Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Graduating to a Tsunami

Graduation night celebrations were in full swing when news of a coming tsunami hit the media with an ETA : 3am

9:30pm Planning to head down to the Kona Inn for some delicious Mud Pie on the seaside, our outreach team of lovely ladies was chattering with excitement and mixed emotions at the recent graduation from our Justice Discipleship Training School! We were headed off campus when a friend on staff let us know that one of the largest earthquakes in history had just rocked Japan and was sending a tsunami our way! Immediately there was a change in the atmosphere as we all registered just what that meant.

In Thailand, but a few years ago, a massive tsunami wiped out thousands of homes and businesses on the island we had just spent over a month ministering to. Thousands were killed, businesses destroyed, buildings demolished, and families scattered leaving many of the Thai people in the south mourning, homeless, poverty stricken and lost amongst the shambles of debris and their gods. The damage was traumatic and, although they rebuilt quickly, the impact was a lasting one that we noticed while working there February-April. Standing on the shores of a beach called Ya Noi, there was a plaque on the hillside to remeber all those killed in the tsunami of 2004. Taking in what that meant we imagined what it had been like to experience such a traumatic incident. We had not an inkling of thought that just a month later we would that the same disaster was possibly coming upon our own lovely paradise of an island.

10pm The reactions were all different and after learning that the YWAM base we lived was above the tsunami warning area, peace and anticipation set in. After making calls, sending txts and spreading the word, a few of us decided to walk down to the ABC store for some snacks since the tsunami is several hours away. I send a message to my family letting them know I am fine and pray that they don't worry too much. Waling down to Kona's Coconut Grove, the hot spot for tourists, there was hardly a difference in the atmosphere with people at meals, drinks, walking along the coast. At the ABC check-out line I got stuck between some intense conversational banter between a tourist and a local who had very different views on the tsunami.

Back in Tennessee at the first update about any natural disaster, be it a tornado, flood, or heaven forbid SNOW, everyone flocks the stores for bread, milk and toilet paper; but here in Hawaii I have observed that the rush on the grocery was limited to water.

12am The alarms go off every hour. Ear piercing. Brain-rattlingly loud. All I wanted to do was burry myself into the ground to escape the noise! People are evacuated from their shoreside hotels to places further up the mountain side. Friends who'd been housed in hotels because the base was so full started showing up, sleeping bags and blankets in hand. The concrete Ohana court, normally used for worship gatherings, sports, shows and large lectures is now the tsunami refugee location for all YWAM family. The big screen has the news updates running, sound system plays radio reports as they come, and a live stream video being broadcast across the globe shows what is going on in the court. Everyone's bundled up and either sleeping, playing cards, or watching the news while catching up with one another. It's cold on the concrete and a small group of us are all hanging out on sleeping bags just waiting for what ever it is that's about to happen. What is this tsunami going to be like? We all are wondering what the morning light will reveal.

3:30am We have been waiting with anticipation and finally watch the first waves hit Hawaii. Reports vary from 11 inches to 6 feet. Staying up to watch as the news showed the water getting sucked out for hundreds of yards was cool, but I eventually went to sleep. The first wave will hit our island in about an hour and but most of us find watching the waves do what they've always done not as exciting to watch on the news...

4:30am The first group from my DTS will be leaving on a shuttle soon. Their flights leaving around 7am, we all wake up to find out that the tsunami is not just one wave, but several and that downtown is shut down. The first wave was small increase, so no one is concerned. Here's a link to what the first waves looked like on Kona.

8am Flights have been delayed- we didn't know it at the time but several people would be shuttled to and fro as their flights got pushed back, and back, and back. Tsunami waves are coming in still so downtown is closed though several people have gone down to take pictures. It's worse than we thought it was going to be and the damage to our island is the worst of all the islands. Welcome to Big Island where no one panics at the tsunami underway but who face the effects with amazement.

check out this Journeyman's video see what one of the waves that hit Kona's shore was really like, keeping in mind that the first wave hit around 4am and was not half the size.

38 hours later I go downtown for lunch and saw some of the sever damage this tsunami caused. Walking along the street these are some of the pictures of what it was like.

(The bottom floor of King Kam')

(Ali'i Drive - the major road through Kona's downtown-
on the other side of the wall you can see the ocean)

I have officially graduated from my Discipleship Training School, and can Praise God that I made it out alive! Please continue to pray for the Japanese victims of this tsunami, their loss far outweighs our own. God Bless them.

Love Always

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