Happenings

TRAC’s relief efforts in Sri Lanka

May 2005    

TRAC’s relief efforts in Sri Lanka

A TOTAL of six teams and 45 people apart from the first recce and relief team of five have ministered in the areas surrounding Kiran in the Batticalao district, Sri Lanka, from Jan 17 to Feb 25, 2005.

Besides providing more than 800 kg of medical supplies and 130 tents, the teams took part in doing medical relief work, children’s ministry work, trauma counselling and training as well as pitching several tents and helping to clear debris.

Team 1 visited the areas from Jan 17 to 23. Team 2 visited the areas from Jan 22 to 29 and provided medical relief to 475 patients. Team 3, which was there from Jan 30 to Feb 6, also attended to 475 patients.

Team 4 visited the areas from Feb 5 to 12, and treated 409 patients, while Team 5, which was there from Feb 12 to 19, attended to 503 patients. Team 6 brought cheer to another 400 patients from Feb 19 to 26, bringing the total number of patients ministered to 2,262.

The six teams also ministered to a total of 3,060 children during their respective stays in Kiran and the surrounding areas over a period of six weeks.

They provided trauma counselling to a total of 1,030 people. In addition, they trained 60 people to minister to their villagers in trauma counselling.

I felt God’s clear leading to go to Sri Lanka’

Dr Cheah Fung Fong, a member of the Trinity Annual Conference (TRAC) Crisis Relief Task Force team which went to Kiran, Sri Lanka, in January, reflects on her personal encounters and the team’s mission there.

WITH a lot of fear and trepidation, I had embarked on this trip to Sri Lanka to help provide relief to the people hit by the tsunami disaster last December.

The Lord had prepared my heart for this trip, yet when the call came to go, I struggled. I was not sure if I would be the best doctor to go, as I have been out of active practice for the last three years.

Visual scenes of collapsing people and women in labour flashed through my mind, and I felt inadequate to deal with situations like these.

Yet, I felt God’s clear leading and peace to go, knowing that all the years of medical training had not gone to waste and He would use what little I had to offer and multiply it to His Glory.

A multitude of sights and sounds greeted me as I stepped onto the land of Sri Lanka for the first time in my life:

◆ DUST that covered me from head to toe, blackening my face each time I took a ride along its streets;

◆ DIFFERENT SPICES wafting through the air – cinnamon, curry, ginger – an eclectic mix that greeted me along the streets, in the food I ate and in the coffee I drank;

◆ DESTRUCTION that met my eyes as I walked along the beach front – once grand hotels, now in ruins; houses that were homes, now reduced to rubble; uprooted trees tightly strapped with barbed and concertina wires, flooded areas, made worse by the monsoon rains – perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes;

◆ DESTITUTE VILLAGERS, lining up along the streets, angry and protesting that their meagre food rations had been stolen again and again by government officials;

◆ DEFICIENCIES – bodies lacking in vitamins, things that I have taken for granted in affluent Singapore, where such a variety of food is within easy reach. Night blindness, wounds that heal slowly, kwashiorkor;

◆ DISEASE – bodies racked with worms and parasites, children infested with scabies and mites, textbook  descriptions in real life, of conditions not commonly seen in Singapore;

◆ DESPAIR – written on the faces of the people. Where and who could they turn to for their continued livelihood? For their food? For the roofs over their heads? What does the future hold for them?;

◆ DREAD – Hidden, yet coming to light, especially on the last day of our trip during the false alarm of another tsunami hitting the area. The tears and cries of the children as they fled in terror of what they thought would be another killer wave.

I was reminded of the example of Esther in the Old Testament, and decided that I would trust Him and serve Him, for such a time as this. And indeed, God did just that. The cases that were seen were basic medical conditions that I was able to handle and, by His strength and enabling, many patients were attended to. I felt very awed by what God was doing through the team.

The team was involved in providing various services to the church and to the community of Kiran. And always, we saw God’s supply, resources and protection poured out on us.

• DEBRIS CLEARING: painstaking removal of the entangled barbed wires from uprooted tree trunks. All this was done with meagre and inadequate tools, yet God provided a bulldozer that appeared from nowhere to help move the bulky rubbish. The area contained mines and bombs that the waves had carried in from the nearby army camp, yet God protected the team from harm from these.

• MEDICAL SERVICES to villages and refugee camps: God gave a triple anointing for the team to meet the needs of some 500 people altogether. In some instances, this was triple the usual numbers seen.

• COUNSELLING TRAINING: guiding and teaching the local counsellors in grief and trauma counselling.

• CHILDREN’S MINISTRY: ministering to the children at refugee camps, at makeshift mobile clinics and even in the schools. God guided the team to prepare a three-session kit to help the children cope with the trauma of the tsunami: I Have Feelings, I Can Cope, I Have Hope.

When the scare of the false tsunami alert occurred, it prompted me to ask God what He wanted me to learn from it. If the waves really came, what would I do? Walk inland calmly? Climb a coconut tree (if I could – I’ve never tried that before)? Place my trust in God – He is Lord over the oceans and the waves and the floods?

The team had made a hasty exit, both from the village and also from the pastor’s manse. As I sat in the van that was quickly making its way back to Colombo, I felt such a strong burden to pray for Sri Lanka. I could leave this country and go back to my home and creature comforts, but the immense needs of the land lay heavy on my heart. I began to weep and pray for Sri Lanka.

It is always very exciting to walk where the Lord leads – there are always many stories to tell of His supply, provision and miracles.

I believe the angels came to help us locate James’ lost bag; a bulldozer came just when it was needed, a tractor appeared just when our van got stuck in the mud, bombs and mines were prevented from exploding, a tsunami scare proved to be a false alarm, protests did not turn into a riot. God was truly leading us by day and by night and His Hand and favour were certainly upon us! Praise Him!

I had been actively involved in medical missions before God blessed my husband and me with our three children. Now that they are older, there is opportunity to be involved again, and this trip is a recall to me of involvement in medical missions or perhaps other mission work again.

I am also actively involved in children’s ministry and having a first-hand encounter and experience on this trip has opened my eyes to the work that could be done by children’s workers, counsellors, social workers and even youth workers in the areas of missions and crisis relief work. It has given me new thoughts to the task ahead, both at local church and at TRAC levels.

I thank the Lord for this whole experience of being part of TRAC’s Crisis Relief Task Force team. It has been an exciting, adventurous, enjoyable, fun, enriching and awesome experience! I thank the Lord for having the opportunity to fly the flag of The Methodist Church of Singapore, but much more, of being able to be an ambassador of Christ to the people of Sri Lanka. To God be the Glory!

Dr Cheah Fung Fong, a member of Fairfield Methodist Church, is Director of Kids, Teens and Families at Yong-en Care Centre, a service unit of Fairfield Methodist Church.

GOD WAS LEADING US DAY AND NIGHT

‘I believe the angels came to help us locate James’ lost bag; a bulldozer came just when it was needed, a tractorappeared just when our van got stuck in the mud, bombs and mines were prevented from exploding, a tsunami scare proved to be a false alarm, protests did not turn into a riot. God was truly leading us by day and by night and His Hand and favour were certainly upon us!’

REACH OUT

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