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On December 26, while traveling across the Czech Republic into Frankfurt, Germany, we learned about the earthquake and tsunami.  For the next 6 days, we were in the "Russian news vacuum".  When we arrived in Moscow, the first thing we did was find English speaking news channels.  We watched for 2 days, soaking in all the information we could. 

At one point, Donna and I sat in amazement as either BBC or CNN showed a Sri Lankan man telling about the orphanage he built for the children who lost their parents in the civil war.  It wasn't just that his story was so powerful, telling of how he gathered the orphans into a tiny boat to face down the tsunami, but the passion he spoke with, as he told of his faith, was undeniable. 

Over the next two weeks, the man was on our hearts...you know, orphans and all.  When we returned home, we talked to Stephanie about the story.  She had seen the man's sister telling his story.  Now, the chase was on, we had to find him.  An internet search was easy enough; there was Pastor Dayalan Sanders and his incredible testimony.  The interviewer spoke of a Janice Townshend who called Focus on the Family to pray for her friends missing brother.  FOTH called Pastor Sanders' cell phone and he answered, an amazing testimony of hope and trust in God can forth.

Note: Janice Townshend just "happens" to be a friend of ours who had moved to another state.  AND, she is Stephanie's daughter-in-law's aunt...small world when God wants His story out!  We were in touch with Janice and she gave us all the contact numbers we needed.

In the mean time, we were trying to decide where to invest the Beslan funds we could not hand out in Moscow.  Dr. Joe Finley, TOTH's doctor of record, was also looking for a way to help.  But, money was not his first choice, he wanted to go.  He found a group from Texas, YWAM, making a First Response trip to Sri Lanka, on January 24 - February 9...he signed up.

As we visited with him on Sunday morning, he was teasing me about my mugging experience in St. Petersburg, "Don't get in any trouble while I am gone. Or go with me!"  Donna said, "Can he go?"  "Why not?" We knew immediately, yes...I had to go. 

We stepped out in faith. Having just returned from Russia, money was, well...non-existent.  It never is, at a time like this. But, as usual, when God calls you to a work, He has the finances to make it happen. Today, most of the money has come in, some from sources who know me, and some from sources who never heard my name.  God is always faithful to provide when we are willing.

Linda Finley, Dr. Joe's wife, who is an R.N., has joined our tiny group.

We stand in awe, watching as God works. 3 weeks ago, this was news from the other side of the world. January 26, we will be there. Ain't that something?

Monday, January 31, 2005, the team will meet Pastor Sanders in Batticaloa, Sri Lanka.  Howard will be looking at the immediate needs, rebuilding plan, and housing availability for a possible future team.  We are hoping to partner with Northpointe Community Church in Fresno, CA.  They are anxiously awaiting the opportunity to travel to Batticaloa to help rebuild.

We asked him what he needed to help him with his ministry.  A digital camera would help him get the word out to the world since everyone is asking for photos.  He needed a laptop computer since his computers were lost.  Due to our faithful partners, we were able to send both with Howard.  These two pieces of equipment will help further the Kingdom.
 

Click map to enlarge map
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The Washington Post ran the story 
December 30, 2004
By John Lancaster

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They did arrive in Sri Lanka on January 26.  The following are the update emails of the mission.

January 25, 2005
Dateline: Colombo, Sri Lanka

Howard, Dr Joe, and Linda have arrived in Sri Lanka!  They had a wonderful trip.   The planes were empty giving each several seats, what a blessing.  Dr Joe said he was a little numb, Howard slept most of the way, and Linda is higher than a kite…she is so excited.

They have linked up with the other 17 team members and are having a wonderful time getting to know each other.

Howard met another Texan in a store at the airport.  They were sharing what each one was doing in Sri Lanka.  When Howard told the man he was going to meet with the pastor who had the orphanage, he said, “The one in the boat, who spoke such good English and whose mother and sister live in America?”  Pastor Sanders is world known for his testimony, how humbling it must be to have the world know who you are because you believed God’s words.

