The tsunami of Dec. 26 was one of the worst natural disasters of modern times. With more than 275,000 deaths, this moment in history will be etched forever in the minds of an entire generation. Not since Sept. 11, 2001, have people responded with such compassion and on such a vast scale.
As I sat in horror at the scenes of devastation pictured on television, I, like millions of others around the globe, felt compelled to do something to help the victims. But what can one person do against such a calamity?
For me, the answer to that question came when Crossroads Community Church in Lawrenceville reached out a hand of compassion to provide relief to those affected by the tsunami, primarily in the country of Sri Lanka off the southeastern tip of India.
Crossroads' teams are providing hands-on relief through mission groups that distribute relief supplies and help rebuild homes for those who lost everything.
In coordination with World Hope International, Crossroads is working with Community Hope Trust, a humanitarian relief organization in Sri Lanka, to rebuild or replace homes lost in the tsunami. On May 31, a six-member team left for Sri Lanka. The team consisted of group facilitator Norwood Davis, Dennis Myers, Steve Emert, Andy Hallen, Seth Howard and me. During our stay through June 11, we participated in the construction of six houses. We cleared sites for construction, painted, plumbed, installed doors and windows, and dug septic tanks.
The houses were located in and around Tangalla, a town on the southern coast of Sri Lanka. Even though the work was difficult in the high heat and humidity, it was rewarding.
The Sri Lankan people were kind and appreciative of our efforts and showered us with native fruits and hot tea. Each day we worked from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., mostly without electricity, running water or restroom conveniences. Had anyone been injured, it would have been a difficult and long trip to any medical facilities.
On June 9, our Crossroads team participated in a ceremony to hand over the homes to the families.
This was a special time for us as we were able to see the joy and the gratitude of those so tragically affected by the tsunami.
A fisherman, whose family members lost their boat, their home and their family restaurant, shared that our presence and willingness to work alongside his countrymen changed his mind about Americans and Christians. We were touched deeply by his comments.
The work of World Hope International and Community Hope Trust in Sri Lanka is productive. Work continues in Kalmunei, a village on the east coast of Sri Lanka where 17 homes are being built.
Community Hope Trust is also planning another project in Akurala on the southwestern coast of Sri Lanka of 60 homes, and they have initiated some "livelihood projects" of small grants to help people relaunch small businesses that were wiped away by the tsunami.
In total, Community Hope envisions helping some 150 to 200 families with homes or livelihood projects through their tsunami relief and restoration initiatives. Crossroads is making arrangements for future construction projects with Community Hope Trust.
The need is overwhelming and the complications of working internationally make relief efforts difficult, but seeing the difference it makes in the lives of these individual families makes all the effort worthwhile.
The Crossroads team and I thank the Community Foundation of North Georgia for its generous support of our tsunami relief efforts. The foundation's financial assistance enabled us to reach out to those in need.
Bruce Carter lives and practices dentistry in Lawrenceville. He participated in a Sri Lanka tsunami relief missions trip from May 31 to June 11.