Tuesday, May 24, 2005

You Notice These Get Longer Each Time...

We have seen a lot in the last few days and are feeling just a wee bit overwhelmed, but excited too by all the possibilities before us. We've gone to three refugee camps, each more heartbreaking than the last, visited two workshop employment programs, and spent as much time as possible at the Jeeva Jothy orphanage.

At the refugee camps in Batticaloa, it seems that among the victims there are three main types: those who only lost all their possessions and feel blessed to have their family members; those who lost a handful of relatives and are eager to get back to work to provide for the survivors; and those who lost all their family members and don't feel they have a reason to do anything with their lives. As hard as it was to listen to their stories and as difficult it was for them to relive them, we were touched by their hospitality and their gratitude for our presence with them.

We're very excited about the workshop employment programs. One of them, in the village of Kallar down the road from Batti, involves training tsunami victims in sewing, carpentry, masonry, plumbing/electric, all of which are skills that will be needed during the rebuilding. We looked into the possibility of foreign groups (us!) ordering items such as tablecloths and napkins, thereby not only providing employment but also strengthening their morale.

But most exciting for us is the contact with the orphanage and its director, Ilango. Picture Ghandi, Mother Teresa, and your favorite uncle, and you have Ilango. He has a lot of power in Batticaloa, but amazingly, he uses all of it to do good. The man opened his own home to 65 orphan girls, for goodness sake! The orphanage is on the highest ground in Batticaloa, and when the tsunami hit, all the townspeople ran to their area. The girls, who themselves come from war-torn homes, decided to give everything they had to help the new victims. The whole schema of the orphanage is to empower the girls by allowing them to be themselves and to work through their trauma in creative ways. Now they are reaching out to the refugees and are making a big difference in their lives. We clearly have a lot to learn from this guy and these girls!

Batticaloa would be paradise if it hadn't gone through a war and a tsunami ... but there was an crocodile lurking in the lagoon outside of our hotel.
Alex got attacked by a spider. He was very brave. Kiran just laughed, mostly because while jumping away and screaming, he broke his flip-flop.

We've taken a day off today (it's a holiday and we wouldn't have gotten anything done anyway). We went to Kandy, 4000 ft up in the mountains, and now we're in Nuwara Eliya, a town 7000 ft high, with eucalyptus trees, tea plantations, and lots of mountain mist. It's nice and cool. Finally.

Take care, we're thinking of you,

Alex and Kiran


At 7:15 AM, Blogger Papa said...

"Children, love must not be a matter of theory or talk; it must be true love which shows itself in action." (1 John 3:18)

So, the children of Ilango's orphanage, who, though they had so little, gave their all for others as unfortunate (in worldly terms) as themselves! These are the miracles that fortify faith in the face of adversity. Thank you for sharing these experiences. The people you're meeting have as much to offer us as we have to offer them -- if only we know their stories.

Since we are resource rich, and they are resource poor (again, only in worldly terms), what it seems we do in situations like these is only accelerate the healing process, NOT INITIATE IT (God is already there before we arrive), by giving out of our abundance:

"But if someone who possesses the good things of this world sees a fellow-Christian in need and withholds compassion from him, how can it be said that the love of God dwells in him?" (1 John 3:17, NEB; never mind the less inclusivistic language than you find in the NRSV, and for "fellow-Christian" perhaps the NRSV's more ambiguous "brother or sister" makes our caritas sound less religiously restrictive).

Though spiritually invigorating, these kinds of experiences can also be physically draining. Glad to know you've having a little R&R. The Highlands are splendid!

luv 2 luv u

At 11:15 AM, Blogger Sloane said...

spider bites suck. sorry about that, man.

At 4:06 PM, Blogger estevan said...

Kiran and Alex,

As always it was a joy to read your blog. I have never to Sri Lanka, but I find myself imagining being there as I read your illustrations. I am inspired by the girls of the orphanage reaching out and giving so much. I might have relate these girls to our youth group.
Alex, glad that you made it to 7000 feet. When I was Guatemala in summer of '01, I lived at 8,000 feet and I thoroughly enjoyed the cool temperatures.

At 5:41 PM, Blogger Aunt Alison said...

More about the 'gator, please...(maybe a Water Monitor? I remember my first sight of one of those in the lake at Kandy--do you, Kiran? It was startling, to say the least!)

We are blessed to share in your priviledge of experiencing first hand these stories of courage and generosity in the face of challenges, like the fishermen and these girls. How old are they? What is their level of literacy?
Yet there are also the stories of people overwhelmed by their circumstances, their loss. Do you think that the relating of their stories to you was a help or an added pain for them? Could it be that just finding out that there are people like you who have come to listen is somehow a source of healing for them? We hope and pray so, though we are all eager and ready to do whatever we can to offer more help than that. (Please tell them that for us!)
Beware of the wildlife, you two.

At 4:10 AM, Blogger Peg said...

Kiran and Alex,
I am very touched by what you have shared with us about the orphanage - triumph over tragedy! I forgot to ask you - the kids want to know if you blew bubbles for the kids in the orphanage. Let us know! Stay safe. We continue to pray for both of you and the people of Sri Lanka!
Keith, Peg, and Mere

At 5:24 PM, Blogger scott and clara welsh said...

So happy to hear that you are getting to know all of God's creatures better: Crocodiles, spiders and toilet sitting frogs.
Remind me to tell you the story of my mother who thought a live, mouth wide open alligator was a prop from the tourist center in Florida. She stood one foot away to take a picture of it. She went into the center and came back out, saw the alligator was gone, and fell on her knees almost passing out! Ok, I've now told you the story! Keep the journals coming-Scott, Clara, Jess and Matt

At 6:13 PM, Blogger Suzannedoerun said...

Hi Kiran and Alex,
It is great to hear from you! We are thinking of you and praying for you at Doe Run. We put the address of your blog in the bulletin on Sunday so everyone can keep in touch who has internet access. We look forward to seeing you again. Please let me know when you can visit us and tell us about your trip! It has been cool and wet here. Afleet Alex won the Preakness Stakes on Saturday. It was a very exciting race. He was trying to pass a horse named Scrappy T. on the outside when Scrappy T.'s jockey hit him on the left side with his bat(whip) and Scrappy T. veered right (to the outside) into the path of Afleet Alex. Alex stumbled and almost went to his knees and his jockey almost came out of the saddle but he recovered in about two strides, jumped to the inside of Scrappy T. and went on to win the Preakness. Afleet Alex is from Delaware Park which is not far from here so all of us locals were really happy. Some of the proceeds from his win go to Alex's lemonade stand which supports pediatric cancer research. I thought Alex would like to know that his name is being recognized in a national sporting event even though he has to share it with a horse.
Keep well! It sounds like you are having a wonderful trip!

At 5:36 AM, Blogger Sue & Oscar said...

Alex and Kiran,
How wonderful to hear of your experiences first hand. Sounds like it may be somewhat overwhelming - but not for you!! Glad you had some R&R in the cooler area of Sri Lanka. All is well at HBPC. Our womens service went well and attendance was good. We will count our blessings and pray for you and the people you meet. Fondly, Sue and Oscar

At 7:44 AM, Blogger gretchen said...

It sounds like an amazing adventure. You continue to be in my prayers.


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