Recipients of Tsunami Assistance Show Their Gratitude

Post a Comment » Written on February 6th, 2007     
Filed under: News
By Stan Friedman

SANTHINAGAR, INDIA (February 6, 2007) – Hundreds of residents lined several blocks of the small town to give two leaders of the Evangelical Covenant Church a hero’s welcome. As the two passed, the crowd fell in line behind them during a parade in their honor.

Welcome sign“We were so covered in flowers,” recalls Jim Sundholm, director of Covenant World Relief (CWR). “It was like a wedding where they throw rice on you, except it goes on for blocks and blocks.”

“They were throwing leis and flowers, and there were marching bands and fireworks,” says Elliott Johnson, the Covenant director of finance and controller. Townspeople also placed turbans on the heads of Sundholm and Johnson as a sign of honor.

The festivities were in response to donations Covenanters had given in the wake of the December 2004 tsunami. “I can’t say enough about the gratitude,” Johnson says, still incredulous. “It’s embarrassing.”

Many of the residents thought the 2004 tsunami had destroyed their world, but the Covenant has pumped tens of thousands of dollars into the community to help the people experience new life.

During dedication ceremonies in the town’s center to celebrate newly constructed homes and other development work, 15 mothers shared what a difference Covenanters had made in their lives. “You felt so unworthy of it, and it’s true,” Sundholm says.

Dancing“I told the people repeatedly wherever we went that we were just the couriers,” Sundholm says. “It is people who ran Kool-Aid stands, elderly people on fixed incomes, and other persons across the country who should be thanked.” He recalled the story of a seven-year-old boy whose dream led him to raise more than $700 in a bake sale to help victims of the storm.

Explaining why Covenanters were so willing to help, the pair told the people of India and Sri Lanka that “there are people who believe that if one suffers, we all suffer; if one rejoices, we all rejoice,” Sundholm says.

Others who rejoiced and expressed their gratitude to the pair were students at a school in Pune, India, that is working to help children escape living on the town’s slum streets. The Hindustani Covenant Church operates the school, to which the CWR has begun to give assistance. The children greeted them with a special dance (accompanying photo).

One of the girls – only 11 years old – told Sundholm, “You saved my life.” What she doesn’t know, he adds, is that “there are so many people who have given so much. I’m just the face of it.

“I have sat in my office and cried at times because I’m so overwhelmed by the generosity of the donors,” confesses Sundholm, “and the incredible gratitude of the recipients.”

Editor’s note: The last of a three-part series will appear tomorrow. It focuses on the plight of children living in the slums and efforts to improve their lives.

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