‘There was fire everywhere’—why this wounded Sri Lankan believer is singing songs of hope

December 13, 2019 by Lindy Lowry in Asia

Our field has been meeting with families and church leaders in Sri Lanka devastated by the Easter Sunday 2019 suicide bombings in three churches and three hotels that claimed more than 350 lives and injured thousands.


Open Doors field writer Jan Vermeer introduces us to a family in Batticaloa where a bomb exploded in Zion Church. The attack has taken so much from these believers. One girl, 6-year-old Debbie, lost both parents and her eyesite. Debbie’s aunt, Rebekah, now lives with third-degree burns and also lost a nephew in the bombings.

‘All I remember is fire everywhere’

Rebekah was in Zion Church’s bookshop when she saw the man detonate the bomb in his backpack.

When 24-year-old Rebekah walked into her family’s living room, I almost stopped breathing. The complete left side of her body and parts of her right side are covered with third-degree burn wounds. The top of her head is missing a large chunk of hair, revealing her bald scalp.

At first, she seemed shy, unwilling to share. But when her brother talks about her sister, Verlini, waking up on Easter morning at 3 am to pray with Rebekah, she suddenly engages in the conversation.

“Why did your sister wake up to pray?” I asked.

“We were supposed to sing a song together, just like the Sunday before,” Rebekah answers quietly.

“Do you remember which song?”

She nods and she and her older sister, who was unhurt in the attack, begin to sing. We don’t understand the words, but it’s a song about Jesus, a song about the hope we have in Him.

Listen to these sisters’ worship together.

“What do you remember of that day?” I ask Rebekah.

“Not much,” she says. “I was in the bookshop, and the suicide bomber stood right outside when he detonated the bomb in his backpack. All I remember is fire. Fire everywhere.”

‘To testify who Jesus is’

I tell her she is still beautiful and quote Paul’s words in Colossians 1:24, reminding her that Jesus has taken on our suffering:

“I am glad when I suffer for you in my body, for I am participating in the sufferings of Christ that continue for His body, the Church.”

“The wounds Paul carried show us how much Jesus loves us,” I tell this young girl who has faced unthinkable adversity in the last year. “It’s the same with you, Rebekah.” She lets the words sink in.

Learn more about why Sri Lanka is No. 46 on the World Watch List.

“What is your hope for your future” I ask, unprepared for what will come next from these young girl’s lips—and heart.

“I want to testify about what happened to us and to testify of who Jesus is,” she says resolutely.

It’s clear that God has been moving powerfully in this young girl’s life, preparing her for a work that reaches much farther than Batticaloa.

Dancing with joy

On the bed behind Rebekah sits 6-year-old Debbie who was blinded by the attack. This 6-year-old, the family says, is what keeps them going.

“She is the joy in our life,” they cry out. “Whenever we cry, Debbie says, ‘Don’t cry. Our loved ones are in Heaven.’”

I ask her: “How can we pray for you, Debbie?” Her response is quick.

“Pray God will make me see again. Now I only see shadows, but one day God will give me my eyes back.”

The last time our team met with Debbie and her family, she couldn’t walk and had to be carried around. This time, we were surprised and thrilled to see this young child crawl out of the bed to say goodbye.

“Debbie! Can you walk?” we cry out in joy.

“Walk? Debbie can dance,” her sisters say.

We quickly take the opportunity to see more of this miracle: “Do you want to dance, Debbie?”

With a lioness’s heart, she begins to move her wobbling legs to the music. Her dancing is no doubt an encouragement to her older siblings and family members.

It’s almost impossible to fathom. A family who lost so much in one day on April 21, 2019, singing praises and dancing. Clearly, Rebekah, Debbie and their siblings have experienced a peace that transcends our human understanding—a peace and hope that, as Paul wrote in Philippians 4, “guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

Please pray with us for this family as they continue to navigate this “new normal” in their family. Pray for physical and emotional healing for both Rebekah and Debbie, as well as their siblings and other family members. Pray for provision and for godly people who will comfort, encourage and empower them to, as Rebekah says, “testify of who Jesus is.”

Open Doors stands with the Zion Church victims in Batticaloa, Sri Lanka, by encouraging them and praying with them. We currently have a team on the ground who is looking into the best ways to give Rebekah and Debbie’s family extra help. If you’d like to help Open Doors assist children and believers like them all over the world, click here

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