“Welcome to our Paradise Island!” These words greeted me at the Colombo, Sri Lanka airport this past February, reflecting the growing optimism of the Sri Lankan people.
Ten years had passed since the end of the Sri Lankan Civil War, and its war-weary people looked forward to what they considered a bright future. People I met talked excitedly about burgeoning tourism, growing foreign investment, and rising property values.
My first stop was Negombo. My host Ashal* told me that Sri Lanka’s problems were behind it, its factions lived together in peace, and the government now fairly represented its diverse people. While showing me the sights, Ashal proudly took me to a historic Catholic church where he worshiped. The following day, in northern Sri Lanka, our partner Pastor Suhas* solemnly recalled the last days of the war, when his church buried 16 of its members in a single grave in one day.
But, that was 10 years ago. Thankfully those days were past!
Less than two months after my visit, on Easter Sunday, over 100 people died from a terrorist bombing at a Catholic church in Negombo. My friend Ashal was spared, but profoundly shaken by the tragedy. The same day, a church in Batticaloa, where one of Suhas’s friends is pastor, lost 28 people and saw over 100 injured in another bombing, including many children. A few days later, six terrorists were arrested in Pastor Suhas’s small town.
The optimism I witnessed when I first arrived in Sri Lanka evaporated.
It is natural to ask where Christ is in this. In the midst of tragedy, Christians are not only victims but also members of Christ’s Body, through whom Jesus is present to comfort and heal. Pastor Suhas learned this during the 26-year Civil War.
During those difficult years, Suhas remained at the very epicenter of the war, introducing thousands of people from both sides of the conflict to Christ and launching 125 pastors into successful ministries. Refined in the crucible of war, Suhas and his team have been spiritually and emotionally equipped to serve people in the current crisis.
Many organizations, both Christian and otherwise, have helped victims of the Easter bombings. The Sri Lankan government is financially helping families of the 253 people who died. Some Christian organizations have given generously for the repair of church buildings.
With your support, Harvest Bridge helped a group that has been more overlooked – seriously-wounded men, women and children, and their families. Thankfully, we were able to provide this help in a deeply personal way.
Suhas and his team, which includes Christian counselors with experience helping people recover from the trauma of the Civil War, personally visited the wounded and their families. They mourned alongside those who mourned, comforted them, and prayed with them, as well as providing a financial gift from your hands.
I thank God for all who responded to God’s Spirit to help the Sri Lankans in need.
Paul writes that the Body of Christ has many parts serving different functions, without which the Body would be incomplete.
Like other members of Christ’s Body, Harvest Bridge has played a unique role in this crisis and many others. We are comparatively small and nimble, so we are able to serve where needed, meeting needs unmet by other organizations. In addition, our partnerships with local ministries make it possible to provide not just material help, but caring people who can serve as Christ’s hands and feet.
May the fellowship of Christ be with you, both in times of blessing and times of trouble!
Timothy M., President
*Names changed for security