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How Father Sanders Saved 26 Orphans from Death in Sri Lanka

"The wave was about fifteen feet away and we were eyeball to eyeball with the wave and immediately a scripture was popped into my mind which said "when the enemy comes in like a flood, the spirit of the Lord shall raise up a standard against it. And from where I got the courage, I just stood up in the small boat and I lifted both my hands and I said "I command you in the name of Jesus Christ on the strength of the scriptures, to stand still!"

 

The most amazing story of Christian faith during the Asian tidal wave may be the feat of Dayalan Sanders, a minister who snatched 26 orphans from the watery jaws of certain death. The story, broadcast on many news outlets, including CNN's Christianne Amanpour and Anderson Cooper, who both visited the site of his now-demolished orphanage, starts early sunday morning December 26, 2004 at Navalaji Beach on the eastern shores of Sri Lanka. Dayalan Sanders' orphanage was right on the water facing straight into the black churning tsunami thundering toward it. Father Sanders had built this facility as a refuge for orphans of Sri Lanka's civil war.

The report that follows is in Dayalan's own words:

"It was about 8:40 that morning we were getting ready for the sunday morning worship service. I had woken up at about 3:45 that morning as I usually do to pray. I went back to bed I think at around 5. But at 7:30, I woke up again and when I came out everything was just a normal sunday morning. And I looked out to the sea, the sea was calm. The ocean...the surface of the ocean was just a sheet of glass. Nothing moved. It was so calm, so still."

"And so I went back again to prepare the sermon, you know, that I was going to preach that morning and I was lounging in my bed and I heard heavy footfalls...somebody running fast toward my bedroom and then...it was my wife, she burst into the room and I looked at the horror on her face as she said, 'Come look! The sea's coming in!'  I have never seen her look so terrified, and I thought what could be THIS wrong for her to look like this...and I just thought it was a massive wave that was breaking on the shore and the wave was just rolling over and I said to her, you know, "Keep calm, God is with us and no harm will come to us unless our term it is."

"So I just casually walked down and then came out into the premises. Ours is a four-acre parcel of land, we have an orphanage, we have a chapel, we have our boys section, our girls section, our staff section, and it is situated in a palm grove."

"I turned and looked at the sea, at the beach, and I just couldn't believe what I saw. Words defy description. It was a massive 30-foot wall of sea , you know, black in color, stretching from one end of the beach to the other end of the beach and the very sight of this mass of water rushing towards us, it was like a thousand freight trains charging at you, that thunderous roar itself petrified you with fear."

"And I knew that I did not even have a moment to think out a plan to react to this. I got to get the children out. I knew that we just had a few seconds before we could get to the other side of our premises. Our orphanage, the four-acre parcel is on a strip of land. It is like a peninsula jutting into the ocean. On one side we have the Indian Ocean and on the other side we have the lagoon. And to the north of us was the mouth of the river, the estuary."

"And so I turned round and I just shouted 'Drop everything you've got in your hands, Everybody to the lagoon side, to the gate, to the boat!' I knew that I had to act fast, there was no time to think...and I came here and I was shouting at the top of my lungs. They came...I ran...I carried...I just threw them over the fence (to the boat in the lagoon). And usually, to get all the children, the staff to one point, it takes me ten to fifteen minutes, and that day it was a miracle that I got them all to the boathouse in under ten seconds, and we just jumped into the boat."

The motor was on. "We never leave the outboard motor on the launch. This is the first time we have done this, that this has happened to us." It was also the first time Stefan, the boat man, was able to get the motor going on the first try. "He just yanked the starter rope...in one pull, it started. I said, this what happened, I called upon my God, I prayed and my God answered my prayer."

"There was no power on earth that could resist this, the force that was behind this body of water, so the only safe place was right on top of it. Then and there I was determined I was going to get on top of that."

With 32 people, 26 of them children in his small boat, Father Sanders ordered Stefan to turn the boat around and head the overloaded launch with its 15-horsepower motor straight at the wave. The craft sped forward, a bright green boat flag emblazoned only with the words, "Jesus is Lord" flapping prophetically from a pole at its bow.

"The wave was about fifteen feet away and we were eyeball to eyeball with the wave and immediately a scripture was popped into my mind which said "when the enemy comes in like a flood, the spirit of the Lord shall raise up a standard against it. And from where I got the courage, I just stood up in the small boat and I lifted both my hands and I said "I command you in the name of Jesus Christ on the strength of the scriptures, to stand still!"

"And I thought I was imagining at the time that the massive wall of water, it stood! I am not one given to exaggeration, I saw as if something hold it back, some invisible force or hand...it just stood."

"This was confirmed because later on when I met some of the villagers who had climbed on top of palmyra trees and coconut trees and had survived this onslaught, they told me (they call me father), they said 'Father, we didn't stand a chance because the sea, when it got onto the beach and it rushed into the village with...and it came at the same speed and the same fury and it just wiped us all out, but when it got on your land, it...at one point, it stood still, it just slowed down and that gave you the chance. What made it? Was it the density of the trees, or the buildings?"

"I said, 'There is no power on earth that could have held it back but the power of God.' I said 'I called upon God and I commanded it in the name of Jesus, who, 2000 years ago He commanded the waves and they obeyed, He commanded the sea and they obeyed, and this is the very same God, He did the same to us and He gave us those precious few seconds that we needed to start. At the first yank at the starter rope, the engine just sputtered into life'."

An hour-and-a-half later, the group, exhausted and dripping wet, but with everyone on board still alive, floated into the town of Batticaloa.

"Now half the children (of the village) are not here. Half the people are not here. You know...if you...I will take you...and I will tell you stories...my immediate neighbor he lost his wife and two of his children. Now...yesterday he drank poison and he is a hospital in critical condition."

He spoke of another neighbor who tried to save his sister and mother.

"He (my neighbor) said at one point he had to make a decision. On whether to save the mother...hold on to the mother or the sister. And so he finally decided he was going to hold onto the mother and he, you know, just let go of his sister, and that, you know, is tearing him apart, even now."

Father Sanders saved the children in his care, but his parish has been destroyed. There is nothing left of it but scattered rubble, mute testament to the awesome power of the gargantuan deluge that had enveloped it.

"I built this brick by brick. Every penny, you know, I saved, I put in here. Twenty years of all my labor just vanished in 20 seconds right in front of my eyes. But I am not giving up. I am coming back for the sake of the children and I am coming back for the sake of the villagers, and it's going to rise again like the Phoenix."

 

 

Father Sander's did not lose a single child. His story has been verified, not only by journalists of impeccable credential, but also by surviving villagers and by testimony from the orphans themselves, whose lives God spared through his efforts.

Father Sanders two sisters, Kenya and Dayana, both live in the United States in Washington D.C. and are right now the only monetary source he has left for his livilhood. To aid in the rebuilding of the orphanage, they have started out of their home a fund for him called the Samaritan Home Relief.



 

 

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