Around 120 thousand people have been affected by mudslides and flooding. During the month of May, Al Jazeera reports half of the 25 districts in Sri Lanka were affected by rivers bursting their banks.
The rains and floods are normal for Sri Lanka, especially during May. However, this year the nation was hit particularly hard.
“They got the normal flooding that affected hundreds of thousands of people, but it’s really been continuing on,” World Mission’s Greg Kelley says.
“It’s been hard for them to get any kind of a reprieve and, as you can imagine, with all this flooding in an island nation, there’s all kinds of mudslides and people have lost everything in a lot of instances. So, their homes have been washed away. They’re left homeless. All of their possessions are gone and they’re just still digging out from it here several months later.”
Around 5,000 homes were partially or completely destroyed, and 40,000 people have been displaced.
Some people have returned to their damaged homes. Others have yet to return and are homeless.
Possibility in Loss
But World Mission sees possibility in this loss.
“The reason World Mission views this as such a great opportunity is because most of the people affected have never heard of Jesus,” Kelley says.
“And so, when you go into these areas and just be the hands and feet of Christ, give them a cup of cold water, but in this case, we’re literally helping them get shelter, get food, and it’s done all through the hands of local Christians that are just loving them and it’s amazing what kind of response they get.”
World Mission’s local partners are going to the most devastated and remote areas to identify and address the needs of the people.
Kelley shares their partners met with a man whose home was no longer livable. A wall had completely collapsed because of the floods. After being displaced, the man soon returned to his home to begin rebuilding so his family would have a place to live.
When World Mission’s partners met him, they stopped and helped him to rebuild the wall. As they did, they gave him a solar-powered audio Bible, the Treasure, in his language.
“And now,” Kelley says, “this guy and his family are coming to Church and they’re really receptive to the Gospel just because our team took the time to stop and help him rebuild his home.”
World Mission is reaching people like this to show the love of Jesus through their actions and to share why they’re helping.
Kelley says because Sri Lanka is a Buddhist-majority nation, the culture is deed-oriented. People are appreciative of others helping out and doing good works, and often times, it opens ways to share the Gospel.
Kelley says as World Mission partners do humanitarian outreach, they deliver Treasures because “we believe that just doing good works without a Gospel presentation or without showing them the motivation, we’re just making people more comfortable on their way to eternity. And, we want to give them the reason, the motivation behind why we’re doing it, which is Jesus.”
Raising up Leaders
World Mission is raising up indigenous Christian leaders who can further respond to people’s needs and share the Truth with them.
Kelley says there will be a leadership training conference next month to empower leaders.
“Our strategy is to mobilize the nationals and so when we do training, it’s pouring into them so that they can be more effective discipleship makers, but there’s always a challenge of ‘go’ when we do our training. And so, when we gather leaders together, we’re constantly encouraging them.”
World Mission knows the role of local leaders is vital in developing the Church in Sri Lanka. The total population of Christians in the nation is only 7.4 percent.
Further, Kelley says the percentage of Christian evangelicals is not even known because the population is so small.
“We just need to be mindful that Sri Lanka is a country in great need of the Gospel and we need to make it a priority.”
One of the key ways to mobilize the Gospel is continuing to address the needs of people.
Because the monsoons in Sri Lanka are annual, many people face the loss of possessions and more every year.
World Mission wants to see communities build each other as they come to know Jesus and grow in their love for Christ.
Also, pray for those who have lost everything because of the floods. Pray for the Lord to provide for them and to comfort them.