The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


A state of shock

Churches support traumatized tsunami survivors in Sri Lanka

Unable to hold back tears, the man stands weeping in a street in Dambulla, Sri Lanka. He lost his daughter in the Dec. 26 tsunami. She didn't die in Dambulla, their hometown in the center of the country. Tragically her parents had sent her to her grandparents in heavily destroyed Matara on the south coast. "Now she is dead," he says, sobbing and shaking his head. "I don't want to go home. There is my wife sitting and crying, and I cannot do anything."

Sri Lanka is a nation in emotional shock. In Trincomalee, Lilly Theresa hasn't talked since the disaster took her four brothers and two sisters. Terrance Sylvester, a Methodist pastor, takes care of the 17-year-old. He coordinates the relief work of the National Christian Council of Sri Lanka, a partner of the ELCA in Action By Churches Together International, in an area where half a dozen villages were completely washed out. Sylvester lost 24 parishioners, more than half of them children.

Padmal Widanagamange, a 26-year-old lifeguard, survived a train accident near Galle that killed at least 1,700 people, including ELCA member Tamara Mendis (February, page 35). He grieves the loss of his sister, uncle and aunt. The Buddhist gets some consolation by visiting his neighbor, a Methodist pastor. "The pastor has always helped me," he says.

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