I know I don’t have to remind you to pray for their safety, health, and each one’s ministry…


January 26, 2005
Dateline: Ambalangoda, Sri Lanka

Just talked to Howard, the connection was not good, he will try later.

They are pumping the salt water and dirt out of a well at a huge Buddhist temple.  Isn’t that just like God, sending His people halfway around the world to reach monks.  Pray for their witness.

It is very hot, even at 10:30 in the morning.  Conditions are very poor, but the food is OK.  Remember, Howard just got back from Russia, so we cannot trust his taste buds.  Linda will be a better judge!

The locals have been so appreciative of their help.  They are waving and coming up to them to thank them.

Sorry, not much info, but we only had a two minute talk.


January 26, 2005
Dateline: Ambalangoda, Sri Lanka

Howard was able to get through, again.

It took them 4 hours to travel the 75 miles from Colombo to Ambalangoda.  The traffic and the roads made for slow driving.

Dr Joe and Linda are doing medical clinics in the refugee camps.  YWAM has several teams in country and one is rotating out tomorrow.

The “resort” has hit and miss air conditioning, it missed Howard but he was not sure if Dr Joe and Linda have air.  The beds are plywood with a 2 inch mattress.  Like most of Europe their stars mean something different than ours, resort must also have other meanings.

The plan is Howard will make contact with Pastor Dayalan Sanders today.  Then, the three of them will travel to Batticaloa on the eastern coast to visit where the pastor and see the orphanage.  Treasures of the Heart took him a digital camera and a laptop to help him communicate with the world.  His witness has gone around the world and people want updates.  We are seeking God about taking a team into Batticaloa to help rebuild the orphanage.

They are doing great and are feeling very needed!


January 28, 2005
Dateline: Ambalangoda, Sri Lanka

The team is doing great!  The most used words are gratifying, but frustrating, and HOT. 

Dr Joe said he is not allowed to treat chronic health needs, only acute.   They saw about 120 patients today, everything from rashes to a woman with what he feels has a lung tumor.  He and Linda have been working in refugee camps, 3 buildings about 100 ft long with no outside walls to help with ventilation.  The camps are very clean and orderly.  Their patients are infants to the elderly. 

They are not allowed to “preach” to the patients, but if asked they can then answer.  Dr Joe said he is “working” on his translator’s soul.  He felt like some of the people came through just to have the physical contact, to be touched, listened to, and talked to.  He has learned a few phrases, “God bless you” and “thank you”.  They are allowed to do grief counseling; one old man followed them to the vehicle and said he had no tears left.  Tomorrow they travel to a village where they will have no building or tent, therefore they do not know what to expect.  Dr Joe’s body is holding up great, just so hot.  He said if the temperature would go down 15 degrees, it would be perfect.

Linda said the locals are all so grateful and the biggest hit is the stickers.  The kids want them stuck to their foreheads, lots of smiles.  She is having a wonderful time and she the ocean view from their room is beautiful.

Howard said an AG pastor from Sri Lanka has coordinated all their work.  The testimonies of the pastors they have visited with are amazing, too long for a phone call.  He said these “lighthouses” cannot be allowed to go out.

They cleaned 20 wells as of today.  The locals cannot believe the Christians have come to do this service AND for free.  They pump the wells dry, lower a local into the well and he hands the debris out to them, and chlorine is added.  After the well fills the water will need to be boiled for a week. 

They all said this is truly paradise in shambles, the ocean is beautiful, and banana trees everywhere.  I forgot to ask Howard if Cokes are available, that is the measure of paradise to him!

Remember, to pray for their journey to Batticaloa on Monday.


January 29, 2005
Dateline: Ambalangoda, Sri Lanka

The team is leaving for church this morning.  They are attending a small church where the entire congregation only has 2 bibles.  Treasures of the Heart is going to purchase 100 bibles for the church because we believe their numbers are going to grow.  Souls are being saved due to the medical clinic AND the well cleaning.  He said the pastor of this tiny church has a “giant killer” testimony.  They are seeing fruits of their labor by winning souls.

