Suffer the little children...

How Christ gave me His eyes to see the children of Sri Lanka

by Roheen Jayawardene

In 1996, my sister, who was a mere 38 years old and a mother of two young daughters, was called home to heaven. I was overcome with grief and loneliness. Night after night I cried myself to sleep. I attempted to pray, but the sorrow would not lift.

But I became optimistic, believing that God had prepared some wonderful friends to take the place of my beloved sister. Little did I know, that the sisters the Lord had for me were the street women: the drug addicts and the prostitutes.

My mother had been running a Christian library and counseling center for illiterate mothers and children for several years. Together we began to reach out to the women on the street.

Children, dirty and hungry, began arriving on our doorstep. Many of the children who came to our center had been abused by alcoholic and drug-addicted parents. We fed them rice and curry, gave them baths and taught them reading, writing and arithmetic before sending them away for the night.

In the war-torn, Buddhist nation of Sri Lanka, tens of thousands of children are sold to pedophiles or used in the child pornography business. Young girls, in particular, are in danger of being abused and raped by male family members. The foster mother of one of the girls stated that she could not protect the child from her husband and sons.

I felt the Lord tugging on my heart to open a shelter for these wounded girls, and decided to take a step of faith. In 1998, with only $60 to our names, my mother and I started Lama Sevana, meaning "a haven for children," in a rented house.

Boys in a camp set up for tsunami refugees

Most of the children arrive at the center without shoes and proper clothing and with wounds on their bodies. Some do not know their biological father, as their mothers go from partner to partner.

The Lord provided one day at a time. Often, we began the month not knowing how we could feed the children or pay the salaries of the staff, but God provided for our needs each and every time.

Through help from Christian Aid, we have been able to move forward with our vision and expand our services. In 2004, we opened a shelter for boys in another rented facility.

As our ministry grows, we are seeking to improve the condition of depressed villages. Through a community-based revolving loan fund, we were able to provide the families of one village slum with wells and sanitation facilities for each household.

This year, Christian Aid provided the funds for us to purchase a piece of land on which to build a new children's home. We are expecting to receive our permit soon, and will then begin construction. Praise the Lord for His provision!