Once known as ‘India’s Pearl’ because of its natural beauty, Sri Lanka is now called ‘India’s Teardrop’ because of its devastation.
Sri Lanka, a small island country off the southwest coast of India, is home to 21 million people who have endured overwhelming hardships, including a terrible civil war and the disastrous Boxing Day Tsunami on Dec. 26, 2004.
It’s hard enough to rebuild physically after disasters, but how does one begin to recover emotionally in a land of such loss?
A small local team flew to Sri Lanka soon after the tsunami and met with Pastor Adrian DiVisser to discuss ways to help. Adrian, a pastor and local leader, has dedicated his life to helping his devastated homeland. He established 20 church centers throughout the county, several orphanages, a home for girls redeemed from prostitution, and a vocational center for widows.
“At the first meeting Pastor Adrian said that they desperately need help with shelter, counseling and food, in that order,” Dave Sprowl, said. “It really surprised us.”
Dave, a Newport Beach resident and lawyer, quickly learned that Sri Lanka was besieged with many crises including: child abuse; domestic abuse; sexual abuse; depression; divorce; grief; shame; substance abuse; poverty; and sexual predators preying on the newly widowed and orphans.
Despite the widespread suffering and sadness, the country does not have a single counselor.
Dave recalls Adrian explaining that the Buddhist, karma-based culture does not offer the much-needed emotional help; in fact, it contributes to shame and theirs is a very shame-based culture. For example, a Buddhist monk told a grieving father that the drowning of his son in the tsunami was the father’s fault. Widows are often made to feel responsible for their husband’ deaths, and are ostracized from the rest of society.
Dave, his wife, Dale, and many others with hearts to help have given up vacations over the past five years to share Adrian’s burden and passion by donating their time to train qualified counseling care-givers in Sri Lanka. They established Resplendent Hope (www.resplendenthope.org), an international charitable organization that partners with effective indigenous church leaders to help heal victims of human conflicts and natural disasters.
As president of Resplendent Hope, Dave arranges the counseling trips with board member Kristi Kirkpatrick. Dave recently returned from his tenth trip to Sri Lanka, along with Dale, Kristi and five other mental health professionals and lay leaders.
“It’s exciting to be part of a project so meaningful,” Dale said.
Approximately 500 pastors and church leaders came to learn Biblically based counseling principles for dealing with widespread suffering in their country. The conference was held at two different locations and translated into two languages. The former head of their armed services and the presidential spokesman also attended.
Dr. John Townsend, a Newport resident, psychologist, author and international speaker, was the keynote speaker. People around the world are familiar with his 25 books, which have sold more than 5 million copies, and his syndicated radio show has 3 million listeners.
“I fell in love with Adrian’s heart and the needs of his people. They are hungry for help,” Dr. Townsend said. “I spoke on grace, truth and time, the three essential ingredients of counseling. God heals people the same way in Sri Lanka that He does in Newport.”
Team members Dr. Kim Storm and Elise Froistad, MFT, presented workshops on trauma and child abuse. Dr. Monte Pries, a Newport resident and clinical psychologist, led a seminar on the spiritual components of healing with Dale Sprowl.
Dr. Pries is the clinical director of Resplendent Hope. This was his seventh trip to Sri Lanka and he sees many future trips there.
“I’m so excited to be part of a movement where Christian psychiatry is succeeding as an agent of healing, help and love,” Dr. Pries said. “I also can’t emphasize Adrian’s impact on me enough. I would do anything for him.”
Resplendent Hope is presently building a medical/counseling facility that will serve as a safe recreational center and church. They have also worked with Pastor Adrian to build two additional orphanages, a widow’s center, an alcohol recovery center, a home for girls who are victims of sexual abuse, and, along with Habitat for Humanity, 260 homes for tsunami survivors.
“We want to preserve the beauty of their culture while educating them about alternatives to harmful practices such as caning,” explained Anne Storm.
Dave explained that the ‘Sri’ in Sri Lanka means ‘Resplendent’ and that he is one of many who share Adrian’s vision to bring God’s healing hope and restore the resplendence to his culture.
“I see God guiding Adrian and I see Adrian’s ministries changing lives, so I’m doing all I can to help support someone who I feel is one of the greatest Christian leaders in the world.” Dave said.
Cindy can be reached at [email protected].