With the recent flooding along the Mississippi River valley, and the scenes of the tsunami tragedy in Japan a few months ago have had me recalling a little girl I met in India six years ago.
It was the summer following that massive tidal wave that swept across so many countries that share shorelines along the Indian Ocean. We were on the southeast coastline about an hour outside of Chennai in the fishing village of Ernavor.
A little five-year-old orphan named Keziah (ironically, after one of Job’s daughters), who couldn’t have been more than three feet tall, was decked-out in her Sunday best outfit, and proudly let us know that she wanted to sing for us. Even though the primary language of the area is Tamil, she informed us that she had been teaching herself English. I took her into a quiet office away from all the joyous clatter of several hundred other youngsters so we could hear her tiny little voice. Lisa Landis, from WJTL in Lancaster, PA decided to pull out a recorder in hopes that it might be something neat.
With about as wonderful pitch as you could expect from such small child, she sang “Jesus Loves the Little Children,” “The B-I-B-L-E,” and “Showers of Blessing” more sweetly than I could ever imagine an angel. Lisa and I looked at each other with tears in our eyes—not only because of the beauty of it, but the irony of it all.
You see, on that Sunday morning the day after Christmas in 2004, Keziah’s parents had dropped her off at her grandmother’s home about two miles inland so they could get some focused work done on his fishing boat. They, like the other 7,000 folks in that sleepy town had no idea what was racing across the horizon in their direction. Estimates from eyewitnesses who survived were that the initial wave was fifty feet high, and traveling as fast as 200 miles per hour. Since they were most likely in the harbor when it hit, they had no chance. They were never found, their boat was reduced to splinters, and their humble little two-room shack was vaporized by the wall of water.
Over the next few months, her grief-filled grandmother heard about a program to help children with great needs at the Wesley Center, a Compassion project based in a small Methodist church. The morning of the tsunami, the water had come to within twenty feet of the front door and then began receding. Keziah was enrolled right away, and within a week, she had a sponsor from Australia. Additionally, the pastor and his wife, Dipak and Ananda, were so taken with the spirit of this little orphan during that first semester, that they asked her grandmother if they would be allowed to adopt her. Granny said yes, and they even extended much love and help to the aging woman as their relationship has unfolded.
On top of all that, Keziah decided she wanted to accept the gift of grace in Christ as she was seeing His love carried out in such loving ways all around her. Not only had she received much, but many others in that village had seen the church as a verb after that horrific disaster. We met many who were so grateful that Compassion, through this local fellowship, had blessed them with a rebuilt homes, new aluminum fishing boats, new nets, new clothes, and much food and clean water while they tried to get back on their feet. Many of these families, once Hindu and Muslim, now embraced Christ because they saw His body in action, and were touched deeply by the outpouring of care that came without condition their way.
So as this bubbly little soul poured her heart out in song for us, it was more than a show being put on for these foreigners…it was a heartfelt and joyous expression of gratitude.
I’ll never forget her singing. We were able to record two of her renditions, and you can hear them here: