After being home for nearly two weeks, I’ve had
time to reflect a bit on what happened in
There were a number of satisfying moments. The guys who came with me really deserve the lion’s share of kudos for a job well-done. Danny Blaze, Bob Hazlett, and Dan Lee worked hard at every opportunity to serve and give of themselves to the Sri Lankans they encountered. It was a blessing to work with brothers of such high caliber.
We had opportunities to work in a facility set
up by an alliance of churches in
Later, we went to a coastal village where over 60 homes had been destroyed, and over 500 people were homeless. With supplies from some local Christian ministries, our “Band of Brothers” set to work erecting small temporary shelters over the ruins of people’s homes so they could have a bit of shelter and privacy. It was, as you can surmise from the video on the website, hot, sweaty work. However, the payback was seeing the faces of some of these families as they received these shelters. It was very humble shelter, but better than the tarps and tents they were living in.
Thank God for the Christians we hooked up with
The word got around that we were Christian ministers, and we quickly realized that we were perhaps preaching the most effective sermons of our lives with our saws and hammers. The village we worked in was almost entirely Buddhist, and there had been much tension in this region in years past between the Christians and Buddhists. We were delighted to be told that our presence and love for these people had left such a positive impression! Only heaven will reveal the long-term effectiveness of the seeds we sowed in their hearts.
I exhorted our team one morning over breakfast that what we were building in the hearts of these people would far outlast any temporary natural shelter we built for them. We sought to submit to the authority of the Sri Lankan men in that village, pacing our work to their leadership. It paid off, in that we developed a great relationship with many of them before the week was over.
We visited a school in the community and gave
out cards and letters from the students at
Thank you so much for making it
possible for me to go and help in
Please view the streaming video on the Torchgrab website. It will tell you in a pretty comprehensive way what we did on your behalf. I hope I did you proud! Also, please refer our emails and website to your friends and family. We’re trying to broaden our support base and make it possible for even more responses in the future!
I’m finally surfacing after an unusually difficult “reentry.” Ask almost anyone who has gone out on one of these rescue and relief operations and you will hear the same thing. Coming home and reentering back into “normal” life is often a bittersweet experience. It’s more than jetlag caused by an inverted sleep-wake daily cycle. It is more about long sleepless nights fighting off images of pain and suffering. The faces of desperate, destitute men, women, and children haunt you, along with visions of seemingly endless destruction.
Then, there are the guilt attacks. Yes, guilt. It is the realization that you are back living in relative opulence, security, and comfort, while hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom you met, are living in squalor, huddling under tents and tarps with their children on the ground being eaten by mosquitoes all night. Every time you sit down to a meal of clean, nutritious food, or safe drinking water, or use sanitary toilet facilities, your thoughts go back to the thousands of people who have no such blessing.
I battle feelings of never having done enough. When you work in the midst of seemingly endless need, it is easy to think that what you’re doing is nearly useless. I know that must seem ridiculous to most people, but you’d have to be there to understand.
I know, I know. . . Such thinking isn’t “healthy.” I realize at a core level that my Father in heaven just requires profound gratitude from me for His many blessings. . . And I certainly am grateful! Yet, I’m still haunted. It’s downright depressing at times, and I feel a bit isolated. Friends and family will innocently ask me, “How was your trip?” as if I just returned from a vacation or something. As I begin to tell them what I saw, heard, and smelled, I observe some people glancing at their watch, shifting uneasily, and getting that glazed-over look in their eyes. It just doesn’t relate to their daily life and experience.
I understand. Really, I do. The tsunami disaster was so huge, so off-scale to anything that has happened in recent history, we simply couldn’t get our minds around it! When I saw with my own eyes the extent of the devastation . . . The miles and miles of destroyed homes, businesses, boats, and communities, I went numb. It was simply overwhelming! I wanted to run away. I wanted to escape somewhere and hide. It was hard to imagine where to even begin to help these people!
What keeps me going is something my daughter
As I write this, I wonder what the next disaster will be. Will it be man-made, or natural? How many people will be hurting? Will there be children involved? How many will respond?
I’m convinced that God is raising up a
generation of responders. Lately, I’ve met and talked with many believers who
are itching to be used in emergencies. For myself, in spite of the battles with
guilt, inadequacy, and revulsion inevitably experienced in natural disasters and
acts of terrorism and war, there is simply no more satisfying and fulfilling
ministry available. Jesus is out on the front lines . . . out where the cries of
the vanquished and oppressed can be heard, out where the bleeding wounds demand
a healing compassionate responder.
It has been a push. Our team arrived at our hotel near the worksite and was amazed to discover that it was the very same hotel made famous by videos of tsunami waves blasting through the lower level. It was a scene broadcast worldwide over and over, and now we find ourselves in the very place. In the place of broken glass, deck chairs, and a pool full of sand and mud, the hotel has made extensive repairs in only six weeks. Except for the boarded up lower floor, you’d never know anything happened.
