The tsunami that happened in 2004 was devastating to many people and countries. I was a brand new EMT, my husband was deployed, and I wanted to help any way possible. Steve, my mom's husband had a brother, Don, who was a leader with a disaster relief group who was planning a trip to Indonesia. I contacted him, and was able to get my name on the list of people going on this trip. It was a medical mission. We would be traveling to Banda Aceh, one of the hardest hit places from the tsunami. I was able to raise all of the money I needed for the trip, and even had some left over to help those in country. The group would be leaving from California and I lived in Washington State, so I had to travel to California to meet the team I would be going with. I had never done anything like this before. I had seen the news reports, but nothing could prepare me for what I would see and experience. The phase for search and rescue was over by now and things had transitioned into Recovery. Our team would meet with a couple already in place on site, and we would be joined by another couple who would be our interpreters. Since this was a medical mission, we were traveling with a couple of doctors, nurses, and EMT's such as myself. We first went to Jakarta, where we were briefed on what we would be doing and the plan for the week. What we did not know was, that very day that we landed in Jakarta, there was another major earthquake. We had learned that someone linked to our organization was on an island near the location of the earthquake, and there was heavy damage on the island. A decision was made to split up our team, and the men would be sent directly to the island for search and rescue. We were put with part of another team, and we flew out to Banda Aceh. Banda Aceh had been gripped with civil war prior to the earthquake. The population was almost entirely Muslim as this place is one of the stepping stones to Mecca. This alone put our team at risk, as Americans were not well liked there. We had to be very careful what we said, and we had to follow the customs of the people there. We had to wear the traditional head coverings, which was a new experience for me as well. We landed in Banda Aceh, greeted by men with weapons. As we exited the airport, the very first thing we saw was a mass grave. I have no idea how many people were buried there, but it was so sad to see. Pictures of some had been posted along the outside, and some people stood outside the perimeter mourning. We made our way to the house we would be staying in. There was no hot water, and the accommodations were minimal. Banda Aceh is very close to the equator, so the weather was extremely hot. We had to carry liter bottles of water with us, and the water had to be drank warm. You are able to take in more water when it is warm vise cold, and hydration was very important. We would be setting up and doing two medical clinics a day. We would see up to 200 patients each day. My job was to do a type of triage, and take vital signs. I became an expert at taking vitals by the end of the trip. The cool part of my job, was I had direct contact with every person that came to the clinic. I was able to talk to many of them and hear their stories, and I was able to share more myself, as I had to work directly with an interpreter. The stories were heart breaking. The news just could not share the whole story. The very sad part of this all, was the majority of the deaths were women and children. As I said before, this is a mostly Muslim country. The men were in town working, while the women were home attending to the home and the children. The devastation was beyond description. It literally looked like bulldozers lined up next to each other and just drove inland for 3 miles, demolishing everything in their path. The random palm tree remained as well as some buildings that were built with reinforced concrete. Even though we were there a few months after the initial tsunami, bodies were still being found in open areas. Many temporary camps were set up, but most people did not have clean water to drink, and the majority of people we saw were dehydrated and malnourished. We saw cases of malaria, TB, a woman with a huge goiter, and even had a couple gunshot victims. One of the saddest stories I heard was a woman who said she had her baby wrapped in a sling around her and as the water came rushing in, she tried with all her might to hold onto the baby, but the water swept him away. It was extremely difficult to hear the peoples stories. There was just nothing you could say. All we could do was provide the help we came there to provide, and to express our love and care for them. Our group was only allowed to stay in country for 2 weeks. The emotional toll was so tremendous, that time had to be limited for each group to be on site. I learned much on this trip, and was an experience I will never forget. We take so many things for granted and it really puts life into perspective to see others in a situation like this. I have a strong faith in God, and it was very clear that God was present. There is a song by Avalon that really stood out to me as I returned home. It is called, "You were there." A line from the song still rings in my mind to this day when I face hardships. "Haven't I learned that my ways aren't as high as Your's are." It is very hard to understand why these things happen, and it can be easy to blame God. I just know that He loved us so much, that He sent His Son to die for me. We can trust Him and He will never leave us or forsake us. This event in my life had such an impact on me, that I am currently seeking a career in crisis counseling and have a goal to work in disaster relief. This is for sure an event that will always be clear in my mind.