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Update from Sri Lanka

On assignment: the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada's representative, Geoff Tunnicliffe wasn't prepared for what he saw when he arrived in Sri Lanka.

For more details on Asian Tsunami Relief:

These past 48 hours have been a whirlwind.

After four hours of sleep following my arrival in Sri Lanka at seven a.m. we left Colombo with a small convey of relief workers to travel to the east coast of the country. We spent a gruelling eight hours on the road where we encountered numerous check stops by the police and military as well as detours around areas filled with landmines from the civil war.

… I was not fully prepared for the extent of the damage and loss of life.

When we arrived on the east coast, we realised the full impact of the destruction caused by the tsunami. While I, like you, had seen many images on TV, I was not fully prepared for the extent of the damage and loss of life. Through the years, I have been in disaster areas and war zones but I have never seen anything like what I see here.

My heart broke as I listened to the stories of pain and loss. One young pastor saw his wife, daughter and mother swept away. Another pastor told how 56 people in his congregation were lost. (The Tsunami arrived on Sunday morning when many people were in church.)

As we traveled down the coast we saw village after village littered with the debris of homes that had been completely destroyed. The magnitude of this disaster is almost beyond imagination.

We visited one village on a causeway where the bridges at each end of the causeway are destroyed. The only way to reach this village of 2000-plus people is either by a small ferry or a very narrow temporary footbridge.

In the midst of this destruction many relief organizations are clearly beginning to make a difference. Among the Christian groups, the Sri Lankan Evangelical Alliance is doing a remarkable job of helping coordinate emergency relief efforts. They have already delivered 33 large truck loads of life-saving resources to the suffering. Each truck load assists about 1000 families. In addition, the Alliance is beginning to organize training seminars for pastors to help equip these leaders in counselling those traumatized by this disaster.

Along with the staff of the Alliance and various ministry organizations, hundreds of Christians are volunteering their time to help in this enormous effort. Clearly, the Church is seeking to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

In my conversation with the leaders of the Evangelical Alliance we discussed both short and long-term plans. As the need for emergency aid winds down in the next several weeks the need for long-term reconstruction and livelihood projects will need to be ramped up. The Alliance and its member churches and agencies are looking at building houses, providing water purification systems and job creation projects. This cooperative among Christian groups is so vital and honours the name of Christ.

Many of the leaders expressed their deep appreciation for the support and solidarity they have experienced from Christians around the world.

While there is much more I could say, I will ask you simply to continue to pray for all those devastated in Sri Lanka, Indonesia and other parts of the region. They really do need our prayers.

In addition, the financial needs are significant. Here in Sri Lanka, the Evangelical Alliance has received the voluntary assistance of the international accounting firm Deloite and Touche. They have established stringent controls for how the funds are to be used. This kind of transparency is to be deeply commended.

I count it a real privilege to be serving Christ in this place of great need.

A couple hours ago, I was able to do a live broadcast on 100 Huntley Street in Canada. In a few hours I will be doing an interview by phone with Lorna Dueck on Listen Up TV. Geoff Tunnicliffe

Geoff Tunnicliffe is the director of Global Initiatives with the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada.




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