This oasis of order is, however, an anomaly. All around the hotel compound for many, many miles in either direction along the coast, there is nearly continuous destruction. Buildings gutted, with only a wall or two left standing, ruined personal belongings of every description strewn all over the place, even up high in the coconut trees meet the eye nearly everywhere. The staggering damage to the infrastructure is nothing compared to the mind-boggling loss of human life. As we drove along the coast to Koggala, our driver would point to area after area and say, “2,000 die here,” or a bit later, “3,500 die here.” Village after village… Each one representing the equivalence of our 9/11 death toll or greater. Having served at ground zero in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, I can tell you that this made a huge impression on this responder.
Our little team, which I have dubbed “The Fellowship of the King,” is
helping to build temporary shelters down on a nearby beach among the ruins of
over 60 homes. The Lord moved upon the hearts of Pastor Dan Lee and Daniel Blaze
We are digging out
holes for foundations in the sand, doing simple carpentry, and erecting the
temporary shelters with building materials supplied by local Christians in
LOVED BY THE PEOPLE
It’s such a contrast when you walk out on the beach away from the rubble and garbage. The sand is nearly pristine, and incredibly beautiful. It’s difficult to believe that the now-tranquil blue-green ocean could rise up with such mindless fury and destroy so much. This place could be paradise if there was only more prosperity for the common folk.
The children in the camp really grab your heart. They are so cute, and they cling to their parents. You can see the trauma in their eyes. Tomorrow we will begin to distribute vitamins to the families to give to the children. Some of the kids still look frightened.
Standing there with my mouth open in mid sentence, the tears began to roll down my cheeks. She had been lying awake thinking about how she could respond too, just like her daddy. She wanted to help somehow, and in her mind, the thought that little children lost their toys and dollies was just about the worst thing that could happen. Slowly dropping down on a knee, I called her to me and hugged her, weeping. Out of the mouth of babes. . . She was carrying her favorite doll, and she held it up to me. “Can you take my dollie with you and give it to a little girl who lost hers? It was her treasure. . . her most beloved doll, and certainly the widow’s mite. Choking back tears, I took it from her little hands and said I’d be happy to. We both packed it tenderly into my bags filled with relief supplies. Satisfied, she gave me a kiss and went back to bed. Sitting on the floor for a long time, I wept and looked upon the treasure in the bag. It was the most valuable thing I would carry. Later, I delivered this precious cargo to a little Fillipino girl in Suragao.
Now, my eight-year-old adopted girl from
All this week we’re working on these houses. It’s dirty, hot work, but the guys are cheerfully serving with all their hearts. I was reminded of Jesus’ words today as I was digging a hole with my coconut shell. “Inasmuch as you have done it unto the least of these, my brethren, you have done it unto me.” That’s our theme. Our Fellowship of the King is here on-scene, thanks to many who helped us come. The holes we dig are your holes. The little houses we build are YOUR gift to these broken people. Thank you for allowing us to be your hands extended!
I shared with the team over breakfast yesterday something I felt the Lord saying to my heart. We were not just building temporary shelters that will last only a few years and fall down. No, we are building a sacred place in the hearts of the people we are helping by showing them the love of Christ. That sacred place of shelter in their hearts may one day grow into a temple of the Holy Spirit. Francis of Assisi once said, “Preach at all times. When necessary, use words.” We are sharing with words when we can, but the major and enduring message they will remember long after we return home, is that four American men of God came among them for a short season and laid down their lives for no reason other than the love of Jesus.
TREADING UPON SERPENTS
I don’t know if
I’ll be able to send another report since our internet connection here is very
slow and difficult. In any case I’ll be posting many pictures to the website
with follow-up stories after we return to the States on the
I don’t know if I’ll be able to send another report since our internet connection here is very slow and difficult. In any case I’ll be posting many pictures to the website with follow-up stories after we return to the States on the 22nd.
Thanks again for your continued support! I’m within a few thousand dollars of the break-even point on expenses, and I can’t express enough thanks for those who have stood with me on this vital effort.
What do you say to someone who had a young child torn from their arms in a desperate life and death struggle against raging tsunami waves? Allow me to give you the short answer. You say very little. You just lower your eyes, allow the tears to come, and weep with those who weep.
Imagine if every other person you meet had some
variation of this story as a daily, waking nightmare. Then, multiply that by
hundreds of thousands of grief-stricken, traumatized people who now wander among
ruins of their homes, sheltering with their surviving family members in small
tents and refugee camps. If you can imagine this, then you can embrace an image
of the post-tsunami coastal areas of
I and the team who came with me drove down the
west and southern coast of
We are going to be incredibly busy for the next few days. Everything is hard over here. The traffic is horrendous, the noise and blaring horns a constant din, with the smoke and dust. When able I will try to update you and send back pictures of what we are doing. Your support and prayers for us here is so deeply appreciated! It was a step of faith to do this, but after seeing the scale of the suffering here, it was the right thing to do.
Dr. Bruce Porter