provincial hospital he spoke with survivors who, like Chaisin, were from Nong Khai and had lost children, spouses or other relatives.
Church workers have helped Buddhists take the bodies of family members to temples for cremation, Father Pornchai said. They also provide other assistance, such as the $25 he gave Chaisin to help him return to Nong Khai on Monday.
Father Pornchai also has served as a translator for foreign tourists. He said he celebrated Mass for foreign Catholics who lost loved ones and was to conduct a memorial service for a Dutch family who lost their 3-year-old child.
Immaculate Heart Sister Rosa Supha Suphathongamphai said church workers "were overwhelmed" by the personal tragedies, and that their help is small in light of the enormity of the personal losses they encounter each day. The nun and her team have visited Phangnga, Thailand's hardest-hit province, where more than 3,000 bodies were found.
Sister Supha said each day before the church workers leave to visit victims, Bishop Prathan Sridarunsil of Surat Thani gathers with them to pray. The bishop, whose diocese covers all 15 provinces in southern Thailand, reminds the church workers they must be "centered with the word of God as they go out."
He told them, "As church workers, we are God's presence among the survivors and victims of the tsunami."
Tsunami survivors find religious personnel source of consolation (Catholic News Service 3/1/05)
Caritas Australia | Caritas Australia Asian Eathquake/Tsunami Appeal
Pope praises human solidarity after tsunami tragedy (CathNews 4/1/05)
Australian Church sends prayers and support to tsunami victims (CathNews 4/1/05)
Sri Lankan Bishops urge prayers and action for survivors (Asia News 4/1/05)
Myanmar is withholding true casualties figures, says Thai priest (Asia News 4/1/05)
Hindu fundamentalists praise the work of Christian missionaries (Asia News 4/1/05)
Accounts of Surviving Tsunami Waves (Catholic Online 3/1/05)
5 Jan 2005