The word typhoon comes from the Chinese word da-feng, meaning “big wind.” Typhoon and hurricane (from the Spanish huracan) are the same thing, just in different oceans. These severe tropical storms with wind force exceeding 75 miles per hour can be every bit as dangerous as tornados.

Alex Herring and his wife Nan were visiting us when we lived in Keelung. He was speaking at special services at our church and they were staying with us. We lived with the outer harbor almost our back yard. A typhoon came up while we were at church and we got home to find the windows blown in and Herring’s bed soaking wet. The rest of that night has been erased from my memory, but we got through it somehow.

Once, while attending a Bible conference at Sun-Moon Lake in the central highlands of Taiwan the island was engulfed in one of its worst typhoons. All the roads leading down the mountain were washed away and fields and cities were flooded.

Staying at the hotel was the Ford motor car dealer on vacation from Hong Kong. He did not plan to stay on a few weeks while the roads were being repaired. He ordered up a sea plane. Anyone wanting to go with him and his family could buy a ticket.

A sea plane is an aircraft equipped with floats for landing on or taking off from a body of water. Taking off from Sun-Moon Lake was more exciting than crossing it in a canoe. The lift you get as the pontoons pull themselves out of the water is an experience you don’t forget.

It was like the sea plane Indiana Jones escaped from the jungles in the “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” except we had no snakes on board.

Flying north to Taipei we saw the devastation wind and rain can produce. Washed out bridges, rice fields flooded and washed down the hill sides.

We landed at the old Sung Shan Airport (the sea plane also had landing gear so we did not have to land in the Dan Shui River.

Getting a train ticket to our home in Pingtung was not an easy matter and there was uncertainty if the tracks were all useable. We got tickets on the fast train that took more than nine hours. (Today that trip takes an hour and a half.)

We changed trains in Kaohsiung and were home the next day. Winds had laid flat our bamboo fence, the yard was full of water, but not the house. We lived in a rented house on Lin Sen Lu (Forest Avenue) on the edge of the county seat of Pingtung.

We began the church in Pingtung with three fine families who had invited Baptists to begin work there. Mr. Liu was vice-principal of the agricultural college; Mr. Wang, a foreman at the local sugar factory; and Colonel Yao of the Chinese Air Force. (Their pictures are on Page 61 of my book “Saints Alive.”) That church still thrives in a much larger and modern city after 48 years. The building of that church is another story.

Britt Towery is a former missionary, freelance writer and published author. He welcomes reader feedback at