By Emily Theresa
We’re quiet in the van. There are six of us – Mohan, in the front, a man from Sri Lanka who’s the hands and feet of the operation; Saroja, beside me – the Sri Lanka director who lives in South India; Steve, behind me – our Burundian Director of Finance who also lives in India, and the driver.
We’re quiet because police are chasing us, and suddenly, Saroja can’t speak anymore. This tiny woman with the shining eyes and long dark hair has gone silent except for some coughs, and she feels like throwing up, and she has a headache. I’m praying furiously.
We’re under attack.
After all, this is no ordinary mission. It’s the hard, and the holy.
We’ve driven 12 hours up north to visit the widows of Trincomalee, single mothers hidden away like a secret in a village formed during the war. For more than 20 years, up to 2009, a civil war raged, spewing thousands of refugees into South India and Canada in search of shelter. More than 80,000 lives were lost and so many more lives ravaged. No ministries or organizations work here in this forgotten village. So we’ve come, in faith, and I think it’s fitting: one of us from South India, the other from Canada. We’ve come from places they once fled to. Come to help Sri Lankans make their country home again.
We pull up to the pastor’s house, and Saroja stumbles out of the vehicle, finds a tree where she leans, tries to vomit. Steve is suddenly busy with a phone meeting, and I’m left alone with the pastor and his family. They don’t speak English, and I don’t speak Tamil, except for a hesitant “Vannakam” which means Hello.
There’s only so many times you can greet someone. The wife serves me sweet tea, and I keep praying.
This morning, just minutes after we arrived in Trincomalee, the police showed up. They wore ordinary clothes and looked like normal young men. They made small conversation, took photos of our passports. We said we were tourists and were released. But then as we’d moved from house to house, visiting the widows, hearing their stories of the war, learning how there were no options, no hope in this forsaken place – we heard the police were following us. They didn’t want anyone offering aid. Near the end we were taken by the pastor’s son to a Hindu house. That’s when Saroja, our main translator, became ill and was unable to speak. There was a madman at that house, and he stared at us with crazed eyes.
After that we made our way back to the pastor’s home because it was decided that Mohan would come later and find the mothers on his own. My white skin was a distraction.
I couldn’t stop seeing the tears. Every single mother had cried. Their children had stared blankly at us, no toys to play with, no food in store.
I remembered the small band of youth we’d passed, young boys on the street, singing together. Clinging together. Like a flock of birds whose wings were clipped, but still, they sang.
And the Spirit whispered, “Ask him – the son of the pastor. Ask him if he can translate for you.”
So I did. I asked the young man standing in the corner if he could help me share the message of The Lulu Tree. He nodded, eager, and so I turned to the pastor, Saroja still outside by the tree, and I began to share why we’d come. I shared our vision to bring sustainability and hope to 20 new mothers through projects and a discipleship program.
The moment I finished sharing, Saroja walked into the house. She said, “I feel better now.”
That’s when I knew, without a doubt, it had been an attack. Satan had tried to keep our translator from communicating the vision, because he knows, without vision a people will perish (Proverbs 29:18). But nothing can stop God.
No amount of police or crazed men or weeping mothers or forsaken peoples can stop the plans of a loving Father who doesn’t wait for people to come to Him – but rather, He goes to them. He pursues them. He is our refuge, our home, our forever peace.
“My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our dwelling with him,” Jesus says in John 14:23.
On December 21, Mohan returned to the forsaken village. He went as the shepherd pursuing the lost sheep, and he found them – the 20 mothers God had chosen.
Because God doesn’t need a passport or a translator or anyone’s permission to reach His own, and nothing, no nothing, can separate us from His love.
(Thank you for prayers for these precious mothers. We’re sending funds this month to start partnering with them in sustainable projects and a year-long discipleship and financial training program)