By Meredith Brunson
Special to the Recorder
GALLE, SRI LANKA -- As I stood on the peaceful shore of the Indian Ocean, it was hard for me to imagine its waves bringing such devastation less than three years ago. More than 30,000 people lost their lives in Sri Lanka. Thousands more lost jobs and homes.
It has been amazing to see how God used the terrible disaster to open doors for the gospel in Sri Lanka. Since the tsunami, North Carolina volunteers have been among the most faithful in helping the people of Sri Lanka rebuild their lives.
I have had the opportunity to visit the country three times, spending 17 weeks building homes and establishing relationships with the people there. N.C. Baptist volunteers have completed about 60 homes for tsunami victims and have cleaned many wells.
Now there is only one problem. Churches are running out of room for all of the new believers! The churches are packed and people have to stand outside to listen because there are not enough seats inside. Not only are there hundreds of new believers in Sri Lanka, but revival has broken out and formerly silent church members are sharing their passion for Jesus with those around them.
This summer, I saw God at work in amazing ways in Sri Lanka – and why more work is needed.
One day as we traveled to the mountains with a local pastor and his family, we noticed a crowd of people on the side of the road. Loud songs and pounding drums filled the air. Both men and women were dressed in bright, elaborate clothes, and the children were running around laughing and playing.
In the midst of all of the commotion, we saw a man hanging about ten feet up in the air by large hooks, which went through the flesh in his legs and his back. His eyes were dark and piercing, like the needle that went through one of his cheeks and came out the other. I discovered later that I had witnessed the Chidi Mari, a Hindu festival in which men hang from hooks for several hours in hopes of attaining a “state of grace.”
The men may have believed they were possessed by demons, and were harming themselves as a way to atone for their sins.
My heart ached when I saw firsthand how those people would inflict so much pain upon themselves in order to please a god that doesn’t even exist.
Deep in the jungle, a precious little lady named Karunaveti lives in a small mud hut. Weighing no more than 70 pounds, she lies in her hot and stuffy bedroom all day long because she cannot walk.
For the past 10 months, Karunaveti has been battling a brutal case of cancer. The tumor on the side of her neck seems to overpower her frail body.
Karunaveti accepted Christ two months ago. Despite her sickness, she has a beautiful smile that shines through in her eyes. After praying with her, my friend Natalie and I decided to sing her a song. As I sat down on her metal bed and held her hand I was overcome with emotion. My voice was drowned out by my tears as I sang the final verse of the song, which says, “When I come to die, give me Jesus.”
As we sang these powerful words, Karunaveti, who was literally on her deathbed, had her hands lifted up, almost as if she was reaching for Jesus.
Not far from Karunaveti lives a man named Lionel. When we walked in his room for a visit, Lionel looked completely lifeless. He was lying in bed and looking up at the ceiling, unable to move his right arm or right leg. When we arrived, his wife helped him sit up and propped him up against the wall so he would not fall over.
Ranjan, a Sri Lankan pastor who was with us, began to tell them about Jesus and how he died for their sins. As he was talking to the couple, their eyes were completely glued on him. In their 60 years of life, neither Lionel nor his wife had ever heard the gospel. Ranjan asked them if they would like to become Christians and they said, "Yes!" Right then and there, we all prayed and both Lionel and his wife accepted Christ.
As we prayed, Ranjan also asked for God's physical healing on Lionel's arm and leg. After we finished praying I stood up and started to leave, but Ranjan said to Lionel, "Move your arm." At first he shook his head like he knew that it would be impossible, but Ranjan was persistent and continued to tell him to lift his arm.
Slowly, Lionel began to move his fingers and then, with what seemed to be all of his strength, he lifted his arm higher and higher and higher until it was all the way up to his shoulder!
Then Ranjan told Lionel to move his leg. Again moving slowly, he started with his toes, then bent his knee and moved his leg up and down. Before I knew it he was up on his feet and was walking outside. His once lifeless face was now covered with a big smile. Not only could he miraculously walk, but he was experiencing the joy of Jesus for the very first time!
I learned so much from these experiences. The Hindu festival showed me how so many people are completely lost and how desperately they need to know about Jesus.
Karunaveti taught me that even when in the shadow of death, we should still praise the One who promises us eternal life.
After witnessing the healing in Lionel’s body, I learned that God still does miracles, but it takes faith to see them.
Through a terrible tragedy – and the persistent, loving witness of N.C. Baptists and others – a tsunami of faith is washing across Sri Lanka.