On the invitation of local government officials in Sri Lanka, Gospel for Asia (GFA) is helping thousands of orphans whose parents died in the Dec. 26 tsunami that inundated coastlines in the Asia Pacific region. The exact number of orphans is unclear.
"Organizations have reported varying statistics from certain areas in [Sri Lanka]," said GFA President K.P. Yohannan. "One local newspaper I picked up in Colombo reported that 'tens of thousands' of children were left without parents, but so far there is no official statistic. The BBC reports that the government is currently working on a census," he said.
"I am convinced that we cannot underestimate the need and the suffering of these people. My visits to these regions showed me so much of the pain and suffering these tsunami survivors are enduring. I traveled to many camps and saw the magnitude of the need. Often it was difficult to control my emotions as I witnessed the devastation, grief, death and destruction." He added that the tsunami also destroyed a GFA Bible school in Sri Lanka and killed one member of a missionary family.
In the midst of the carnage, Yohannan was encouraged to see the love being shown by Christians in Sri Lanka. "GFA has 250 churches in this island nation, many of them in or near the areas struck by the monster waves," he said. "Pastors, elders and church members have been working around the clock here ever since the tsunami struck, caring for the refugees and attending to their physical, emotional and spiritual needs. They are generously giving of themselves in so many waysgoing without sleep, laying aside their own comforts and donating their resources to minister the compassion of Jesus to these hurting souls. As a result of their sacrificial love, places where now only pain and destruction exist will someday, I believe, become places where the Lord will be known, honored and glorified."
Yohannan gave the example of one pastor who did the unthinkable for his Buddhist persecutor. "The pastor literally nursed this man who once beat him up. It opened the door for this man who was once the enemy (to) open his heart to Jesus Christ. In our pain, we hear God loud and clear speaking to us, and I think that's what's happening."
Currently, some of GFAs relief outreaches include making plans to build 1,000 houses for displaced families, working in food kitchens in affected areas, providing fresh water to orphanages.