The waves rolled steadily onto the Sri Lankan shore, falling just short of the woman’s toes. This was the water in which her husband had spent his days fishing, the waves her children had played among. But in the end, it was this same water that had taken all that away.
A wave caught her feet and panic constricted her throat as she scrambled desperately backward. But, loosing its power, the water drifted back into the ocean.
But the wave left a piece of its guts at her feet. A tiny child’s shoe lay before her. Shantha picked it up. Emotions suffocated her. She wondered if this child’s mother was alive and if she, too, was standing with empty arms, full of despair and guilt.
All her memories were overpowered by one day. One surge of water that had washed everything away. If only she had seen the rising water sooner. If only she had been able to carry all three girls. If only she had not tripped, maybe little Rani would not have been wrenched from her arms by the waves.
“What have I done to deserve this?!” She fell to her knees, arms outstretched. No answer came.
Tears filled her, great sobs that threatened to wrench her very soul from within her. Spent, she finally rose, half-consciously clutching the shoe. As she plodded back to the refugee center in Ampara she tried to ignore the empty stretches that had once been forest, now scattered liberally with litter. The putrid smell of dead bodies filled the air and Shantha gagged, quickening her steps toward camp. Finally the smell of death gave way to the sent of the living--sewage and sweat.
Reaching the camp, she awkwardly shoved the shoe into her pocket and scanned among the white tents for her one living son. She spotted Marudu unloading bottled water from a truck.
Shantha jumped when she felt an arm around her shoulders. It was her new friend, Danika. “Shantha, will you help me hand out food?” Danika smiled.
Shantha nodded wearily. She followed Danika toward the makeshift kitchen, grateful to have something to do. She marveled that she had become friends with a Sinhalan. Who would have imagined that it would be the Tamil people’s worst enemies who would come to their aid when disaster struck?
They worked alongside missionaries late into the afternoon, preparing food packets. One of the missionaries turned to Shantha and Danika, “A local church is having a service tonight. Would you like to come?”
A longing stirred inside Shantha. Perhaps the pastor could give her assurance that her family had gone to a better life. Their bodies had not been recovered. They had not been cremated. Shantha shuddered at the thought of their souls trapped forever under the cold water. “My son and I will come.”
Shantha, Marudu, and Danika listened as the pastor preached, telling of one God, the creator of the world. He spoke of a man named Jesus, of the miracles He had done, and of heaven. But he did not tell Shantha what she wanted to hear. In fact, he said that the only way to get to heaven was to believe that Jesus was God, and to believe that He had died to pay the penalty of the world’s sin.
Shantha listened no longer. She knew only the anguish of her own heart, and she wept.
“Mama,” Marudu put an arm around her, “the service is over and the pastor’s wife wants to speak to you.”
Wiping away tears, Shantha stared bitterly at the woman. “My girls and my husband are gone.”
The woman’s eyes filled with tears. “I do not know why God allowed the tsunami. But, Shantha, God spared you from the waters. He chose you as one who had a special job to do here on earth. You still have one son. You have time to teach him of God. Believe in God and His son, Jesus,” the lady pleaded. “Let Him comfort you and help you through this. Let Him be a friend.”
Late that evening Shantha stood at the edge of the ocean, the child’s shoe clutched in her hand. The sun was dipping below the horizon and the waters shone red, like Jesus’ blood. As the next wave came, Shantha bent and set the shoe on the water. She watched as it bobbed away, silhouetted against the sky. Perhaps someday Shantha would understand why this God of creation had chosen to spare her.
I want to thank my relatives in Sri Lanka and the following web site for their help in making this fictional story accurate: www.wsws.org/articles/2005/jan2005/ampa-j08.shtml
Prayer reminder: I would like to encourage each of you to continue to remember in prayer the people affected by the December tsunami. The aftermath of the tsunami will continue to be felt for many years to come. Also, because of relief efforts, missionaries are coming in contact with people never-before reached. God is doing something mighty in this area of the world!
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