Yesterday was a long day for Dr Joe and Linda as they ministered in the small village.  They spent another day of seeing people whose real need is not medical but emotional.  The desire to be listened to and touched is overwhelming.  The children were given colors and paper to play with while they waited their turn.  The drawings were unbelievable as they drew what they experienced during the tsunami. 

Pastor Sanders’ brother-in-law just called Stephanie to say they need to reschedule the trip to visit him to Tuesday.  Ten of the children are back with the Sanders, while the other 18 are being housed with family members.  But they need to be back to the security of their “family”.  I am sorry we are getting details slowly, but we are used to that from our years in Russia.  We know to be patient and the answers will come in God’s timing.

The remainder of the day will be spent resting for the week to come.
 


February 1, 2005
Dateline: Batticatoa, Sri Lanka

The tiny team had a magical meeting with Pastor Dayalan Sanders today.  Of course, one of the highlights was he took them for a ride in the boat that made history.  What more can you say?

Pastor Dayalan told them how much it meant to him that they traveled from Texas to see him.  He said it uplifted his spirit, which is what we were praying would happen.  Other than news media, I understood Treasures was the first visitors from the outside world.  What an honor for us, again, we are humbled by God's favor.

It will be a process in rebuilding, some of the building will need to be repaired while most are just gone.  Engineers and planning will take time.  We will be working from this end, for now, to help anyway we can.  We were able to provide school supplies and uniforms for the 10 children who have been placed in homes of church members.  Their desire is to get all the kids home. 

Howard will have details of all the talks as soon as he has internet, unfortunately may not be until they return home.  The internet cafe's have been little help with sending email.  The electricity goes off several times a day.  Thank God for the TOTH European cell phone, it has made this mission bearable for us at home.  Europe is so far ahead of the USA in cell phone technology with simm cards.  As we travel from country to country, we purchase a simm card or small computer chip for the region we are visiting.  We never are on roaming because we have phone service from that country.  It has been invaluable in taking teams into other countries.  Hope that explains how we are able to keep communications up to date.

The trip from Ambalangoda to Batticatoa is only 200 miles but it took 10 hours!  At times, the rode goes to gravel then to dirt.  But the holes in the rode makes it interesting and keeps them awake.  The scenery has been beautiful and this morning they saw a wild elephant. 

Tomorrow will be a work day for them, Thursday is a national holiday, and Friday they go to an elephant preserve...so, as Howard said, they are almost home.  Now I can understand how our kids feel when we are gone for a month, because it has only been one week, but seems like a month.  Just know, they are loving every minute  Howard called last night while he was standing outside a little store where Linda was trying to purchase a dress.  Women can shop anywhere!

Pray for them as they continue the long drive back.

Donna and Stephanie (keeping the home fires burning for our tiny team)


February 2, 2005
Dateline: Ambalangoda, Sri Lanka

The team made it back to Ambalangoda safe and sound.

Today, they saw 190 patients in the clinic.  There are 5 doctors and 3 nurses working this week.  Howard said they are running the clinic like a well oil machine.  The nurses triage, while each doctor has their on translator.

Howard spoke with Pastor Sanders today and he invited Treasures of the Heart to return for an extended stay!  Howard, Dr Joe, and Linda have been so touched by the dedication of the Sri Lankan Christians living in a stronghold of Buddhism, I for one cannot wait to go. 

Tomorrow is another work day, doctoring and welling, Thursday is a holiday, and Friday is the elephant preserve.
 


February 1, 2005
Dateline: Batticatoa, Sri Lanka
 

The tiny team had a magical meeting with Pastor Dayalan Sanders today.  Of course, one of the highlights was he took them for a ride in the boat that made history.  What more can you say?

Pastor Dayalan told them how much it meant to him that they traveled from Texas to see him.  He said it uplifted his spirit, which is what we were praying would happen.  Other than news media, I understood Treasures was the first visitors from the outside world.  What an honor for us, again, we are humbled by God's favor.

