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TSUNAMI REPORT from a Filipino Doctor


My Sri Lanka and Indonesia trips were sad and wonderful experiences for me. Although I treated many patients while there, this experience healed my struggling Christian spirit.

I witnessed the terrible sufferings of humanity and was encouraged by the zeal and dedication of my co-workers in Christ. I also realized that we are more blessed than those people who suffered so much --- those who lost their material things, their loved ones, and were traumatized by the memories of such unforgettable events.
The events which I will never be able to forget are:
-- Witnessing those children who draw pictures of horrible stories and who went crazy running away in different directions when somebody falsely announced that another tsunami is coming.
-- Observing children who became fatherless or motherless, and seeing parents who lost their children, or had the whole a family totally wiped out from the face of the earth.

But as we treated those patients we still saw the smiles on their faces, expressing a flicker of hope, as we extended our hands of compassion and showed to them that there is One up there Who cares for them.

In Sri Lanka approximately 80,000 people died. We saw the train where 1,500 people died inside, and the railroad workers were working hard, still repairing the railroad.

Each day they excavated more dead bodies, and we each needed to wear a mask while treating patients in the field.

I was assigned to patients with surgical problems. Some of them had wounds and skin diseases which needed dressing and medication. I also had to handle other cases like suturing of wounds, reduction of dislocated shoulders, and cauterization.

Everyday we went to different camps to cater to the needs of the people; some of us were assigned to entertain the kids, giving candies and toys which made a difference to them.
--Psychological therapy done by the psychologist and psychiatrist by letting them draw pictures.
--Our Dentist, Doctors, Preachers, and some assigned regarding logistics, did their jobs well.

Before we started our mission, we were warned not to evangelize or talk about Christ. We were a little bit nervous when we wore our t-shirts marked with "because Jesus cares"... but God is so good that the people even allowed us to pray for them.

We also distributed WBS fliers to the people, and I was even apprehended and warned by Sri Lankan medical students afterwards, but I was determined not to be stopped.

Everybody was moved, even the non-Christian doctors who joined the mission during our devotionals where we gave testimonies and sang songs of praises to the Lord.

The Sri Lankan mission was a successful one, where in our small, little way we comforted and cherished the people affected.

We knew that the place was extensively damaged, but when we reached Indonesia, by comparison, Sri Lanka had had far greater destruction and loss of human lives.

Last January, after the tragedy, an estimated 250,000 had died, but up to this day corpses are still being dug up and a local estimated that almost a million actually died during that tragedy. The destruction reached up to 4 km. inland. You can see where houses from coastal areas were wiped out, cars crumpled into an unimaginable artwork, fishing boats and a huge barge tossed into the middle of the town. Everywhere and anywhere you can see countless houses that were reduced to rubble, and a big shopping store collapsed after the earthquake which lasted for 30 minutes and an aftershock of 5 minutes.

After that came the killer tsunami.

Together with the Singaporean group of mostly members of the Churches of Christ, we were housed in one of the hospital rooms beside the emergency section. The ladies used the hospital beds provided, others stayed on the floor. In that hospital (Zainal Abidin) alone, which is located 3-4 km. from the coastal area, many patients, doctors, and nurses died during the tsunami. The mud was up to chest level deep.

Our flock was led by Edwin Choy, a preacher from Moulmein church, who conducted devotionals before and after our work. Everyday we met for devotionals; we met with different people, some were local, some were foreign volunteers.

We treated patients in the E.R., wards, OPD, and we helped the locals in terms of logistics.

Our mission in Indonesia was short but a memorable one because the people appreciated our work, especially how much we cared and how we dealt with them in a loving, Christian way.

My special thanks to my brother Salvador, the Singaporeans, and all the Christian brethren who supported me from the beginning up to the end of these medical missions.

To God we offer our praise.

Sam Cariaga


Note: Sam is a general surgeon and a good painter. He said he chose surgery because it is not much different from painting. He also has a tremendous passion and compassion to serve others through his profession. Besides being in most of the 27 medical missions of "MARCH for Christ" as a volunteer doctor, he conducts his own personal medical missions and operates on poor patients, most often times for free. Desperate brethren in and around Manila hound him for free service. Last year, when I visited him, he was broke and burned out. He enrolled as a nurse and planned to go to the US or Canada to make ends meet (Over 2,000 Filipino doctors go abroad every year). Being a church planter, missionary trainer, and opportunist that I am, I do not want to see him do that. The church can USE him for better purposes and like ALL dedicated Christians, he wants to be used for the glory of God.

Sam does not need much to continue doing what he is doing (he has not asked me for help). With his skills and profession, it is a matter of time before he will make more money than most people here and still spend most of his time serving the poor. I heard him speak in Sri Lanka. The volunteers were getting tired. There was pressure from the locals against sharing the gospel. One organizer told me in a nice but firm way not to distribute WBS flyers of any kind. Sam's message to the weary and fearful team the following day was full of boldness and conviction. I love and was proud of him before. After hearing him that day, I was convinced that he has to continue serving in the Philippines as a missionary doctor and I will use whatever means to help him do good works here.

If you wish to help Sam continue doing medical mission in the Philippines please let me or him know. You can contact him at samcariaga@yahoo.com If you wish to know more about Sam, you can contact Chito Cusi (MARCH President) at lpcusi@yahoo.com or Dr. Lynda Wee of Singapore at lyn_wee@yahoo.com

In Him,

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Report from Sri Lanka by: Salvador Cariaga

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