Marcus, a blind man on the Andaman (search) and Nicobar (search) islands, survived the tsunami (search) by following the voice of a priest.

For Christians from Kimuse (search), a village on the island hit hardest by last month's tsunami, the story about how the priest and the blind man escaped death is the one that best helps them ward off gloom. Sharing survival stories at refugee camps has emerged as a way of finding hope as they begin the long process of rebuilding their lives.

"I was very scared, but I also had faith," said Marcus, 32, who told a group of survivors huddled around him about how he swam to a tree and climbed to safety after following the voice of the Rev. Sylvanus Wilfred.

"It's a new strength. I don't feel despair or helpless that I am blind now. I feel strong," he said.

Wilfred, 47, who helped dozens of villagers to safety after the tsunami struck and who nearly lost his wife and two children in the process, said people should see the turmoil as a test by God.

"God has been telling us for a long time not to do this, not to do that. But we don't listen to him. This is his way of reminding us of his strength. We will become better people," he said.

Both spoke Sunday at one of the many refugee camps in Port Blair, the capital of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, as other survivors listened.

Later Sunday, hundreds of people from the Nicobarese tribe hummed and sang along at another relief camp in Port Blair as singers performed Christian religious songs. After a Nicobarese priest conducted prayers, the survivors sat informally, chatting with each other.

"After prayers we often gather together and talk about each other's experiences. We are meeting new people everyday. Many of them have gone through far worse suffering than us," said Elsie, a 38-year-old Nicobarese woman who uses a single name. "Talking helps."

The Dec. 26 tsunami, caused by a powerful earthquake off Indonesia, killed at least 1,205 people on the island chain in the Bay of Bengal and left 5,531 missing.

Wilfred was preparing for 7 a.m. Sunday Mass when the island began shaking and the sea began to churn. About 200 of the island's 900 people live near his home and chapel, and they quickly scrambled out of their homes, screaming and crying. Some vomited.

He told them to run into a nearby forest, but the tsunami soon swept everyone away, with only their heads showing above the churning water.

In another part of the village, Marcus and his friend Chuta were both sleeping late after Christmas celebrations the day before. Chuta led Marcus out of the house by hand, but both were swept up by the tsunami. Like many Indians, both only use one name.

"I was left alone, calling out Chuta's name. I couldn't see the wave, but I knew something horrible was happening. Everyone was shouting and screaming," Marcus said. Eventually, he followed the sound of Father Wilfred's voice, banged into a tree and climbed up.

After guiding many villagers to the safety of trees and briefly losing sight of his wife and two children, Wilfred's left arm was broken when it became trapped between two falling trees.

Wilfred was in acute pain, but he somehow climbed another tree.

"I felt so weak. I thought I would die. I somehow picked up a floating coconut with my foot and got it in my right hand. I smashed it against the tree and drank its water," said Wilfred. "I felt less dizzy."

As the waters began to recede, the priest used fallen trees and wood from destroyed homes to build small bridges that allowed survivors to walk through flooded areas to higher ground. He took Marcus first, leading him by the hand.

Four days later, they were rescued and taken to a refugee camp in Port Blair, where they are trying to make sense of the mind-boggling disaster.

Like many victims, they want to know why the tsunami struck, why it devastated their remote village and why it killed so many people.

Wilfred believes he has the answer.

"God can never be angry with us, whatever religion we belong to," the priest said. "This is a test."