India (MNN) ― Paramesvaran never imagined an early morning trip to the beach in celebration of his 40th birthday would turn into tragedy and leave his wife and him childless.
Almost five years ago, Paramesvaran played on the beach with his son, two daughters, and seven out-of-town relatives when the Indian Ocean earthquake hit and triggered a devastating tsunami on Dec. 26, 2004.
A 30-foot wave hit the shore, crashing down on Paramesvaran and separating him from his son and the rest of his relatives. He was able to grab hold of a palm tree, but the trunk tore into his arms, leaving huge wounds.
As the waters receded, he was able to make his way home, unaware of whether or not his family had survived. He found his wife, Choodamani, safe on the second floor of their house, but that would be the last relative he found alive.
“By midnight, Paramesvaran had found his children’s bodies and the bodies of most of his relatives,” Southern Baptist International Mission Board reported. “The next morning, he buried his children together in a grave he dug by hand.”
Paramasvaran and Choodami soon learned over 225,000 people had been killed in the tsunami.
The Hindus of the area said the tragedy was punishment for him and his wife turning to Christianity, and for a while, the couple channeled their anger toward God. At one point, they entertained thoughts of suicide.
However, Choodamani said she heard God speak to her in a clear voice, “[God said] ‘Don’t be upset. So many people died, and yet your husband is alive … I have some purpose in your life.’ It’s why we are still alive.”
Though they were left childless, the couple realized that many children in the area had lost their parents and had no one to care for them.
“With no one responsible for them, they wandered from house to house, relative to relative, begging for food and living under blue tarps that served as temporary shelters,” the IMB said, speaking of the orphans.