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Published: January 3rd 2006
Boxing Day for me normally means eating left-overs from Christmas (especially ham), relaxing at the batch, looking over and over at the presents, spending time with family, soaking up the NZ sun, enjoying being on holiday, etc, etc.
Last year, Murray and I were at Eden Park watching the New Zealand Black Caps play the Sri Lankan Cricket team. After the game had finished news broke of the Tsunami that had hit part of Asia, including Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan cricket team aborted the series, and the daily news showed pictures of the devastation the wave had left. In the days that followed the news reported about missing persons and a creeping death toll, and then stories started flooding in about how people survived the elements. It was an emotional time for the world, as they came together to send money and aid to the affected regions.
At the time we had no idea that, one year later, God would call Murray and I to be in Sri Lanka working with the Tsunami relief team. Assisting people who have lost family members, friends, houses, possessions, photos, businesses/livelihoods…everything.
Here in Sri Lanka, on the anniversary of the Tsunami,
Boxing Day 2005, all of our experiences seemed to become more real as we remembered the Tsunami with the local people.
We went to a combined, bilingual memorial service at the Salvation Army. Where the Anglican, Catholic, Methodist and Salvation Army clergy came together. The church is situated behind the main street and at 9.23am we observed a minute of silence, the exact time the first wave hit Sri Lanka. It suddenly dawned on us . . . . this church would have been completely flooded, and one year ago if we were in the church, we would not have survived. What a sobering thought! The service continued, and we lit candles to represent the lost.
At night thousands of oil lamps were lit, along the fort walls and surrounding the cricket stadium. Each lamp remembering a soul that perished in Galle. The wind picked up, and people went desperately from lamp to lamp trying to keep them alight. Murray went back home to get lighters to assist. One man was bought to tears, saying how frustrated he was that he couldn’t get the lamp to light. He asked me, “Aren’t I allowed to remember the dead?” Dawn
and Roger’s children, and some Kiwi friends who were visiting, tried to help the man light his lamp. The girls were finding cardboard to light, while the boys were filling it with more oil, and sheltering it from the wind. It was very moving.
The memorials went late into the night, with the Buddhist monks continuing to pray over the loud speakers in the main street.
On the 28th of December we visited one of Murray’s housing reconstruction sites in Hambantota. One family there had lost two children during the Tsunami. On Christmas Eve they shifted into their new home, then on the day after Boxing Day a new baby girl was born into the family. The proud father brimming with happiness to be in his new house, and explained how they had given the new baby the same name as the one they had lost one year previously.
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