 

It will be a process in rebuilding, some of the building will need to be repaired while most are just gone.  Engineers and planning will take time.  We will be working from this end, for now, to help anyway we can.  We were able to provide school supplies and uniforms for the 10 children who have been placed in homes of church members.  Their desire is to get all the kids home. 

 

Howard will have details of all the talks as soon as he has internet, unfortunately may not be until they return home.  The internet cafe's have been little help with sending email.  The electricity goes off several times a day.  Thank God for the TOTH European cell phone, it has made this mission bearable for us at home.  Europe is so far ahead of the USA in cell phone technology with simm cards.  As we travel from country to country, we purchase a simm card or small computer chip for the region we are visiting.  We never are on roaming because we have phone service from that country.  It has been invaluable in taking teams into other countries.  Hope that explains how we are able to keep communications up to date.

 

The trip from Ambalangoda to Batticatoa is only 200 miles but it took 10 hours!  At times, the rode goes to gravel then to dirt.  But the holes in the rode makes it interesting and keeps them awake.  The scenery has been beautiful and this morning they saw a wild elephant. 

 

This week has been a continuation of medical clinics and well cleaning. 

 

Howard and Dr Joe have gone to the shop to “trick out” the three wheeled taxis, bajajs or auto-rickshaws, they purchased for the church.  They will use it to bring people to church, carry supplies, and they will rent it to a church member who will use it to make a living.  This is a photo of what it looks like http://treasuresoftheheart.org/tuktuk.jpg  Howard said it was a full load with the pastor, Dr Joe and him in the bjaja.

 

At the beginning of their mission, the monks accused them of messing with the people’s minds.  But, today they came over to visit and look at photos.  I am sure Dr Joe and Howard’s personalities confound these monks.  Just pray God will open doors for them to witness to the monks before they leave, but in reality they have already been a witness or they would not be drawn to them.  The predominantly Buddhist community is now turning to the churches for help and comfort in this time of need.  They said the villagers are coming to the pastor calling him, Father.  The fields are ripe for harvest…continue to pray for the salvation of these people. 

 

As in Russia, we help our young Russian Christians to witness to their own people.  Their impact is far more profound than ours and we only visit for a short time.  By helping these small churches survive we are keeping the light burning in the lighthouse.  Dr Joe will be preaching this morning at the AG church in Ambalangoda.  The pastor’s son-in-law has invited them to dine with their family.  He said they will be having hoppers…Howard said he would have his without the legs!  

   

Donna and Stephanie (keeping the home fires burning for our tiny team)

 


February 5, 2005
Dateline: Ambalangoda, Sri Lanka

They survived the trip to see the elephants…a 12 hour round trip van ride!  We did not tell them the Houston Zoo have elephants.  They had a good time, fed the babies, rode the big ones, and watched them travel through town to bathe in the river.  On the way back, they had heard rumors of a Pizza Hut, like pioneers, they found it.

The reminder of the week was spent at the medical clinics and well cleaning.  Yesterday, a mom had her children bring the well cleaners ice, cold cokes to thank them for cleaning her well.  So precious, teaching her children to be grateful.  They have said these are the most gracious people our teams have ever helped.  As they ride down the street, people stick their hands through the windows of the van to touch our people and thank them for coming.  Tomorrow they travel to an orphanage (Howard cannot pass up and orphanage, he is leaving his well cleaning team to go with Dr Joe and Linda) for a medical clinic.

They are off to church, where they have a guest speaker…Dr Joe Finley, will be preaching this morning!  Tonight the pastor’s son-in-law has invited them to their home for hoppers.  They are a little concerned as to what hoppers are.  But, we put their minds to rest; hoppers are a stuffed, crepe like pancake.  Now, what it is stuffed with, I do not know. 

Howard told me today he has over 2000 images from the trip.  We will upload them onto the internet so each of you can live the trip with them.

Four days and counting!