Seminarian witnesses tsunami, global response up close
Written by Sarah Blossom
January - February 2005


Sarah Blossom
 
'Aid will be needed for many years'

EDITOR'S NOTE: Sarah Blossom, student pastor at Immanuel UCC in Indianapolis and a second-year student at Christian Theological Seminary, arrived in Sri Lanka on Dec. 29—three days after the deadly tsunami—and returned home on Jan. 10. Here's an excerpt from a letter she penned to churches of the UCC's Indiana-Kentucky Conference.

Each day I am amazed by God's indescribable love.

While in Sri Lanka, it was a blessing to see God's love manifest in people as they provided care to one another. As a member of the UCC's Indiana-Kentucky Conference, I thank you for your witness to God's love. Your offerings are at work in Sri Lanka even now as they face the biggest natural disaster in their history. As I come to God with praise and thanksgiving, I also come lamenting the loss of life due to the tsunami and the war that has raged for over 20 years in Sri Lanka, and I come to God asking, "What am I to do? How are we as the church, as the body of Christ with Christ as our head, called to respond?"

While in Jaffna, Sri Lanka, we visited with a pastor from Batticaloa. On the morning of the disaster, while he was preaching, his young son began to cry. The pastor's wife took their young son out of the church building to quiet him. While they were out of the building, the tsunami came and took both of their lives. I cannot imagine what it would be like to lose a spouse. Nor can I imagine what it would be like to lose a one-year-old child. But to lose both? Please continue to pray for all those who are grieving and mourning the loss of loved ones.

In Point Pedro, Sri Lanka, we visited a medical clinic being staffed by missionaries from Australia. The nurse reported that they were almost out of medicine. In Mullaittivu, we visited a camp for tsunami victims at a local school. They were serving meals and providing shelter. The school was packed. The people will continue to need food and clean water, and shelter is needed so school classes can resume. The members of the Church of South India in Columbo, Sri Lanka, were working hard to pack supplies—food, clothing, and medicine—to be taken to victims of the tsunami. The church's pastor, the Rev. Daniel Thiagarajah, who served as a missionary to the UCC's Indiana-Kentucky Conference in 1989-90, drove the supplies to some of the people most devastated by the tsunami. Your offerings are helping to meet the needs of people in Sri Lanka.

As I walked along the beach and looked at the beauty of the Indian Ocean, it was impossible to understand why so many lives had been taken. As I walked through the deserted villages, I felt as though I was walking in a cemetery but worse because so many of the lives had been children.

Where was everyone? "Washed away," I was told.

When you have lost family and friends, your home and all your possessions, and your source of income, and have no insurance, where do you begin? I think I would have been immobilized, but I saw people working hard to move away stones—trying to begin again. I cannot imagine how the rebuilding process will work, but I know aid will be needed for many years.

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CONTACT INFO

Rev. J. Bennett Guess
Executive Minister, Local Church Ministries
700 Prospect Ave.
Cleveland,Ohio 44115
216-736-3801
guessb@ucc.org