They had no resources for a search and rescue—all they had was faith.

One of the greatest despairs a parent can face is losing their child. In fact, “No parent should have to bury their child,” as the phrase goes. It is the un-natural order of things.

Yet in the face of a deadly natural disaster, order was swept to the wayside. In the middle of Indonesia, one mother’s entire world was ripped apart. She didn’t just lose her home — she lost her heart.

The raging floods stole her two young children from her. Everyone told her they had drowned. That she would never see them again.

But there is nothing that compares to a mother’s love. Some even say it’s the most powerful force there is…but for one mourning mother who’d lost her children, was it enough?

They Lost Everything

woman showing a picture on her phone
Achwa Nussa/AAP/Sijori

In the wake of the Indian Ocean tsunami on Boxing Day in 2004 that devastated Indonesia — the Rangkuti family faced a heartbreaking tragedy. The mystery would endure for decades.

In the torpedoing rainstorm that ripped their home apart and tore their village in two —Jamaliah Rangkuti and her husband Septi Rangkuti clung to a floating plank of wood. Amidst the vicious floods pulling them apart they struggled to hold on to their young children: Jannah, 4, and Arif Pratama, 7.

In the torrent, Jannah and Arif were torn from their parents’ desperate grasp — and each other.

The two children were swallowed up by the raging waters, and after a month-long search their parents were told to give up hope of ever finding them alive.

Even so, Jamaliah “prayed to God every night” that her children were safe and she would see them again.

For years the Rangkuti couple clung to the belief that their children might still be alive. A decade passed. Not a trace of their children. It was nearly impossible not to lose heart.

Hope was lost…or was it?

“I prayed day and night that if this disappeared girl was safe, that we might find her. Even just one month ago, her father was contacting everyone he knows, and kept saying that ‘my sweet child must be alive’ every day after he came back from work.”

A Chance Sighting Changed Everything

Fast forward 10 years later. In an unforeseen twist of fate, the unthinkable happened and hope resurfaced.

Jamaliah’s brother was visiting a far away island in Indonesia. He was going about his business when he spotted a fourteen-year-old girl walking in the village.

He couldn’t believe his eyes.

Crazy as it may have seemed, the girl bore a striking resemblance to his lost niece. Even though it had been nearly a decade since he last saw her, something about her spirit felt eerily familiar.

Even though all reasonable evidence suggested this couldn’t possibly be the lost daughter his sister who had prayed God would bring back to her…it was the only thread of hope the family had.

Jamaliah’s brother refused to leave the island until he had the answers he was looking for and thankfully — he asked the right questions.

The Mysterious Girl Had Been Rescued by a Fisherman

little girl
Achwa Nussa/AAP/Sijori

As Jamaliah’s brother dug for more information on the young girl — a shocking fact was revealed. It was enough for Jamaliah’s brother to believe, this may very well be the child his sister and brother-in-law had been searching for.

The village girl — who they called “Wenni” — was an orphan. No one in the village even knew her parents because she wasn’t born on the island…she had been brought there.

As it turns out, a fisherman discovered Wenni when she was a little girl, stranded at sea. When he found her she was barely alive clinging to a wooden board.

Could it be the same wooden board that his long lost niece clung to for dear life all those years ago?

Wenni was soon adopted by the same fisherman who rescued her. For the last decade his family had provided the girl with a loving home. Still, Wenni’s mysterious background gave Jamliah’s brother the crack in the case he needed, to take a leap of faith.

Something inside her told Wenni to take a leap of faith too..because when Jamaliah’s brother asked her to meet the woman he believed was her birth mother, Wenni agreed.

What happened next, was a family reunion for the ages.

“My Heart Beat So Fast When I Saw Her”

After a tip-off from her brother, Jamaliah and her husband didn’t waste a second. The couple made the trip to the far away island as soon as they could.

They prayed with all their heart, Wenni was indeed their baby girl that had been ripped from their grasp all those years ago.

When Jamaliah laid her eyes on her, she knew the village girl was her long lost daughter.

Her name may have changed, she may have grown up — but every fibre of Jamaliah’s being knew this was her little girl that she had brought into this world.

reunited family
EPA

“My heart beat so fast when I saw her,” Jamaliah said. “I hugged her, and she hugged me back, and [she] felt so comfortable in my arms.”

Jamaliah, Agence France-Presse

The emotional reunion unfolded on the remote island where Jannah was swept away to all those years ago.

Now 14 years old, Jannah once lost was now found. She stood before her parents, tears streaming down freely and held them tight. Their embrace brought a tidal wave of emotions but their unwavering love bridged the gap instantly.

Skeptics Told a Devoted Mother She Was Crazy

Even though it was clear, Wenni and Jannah were one — certain naysayers didn’t have the same faith.

For some, the reunion seemed too good to be true. But in the face of skepticism Jamaliah remained steadfast in her belief. She had no doubt in her mind the girl known as Wenni was her Jannah.

To quell any lingering doubts, Jamaliah boldly declared her willingness to undergo any necessary DNA tests. Her offer stood as a testament to a mother’s unwavering determination to prove to the world that, against all odds, she had found her little girl.

Miracles Happen: They Never Gave Up on Their Children

In a world often overshadowed by tragedy, this story invites us to believe in the extraordinary, to hold onto hope even in the darkest hours.

The Rangkuti family’s journey is a testament to the belief that, sometimes, miracles do happen when you least expect them.

“I am so grateful to God for reuniting us with our child after 10 years of being separate. God has given us a miracle. My husband and I are very happy.”

Sometimes, the waves return on the shore, what they have taken from us in the storm.

Jamaliah said she was optimistic about finding her son Arif, who would now be 17 years old. “We will look for him on Banyak, because we believe he is still alive.”