banana tree rafts

Letter from Sister Minh Tanh

Long Tho Monastery, Hue City, Vietnam November 4, 1999

After four days and three nights lost in darkness, without running water, electricity, or telephone lines, surrounded by fierce waters and cries for help, as we evoke the name of Avalokita, suddenly, the telephone rings and your voice is at the other end! How could that be? It must be a miracle from the Bodhisattva Avalokita who helped connect us with the outside world.

Sister, you may already know that Thua Thien, Quang Tri, and Quang Nam provinces now lie underwater. It is so frightening to see thousands of houses sinking down into the immense waters. While cooking rice (with wood because there is no electricity or gas), making rice balls, putting them into nylon bags, and  searching the way to bring them to the neediest people, we evoke the name of Avalokita with tears in our eyes. Only a few temples located on high lands are able to help—the Root Temple Tu Hieu, Nunneries Dieu Nghiem and Pho Quang, and my temple, Long Tho.

The monks at Tu Hieu Monastery brought out their whole year's supply of rice, and for the last three days, have been cooking for the hundreds of sick people in the hospital, where there is no electricity or running water, as well as for the many families sitting on their rooftops, waiting for help. Surrounded by water, people are still dying of hunger and thirst, because the flood waters are polluted with corpses of humans and animals and much dirt and debris. We in these temples are able to help, thanks to large reserves of rice, rainwater we stored in big containers, and a lot of wood logs around the temples. Monks cut banana trees and made rafts around two square yards each, to carry big bags containing hundreds of small rice balls. They walked in chest-deep water, pushing rafts of food to the areas in need. In some dangerous areas, crossing the fierce stream, we must choose the best swimmers.

Only 200 meters from our temple, we heard a loud noise. Three children caught on the roof of their home were banging on a metal container to call for help. The water almost reached the beams near the roof. We wept, but none of us dared to cross the fierce, angry stream in front of our temple to reach the house.  overnment canoes, already overwhelmed with rescue work, have not been able to visit our area yet. They only arrived at Tunnel Bridge (Cau Lon), then turned back to the city. Finally, early on the morning of November 4, monks from Tu Hieu arrived by canoe and we could rescue the three children.


On the third day of flooding, the monks in Tu Hieu were able to hire a large canoe, bringing big bags of rice balls and dried noodles to eight remote areas where no government officers dare to come: Quy Lai, Thuan Hoa, Tay Linh (Sister Nhu Minh's area), Tay Loc, Cii Chanh (Sister Minh Tu's area), Nam Hoa, and Bai Dau. The waters there are fierce and three government officers have drowned. Today, November 5, the monks visited and distributed food in Nam Hoa, Phu Hau, Van Cu, Co Lao, Huong Tra, Thiiy Bang, An Liiu (Phu Vang), Due Biiu, La Chu, Huong Chii, Huong Vinh, Le Khe, Thanh Trung, Thanh Nguyen, Kinh Doi, Long Ho, and Ngoc Ho. The Government is grateful and welcomes our activities, because we are of great help. By chance, Tu Hieu temple was preparing to distribute $20,000partly in cash and partly in food, to our 88 day-care  centers. The distribution had not yet started when the flooding began. Thus, our friends were ready to help efficiently, as if the ancestors had prepared for us to be able to help. Because, even if we have money in the bank, the Vietcom Bank of Hue is still under the waters!

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