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.
The couple realized they could help these children. Initially, they took in four, but since then, the number has grown to 20–six girls and 14 boys.
Because the cost to feed and house so many children was beyond what Paramesvaran and Choodamani made, the IMB helped with much of the expense. More than $17 million was raised to help the victims of the tsunami. With part of these gifts, the IMB provided the couple with kitchen appliances, beds, clothes, books and school supplies and met other needs of the children.
"There were so many needs that Southern Baptists helped us with," Paramesvaran said. "Through that [support], we were able to spread the Gospel. Many people came to Christ."
The couple shared the love of Christ with their new children and the community. All of their children now have personal relationships with Christ. If they had not been adopted, they may have never heard of Christ.
Together with their children, Paramesvaran and Choodamani reach out to their community and show them Jesus.
"Without God, we would never have made it through this," the couple said.
They compare their situation to Job and the loss he experienced, but Paramesvaran said, "God has given us a second life," just like Job.
Today, the couple has two biological sons, born after the tsunami, in addition to their adopted children.
The IMB reported, "Since tsunami relief began in India, more than 1,400 house churches have been planted, 12,000 people have accepted Christ as their Savior and 4,000 have been baptized."
To support the IMB's efforts and families like Paramesvaran and Choodamani's, click here.