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IMB worker loses cousin in tsunami, but now desires to return to Sri Lanka to minister

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–For Emily Thevathasan, the tsunami was personal.

A day after her native Sri Lanka was struck by the massive waves, Thevathasan learned that one of her cousins was killed when water swept her away.

An employee of the International Mission Board and member of First Baptist Church in Richmond, Va., Thevathasan recently shared how her Christian faith comforted her following the tsunami. She hopes to return to Sri Lanka to share the love of Christ through relief efforts.

“It’s very hard for people who ask, ‘How can the Lord let this happen?'” she says. “But I feel that His plans are there. I believe something good is going to happen to Sri Lanka through this.”

Thevathasan still remembers the shock she and her family felt when they first learned of the disaster from television news reports. The following day, they received a phone call with the grim news that her cousin had died. The retired schoolteacher was unable to escape the waves when they hit the coast where she lived.

Stunned by the news, Thevathasan and her family continued to monitor regular reports of the disaster. Eventually the graphic images became too difficult for her to watch.

“You hear countries getting hit by earthquakes one country at a time,” she said. “But not like this. You’re talking about four or five countries at the same time.

“Seeing all of these people and all of these places gone, I couldn’t watch it,” she said. “In [Sri Lanka] there was only 20 million people, and now 40,000 are gone, and I’m sure there are more.”

This past July, Thevathasan traveled with her husband and their two boys to Sri Lanka to visit family and the area where she grew up.

“It was so beautiful,” she said. “It was full of trees, a beach. Many called it the ‘Pearl of the Indian Ocean.’”

Thevathasan now wishes that she had been able to visit her cousin during the trip. She had no idea it would be her last opportunity to see her. But she says she has found peace in knowing that her cousin had given her life to Jesus Christ and is now with the Lord.

“She was a strong believer,” she said. “I do know that.”

Thevathasan, who was raised in a Christian home, knows her family in Sri Lanka is thankful that more weren’t lost. Her husband’s family, which lives in the northern part of the country, also was unharmed by the disaster. But many others didn’t survive.

“We have one childhood friend who lost everyone,” she said. “He was a servant boy who had lived with us, but now is a grown man. He lost most of his family, even grandchildren.”

In the coming months, Thevathasan hopes to return to Sri Lanka and help with the disaster relief effort when an opportunity opens up. She believes good things are about to happen.

“This is a good time to tell them about the Lord.”

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  • Shawn Hendricks