Northeastern Cambodia gets a lot of lightning strikes compared to the rest of the country. Every year in Kracheh province, dozens of people are killed by lightning. In our children’s center we have to take cover in the wood buildings to get away from lightning when it comes through. Each year I hear horrible stories of people killed by lightning. The worst story was from last year when three boys sitting watching TV in their little house when the TV antenna (permanently fixed to the roof) got hit with lightning. The electricity came down the antenna wire, through the TV and shot out of the TV hitting the boy sitting in the middle and killing him instantly. The boys on either side of him were completely untouched.
When I was in the T’moan village two of the boys were telling me about their experience a few months ago of being hit by lightning. Mien and Pun had just bought a second-hand phone. The tribal guys have figured out from talking to various wood cutters that there are certain hills in the middle of the jungle where one can get a cell phone signal. The T’moan village is nearly fifty kilometers from any cell tower, but there must be a microwave signal that is aimed through the jungle near their village because they can pick up a faint signal on the hillside.
So, one day in rainy season, these two guys were trying to call one of my other friends. They were standing up on this hillside. It was not raining, though there were some clouds in the sky. As soon as they dialed the number and picked the phone up to listen they got hit. Wham! Instantly everything lit up and they fell back as if hit by an explosion. They were in shock. As they tried to pick themselves up they looked around: Trees were burning around them, they were smoldering and they were trying to figure out what had happened. Apparently, the lightning hit multiple targets in one burst. The one lightning bolt set a tree on fire, burned three beams in a nearby house, and hit the two kids standing next to each other. The phone was obliterated.
They boys did not escape unharmed. Each of them, on one half of their body, lost their hair, lightly burned the skin, and both boy’s shirts and pants were burned and shredded.
I was amazed that they survived the lightning strike. I asked them about any problems they had noticed with their bodies since then, like dizziness or nervousness, but both report no problems at all. However, now they don’t go up the hill when there are clouds in the sky like they used too.
Then I thought about something. How many people do you know have been hit by lightning? Most people probably don’t know anyone. I know several. This made my curious mind wonder even further why I know so many people who have been hit by lightning.
Let me tell you some of the stories of people I know:
- Ang, one of our key regional church leaders, was hit by lightning. It was during a rain storm and he was standing under a tree to keep the rain off of him. Suddenly there was a bolt of lightning which hit the tree and flashed around him. The tree was left flaming and obviously took the direct hit, but Ang, apart from some light burns, was unhurt.
- Sareth, the director of our children’s center was hit by lightning. Sareth was driving home and a storm was approaching, but it was not raining. Suddenly he felt a shock and a flash around him. His hand was excruciating painful. The lightning bolt had hit his hand and continued down into the ground. Other than a painful hand for a while, he was alright.
- The Children’s center hit by lightning twice. Our children’s center has been hit at least two times. The first time the lightning bolt hit a tree and jumped to the roof of our toilet building. It has a galvanized steel roof. Inside one of the bathroom stalls at that time we kept a generator. It was not running at the time, but it fried the whole generator. We had to buy a new one as it was completely destroyed. Inside, the engine’s metal components fused together. There were children all around, but they were untouched. The bathroom was one of the shortest structures on the property as well. The second time the generator was again hit. Again, many of the children were within a few feet of the lightning strike. There were upwards of sixty kids around the area. At that moment the kids reported a massive bang like a bomb going off. They were all scared, but unhurt even though they were so close to the strike. Quickly they saw smoke and smelled a pungent smell. This time, when the generator was hit, it burst into flames. Beneath the generator we put an old car tire to cut down on the vibrations of the diesel motor. The tire was completely burned up and only a crumbly powder was left. In both cases, the children at our center could easily have been killed, yet they were completely untouched.
- The last example I have is none less than my wife and I. The Airplane that my wife and I were flying on was hit by lightning. It was March of 2000 and we were making our first trip to India. We were flying on a brand new airplane, a Boeing 777 belonging to Japan’s premier airline ANA. This plane was equipped with a nose-cone camera which was fascinating for me to watch. The clouds were amazing as we flew through them and could watch through the front mounted camera. Suddenly in the distance I saw a bolt of lightning on the screen and it was shooting straight for the plane. Instantly, the whole plane turned a blue color with a flash of this translucent lightning bolt. We were still cruising at a high altitude. Immediately after the strike, the plane descended and we were on the ground in only about five minutes. Apparently there was no visible damage and no one on the plane was hurt.
I think that it is amazing that I know so many people who have been hit by lightning. Each one of the people mentioned are people that love and serve God in great ways. To me one of the only ways I can comprehend so many lightning strikes on people I know is that the enemy wants to stop us from doing the Lord’s work. Yet, everyone I know who has been hit by lightning has survived with no lasting effects on their body or nervous system. This is a great miracle of God’s protection.
Note: I have written a book about the T’moan people and how they came to Christ. It is called “T’moan: Guardians of the Secret Temple of God”. If you are interested in purchasing a copy of this 170 page book which is full of illustrations, you can contact me and I will let you know how to order one.