Like Paradise (Sri Lanka)
by Dr Hermann Gschwandtner

It was a beautiful morning in Karaitivu on the eastern shores of Sri Lanka. Palm trees were gently swaying in a breeze. A hundred yards in front of us the Indian Ocean glistened through the trees. It was scorching hot and I was glad I had a baseball cap with me. We stepped out of the van—into the rubble: broken windows, a piece of clothing, a shoe here or there, a desert of destroyed buildings beyond the school grounds. An iron sign explained that this used to be the main school of Karaitivu. Nearly 2,000 kids had been studying here; now it was dead.

I was grateful that the tsunami had hit on the day following Christmas. Had it been a regular school day most if not all of the kids would have been swept away by the ocean. Thus "only" a few hundred were missing, those whose houses had been next door. (How many of their school friends had told them, “You lucky one, you only have to walk a few yards to school”?)

We walked across the empty playing field. “This,” explained David, our national NCM coordinator, “this used to be the local hospital, next door to the school. Twelve beds. The doctor and his family lived here. And they had three nurses. Not one of them survived the morning of December 26th. Not the doctor, his family, the nurses, not one patient.”

picture of woman standing in the middle of rubble and cryingThirty yards from us a few people with a tractor and a trailer were trying to clean up the rubble. A woman who lived under a plastic sheet in the midst of the ruins started crying. She had lost everything and everybody. And now they were trying to clean away "her rubble", too.

A few yards ahead, the ocean glistened in beautiful sunshine. So calm, so serene, like paradise, had it not been for the anguished cries behind us.

Dr Hermann Gschwandtner is the Nazarene Compassionate Ministries Coordinator for South Asia.


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