Sri Lanka Mission Update

Here's the latest from a church missionary just back from Sri Lanka. (Previous message from another missionary on the same team here.)

TRIP REPORT
Sri Lanka
January 19 - February 3, 2005

Travel:
We flew into Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, and took a day to recover from jet lag and to debrief with the previous team. Then we headed by bus across the island of Sri Lanka to reach the refugee camp near the east shore. Our total travel time was nearly 3 days in each direction. En route back, we stopped to ride elephants!

Refugee camp:
We stayed in dome tents in a large refugee camp, surrounded on 3 sides by fields of tents filled with refugee families. There was no electricity or running water, though the government filled large water tanks several times a day. Members of our team spent hours each day filtering and purifying the water for drinking and cooking. We enjoyed spicy, curry-filled food, provided by a local church.

Clinic:
Each day, we set up a large clinic, with clinical care, a pharmacy and small laboratory, IV and wound care, and counseling. Our primary goal was to provide health care for the displaced people in the refugee camp, though families camp from surrounding camps and the neighboring villages. Most families had recovered from the direct wounds from the tsunami, though they still struggled with the trauma of losing many friends and relatives, and their own nightmarish memories of the event. We were also fairly near a war zone, where there were conflicts between the Tamil and the Sinhalese peoples of Sri Lanka, and some individuals were injured by a grenade explosion. (We were warned that a nearby field might still contain land mines.)

We spent time talking and praying with the families, as well as providing counseling for the stress from their losses. We worked with Hindu, Moslem, and Christian families. Many of the children in the camp previously attended a Christian school. So, as permitted, we prayed with most families and shared Christ with some. Each day, dozens of children ran eagerly to a vacation Bible school led by the Sri Lankan church leaders, and a group of young men came to explore the Bible.

Another major concern was community health. Initially there were only seven pit latrines for nearly 3000 families. Many families used shallow wells for washing and collecting water. Many illnesses, such as scabies, pneumonia, and diarrhea, came from living closely together in the refugee camp. So we met with up to 100 people for daily community health teaching, and later did more intensive teaching with a smaller group.

We were impressed by the gentle dignity and the friendliness of these Sri Lankan families, despite the trauma of the tsunami and the stress of being displaced from their homes. Many were fisherman who had also lost their boats and fishing supplies.

Prayer concerns:
  1. Pray for the ongoing work with these families. The local church, known as "the Chapel", plans to provide ongoing Bible studies and VBS and perhaps worship services. Pray for more workers and sufficient resources for them, and for a Sri Lankan pastor to continue the work. They are committed with a strong vision for ministry, but this relatively small church is already working in several areas of Sri Lanka.

  2. Pray for the leadership of the church and the training of new leaders. Pray that our relief efforts may build up and encourage the local church.

  3. Pray for ongoing health care for the families. In addition to acute medical care, they will also need health teaching as they shift from the relief phase to recovery and development. Many of their original communities have been destroyed. Pray as they return to their homes, or begin to build new communities.

  4. Many people still struggle with a stress disorder after the trauma of the tsunami. Others escape by turning to alcohol. Many come from Moslem or Hindu traditions and have never really heard the gospel. Pray that many families will clearly hear the gospel and will turn to Christ and grow strong in their faith.

  5. Thank God for safe travel and for excellent provision for us in Sri Lanka. Overall, we had good health, an excellent camp to stay in (we even rigged up a simple shower!), good weather with few rainy days, a full moon for light, and few mosquitoes. Give thanks also for an excellent team with many different skills and strong fellowship and good leadership. We enjoyed getting to know the Sri Lankan families and their vivacious children. We also worked and built friendships with leaders from a strong local church. Please pray for them as they continue this work.

Many thanks for your prayers and support!
With love in Christ,

J

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