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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Beyond tsunami

ELCA mission partnerships rebuild troubled lives and ruined villages on the Indian coast

A young policewoman kneels at the altar rail of Trinity Lutheran Church, Nagappattinam, India. Pastor Richard Anbunathan places his hands on her head and blesses her. Five minutes later, she is out the door and back to work.

The woman, a Hindu, comes here every day, seeking prayer so she can face the apocalyptic devastation and human suffering that await her on the streets. She hasn't the luxury of turning away. Not even sleep brings respite. Grotesque images haunt her dreams: the battered, bloodied and bloated bodies of men, women and children — hundreds of them.

She comes here because Trinity offered sanctuary after the tsunami. Here the haunted and homeless were housed and fed, clothed and comforted, without regard to religion or caste. The same is true at dozens of other congregations and ministries connected with the United Evangelical Lutheran Church in India.

More than 6,000 were killed in the Nagappattinam region; more are missing. Of the 600 who died in the harbor area, 280 were children. It would have been worse had the tsunami come on a week day when school was in session, a point punctuated by many up and down the coast.

Three weeks after towering waves pummeled waterfront markets, homes and the fishing port at Nagappattinam, dozens of boats — some 50-foot trawlers — lie randomly strewn along dirt streets. Some were thrown over two- and three-story cement buildings and smashed to the ground. Others are crunched and piled precariously together, clogging the harbor.

In a seeming daze, people walk from food and medical distribution sites past jagged piles of the detritus of ruined shops, houses and lives. Their lives may be more broken than the buildings.


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