Diane Faires - Sri LankaDiane Faires - Sri Lanka
In Tamil, there are many different words for love. "Nesam" is used for family members, or for spiritual, selfless love, like the love of 1 Corinthians 13. One of the local pastors in Jaffna, Sri Lanka, Pastor Joshua, makes a special effort to make "nesam" a way of life for the children who live in the girls and boys homes he supervises.
One day recently when I went to visit my dear little sisters at Jennifer Girls Home, I found them roasting grains over a fire in their front yard. They have a woman who usually cooks for them, in the kitchen, so I asked them what they were doing. It turns out that they were preparing flour, not for use at their own home, but to give to the impoverished families of students at one of the church-run nursery schools.
The girls, who all come from very difficult backgrounds themselves, prepare this flour each month, as part of Pastor Joshua's lesson in "nesam". Each day when the cook makes lunch for the girls, they set aside one handful of rice or grain in a separate bag. Once a month, they take the extra grain, roast it themselves, grind it into flour, and then personally deliver it to the needy families. They do all of this with great joy. The day I joined in their preparations, they were smiling and in festive spirits as they carefully roasted the green gram and corn. Their mood gave way to unrestrained laughter as one batch of corn was roasted too long and quickly exploded into popcorn.
In my experiences as a volunteer coordinator with Habitat for Humanity in the U.S., it was always rewarding to see the transformation of attitudes as privileged young people gained first-hand knowledge of poverty and injustice, and discovered their power to make a difference. The girls at Jennifer Home already have a very personal understanding of
poverty and injustice, so for them to now have the ability to serve others seems like nothing short of a miracle. Girls who saw a parent killed in front of them during the war, girls who became refugees to escape the bombs falling on their villages, girls who had to live in the forest because their homes were destroyed...not only do they now have a safe, stable, comfortable home, they have the power to improve the lives of others. They are learning not only to appreciate the blessings in their lives, but that no matter how little they have, there is joy in sharing "nesam" with others.
Diane Faires serves as a Global Mission Intern by the Common Global Ministries Board of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ. She teaches English and participates in community- based work.