Tsunami Relief: Rehabilitation of Adventists

BY DOROTHY WATTS, associate secretary of the Southern Asia Division

Early in the morning on December 26, 2004, Koppati Boolokamma, who lived in the small village of Chinamainavanilanka on the coast of Andhra Pradesh, India, went to the seashore to purchase fish. After about a 30-minute wait, the fish arrived. She put her fish in a basket, which she placed on her head, and headed back to the village to sell them. But Boolokamma had taken only a few steps when a 15-foot wall of water rushed toward her. Hearing the sound, she looked back and tried to run. The load of fish was too heavy, however, and she couldn't run fast enough. The tsumani washed her away.

Boolokamma's body was found that evening, one kilometer from the village, along with the body of another Adventist woman who had also been purchasing fish that morning. Boolokamma leaves behind a husband, two daughters, two sons, and five grandchildren.

Sixty-four Adventist families who live in Chinamainavanilanka lost everything--all their material possessions. Two of the families lost a mother and wife as well.

"We could help replace belongings, but what is that when faced with the loss of a loved one?" says North Andhra Section president M. R. Satyavadi. "Yet, these families are so grateful for the comfort of their Adventist family and the courage they have been given to go on."

Thank-you letters written in Tamil, Oriya, and Telugu have been pouring in to the Southern Asia Division (SUD) office, expressing gratitude for the help the Adventist Church has given them.

"I want to thank my church and my God for the help I got to repair my house," wrote A. Anbunathan, of Subrayapuram, in the Tanjore-Karaikal section of Tamil Nadu, India.

"I was able to make a new thatch roof and purchase cooking utensils and other household items washed away when the waves came."

Anbunathan lost everything she owned when the tsunami hit the community where she lives, along the east coast of India. She is one of more than 7,000 Adventist members, representing 1,015 families, who have received aid from funds donated by hundreds of Adventist members and churches around the world.

Because of the many donations for tsunami relief received at the division, more than 140 houses and three shops owned by church members have been repaired or rebuilt; 40 fiberglass boats with nets and 50 smaller boats have been purchased and given to fishermen who lost their means of livelihood; nearly 700 families whose crops were destroyed have been financially compensated; and a large number of goats, cows, and sewing machines have been given to members to help them begin again to support their families.

About 650 children in Adventist schools were also affected by the tsunami, losing not only their ability to pay fees because their parents could no longer earn money but also their books and other school supplies. SUD has been able to provide these children with books and notebooks and to care for their education fees while helping to rehabilitate their families. At least 40 orphans have been taken into Adventist boarding schools in the aftermath of the disaster. They are being supported through funding from CHER Canada, an Adventist organization headquartered in Oshawa, Ontario, that provides food, basic medical care, and Christian education for children in developing countries, and Asian Aid International, operated and sponsored by Adventist laypeople and headquartered in Australia. Initial help for clothing and food was provided by SUD's tsunami fund.

The division also furnished hundreds of meals, as well as provisions of rice, lentils, cooking oil, and other staples for those hardest hit by the tsunami. Churches that were destroyed in Port Blair, the Andaman Islands, and Subrayapuram, in Tamil Nadu, are being rebuilt. The church in Karaikal has been repaired and new furniture built to replace what was washed away. Classroom repairs in various Adventist schools are also underway.

"When the tsunami hit these islands I was so worried," wrote M. M. Samson, a pastor in the Andaman Islands. "I appealed to our division leaders for help for our members. Help came, and our believers were able to repair their shops and houses and to replace their household articles and clothing. . . . Also, we are able to rebuild our church. We are so thankful for the kind heart of our brothers and sisters who came to our aid." Samson was only one of many pastors and church members who wrote letters to the division expressing appreciation for the help received to rebuild homes and reestablish businesses and other means of livlihood.

"Great care was taken in the distribution of all funds and materials," says SUD's undertreasurer, G. S. Robert Clive, who was present for the distribution of funds and materials to members on the Andaman Islands. "It was required that all distribution be made in the presence of the local church officials, as well as a representative from either the local union or the division office. Every signature was witnessed by at least three officials in every field."

"We cannot find words to express our gratitude for the great outpouring of love and support that came for our Adventist members," says Ron Watts, SUD president. "All needs have not been fully met as yet, but we have tried to give some help to all. We express our special thanks to Adventist Television Network for their appeal, as well as to the General Conference Special Relief Fund, which provided funds in addition to individual donations from hundreds of members, churches, conferences, and world divisions."

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