On Dec. 26, 2004, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck deep beneath the Indian Ocean, 100 miles west of Sumatra, Indonesia. The shock cut fissures into the ocean floor, shifted entire tectonic plates, and even slightly altered the Earth's rotation.
The inevitable consequence of this earthquake was the deadliest tsunami in recorded history. The resulting destruction ultimately took tens of thousands of lives and left thousands of others without homes. People as far away as 5,000 miles felt the deadly consequences of this devastation.
Thomas and Gretna Palmer of Flagstaff, Arizona, were in Indonesia serving as humanitarian services missionaries for the Church the day the tsunami hit. Two weeks later, Elder Palmer wrote the following:
"Our lives will never be the same as a result of what we have witnessed. Hundreds of thousands are searching, wondering, and few still hope that a family member may be found. We were taken to the city of Banda Aceh, one of the hardest-hit areas of the country. It was a quiet and sobering experience as we moved through the remains of this once beautiful city. As we traveled further, I saw a very old man next to a large pile of rubbish softly poking a stick into the mud and debris seemingly looking for something perhaps a grandchild. It was almost more than I could bear and is a scene that I cannot remove from my mind.
"The Church responded immediately to the disaster. . . .
"Dr. Alwi Shihab, the Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare of Indonesia praised the Church's humanitarian efforts and expressed his gratitude that we had offered relief to his Muslim brothers and sisters.
"We do not know why such a tragedy has occurred, but our Heavenly Father does and that is sufficient for us. We have witnessed many blessings, many miracles, many hearts softening, many relationships mending and many opportunities for reaching out with love to those in need. Our lives have been blessed to be a small part of the Lord's offering and to witness His mercy towards the victims of the tsunami." Neil K. Newell, Welfare Services