Caring for Tsunami Survivors One Village at a Time

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After the 2004 tsunami devastated Sri Lanka, Marilyn Stremler read a quote from the president of a local relief agency, who said, “If every North American city would adopt a southeast Asian village, the long process of rebuilding would be greatly expedited.”

Stremler, a member of Sonlight Christian Reformed Church, Lynden, Wash., was moved to contact friends, acquaintances, and city leaders, and soon Village to Village —Lynden Cares was born.

“Our hope from the outset was to cultivate a sense of community and togetherness in our own ‘village’ as we reached across the globe to help a village in need,” said Steven Kent, a steering committee member.

In May 2005, Lynden was officially matched with Boossa, Sri Lanka, a small community of 35 families whose entire village was washed away by the tsunami. With the help from the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee and Columbo Gospel Tabernacle, Boossa is being relocated to land about a mile and a half inland from the village’s devastated beach.

This relief ministry is unique, said Karl Westerhof of CRWRC, “both because it involves a whole community, and because it’s a way for a community in North America to partner with a relief-and-development organization such as CRWRC and to focus its efforts on the restoration of a community that needs to be rebuilt from scratch.”

Through bake sales, concession stands, special offerings, and a musical production, the Lynden community has raised tens of thousands of the $200,000 needed for the project. Their fund-raising efforts will build 300- to 400-square-foot duplexes; provide livelihood resources of rope-making machines, sewing machines, and fishing boats; and, above all, encourage a grieving community.

Although some fund-raising efforts were scaled back in light of the recent hurricane disasters, Lynden Cares is not giving up. Said Kent, “By God’s grace we’ve ended up with a relief effort that combines community building, evangelism, and global outreach.”

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