Village of Hope
October 1, 2006 - When the tsunami of December 2004 devastated large areas along Asian coastlines, Billy Graham wanted to help victims in a practical way. He felt God’s leading to have BGEA rebuild an entire village, much as had been done after a destructive typhoon hit India in 1977.
by Decision staff
A village on India’s southeastern coast needed help. Six villagers had died in the tsunami, and many houses and fishing boats had been damaged or destroyed. BGEA, through its World Emergency Fund, purchased land just a few hundred yards inland from the old village and began construction of a new, safer village.
On Aug. 20, the brand-new village was dedicated and handed over to village leaders. Called “Village of Hope” in the Tamil language, the community consists of 239 houses, a school, a small hospital, a community center and a government fair-price shop. The buildings have been constructed to withstand strong winds and earthquakes, and they are far enough from the shoreline to make it extremely unlikely that another tsunami would reach them.
Selvanayagam Peter was praying at church when the tsunami hit on Dec. 26, 2004. Peter says he used to worship other gods, but about 19 years ago he accepted Jesus, and his life was changed. Before finding Christ, he says, he had a lot of family problems and mental disturbances. Jesus brought him peace and hope.
It hasn’t always been easy. Peter’s family, as the first Christians in the village, faced stiff opposition from neighbors. Sometimes Peter’s nets were taken so he could not fish; other times villagers would not let his family take water from the common well.
After the tsunami, things changed.
“People were kind of shaken in their own faith,” Peter says, “and they are now willing to pray. We can visit them and pray with them, so it is getting better. The people know that after the tsunami, most of the relief work has been done by Christian agencies. It is the Christians who are reaching out to our needs, and we tell [the other villagers] it is because of the love of Christ.”
Through the years, the number of Christians in the village has grown. Peter estimates that about 50 families are now Christian. Many gather regularly at his house for prayer and worship. And now that the new village is complete, Peter has plans for his new house: He will give it to his son Daniel, who will be getting married in a few months. Daniel wants to continue the legacy of ministry begun by his father.
“We are going to use that house not only for living but also for prayer fellowship,” Daniel says. “We are going to invite our neighbors, and we are going to honor the Lord through this blessing that God has given us.”
Village of Hope at a Glance
- 239 brick and concrete houses
- Community center for several hundred people
- School, to be operated by a Christian-run organization considered by many to be the top educational institution in India. More than 500 children from the surrounding area, not just the village, will be able to attend.
- Mini-hospital (17 beds) and ambulance, operated by a unit of a Christian-based Indian medical mission
- Midday meal center for school children
- Government fair-price shop for food items
- Women’s empowerment program that teaches women simple fish-drying technology and also to sew and to create greeting cards, giving families a source of income in addition to fishing
- Preparations are underway for construction of a church a short distance from the main village.
Since 1973 the BGEA World Emergency Fund has brought relief to victims of hurricanes, famines, floods, earthquakes and other crises. The Fund is a reflection of Billy Graham’s concern that Christians demonstrate Christ’s love to hurting people even as they proclaim the Gospel.
The Apostle Paul wrote, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ ... who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, NIV). All around us are hurting and troubled people. Ask God to show you how to bring comfort and the Gospel to them in practical ways.