International Ministries

Comfort and Confidence of Faith in God

July 19, 2004 Journal

Ninety candles lined the front of our school hall this morning as staff and students gathered for a time of prayer and reflection, in memory of the 90 children who lost their lives in a school fire in the town of Kumbakonum.The Tamil Nadu state government declared that all schools should cancel classes today and hold a Candles for service to commemorate the tragedy.

Kumbakonum is a small town about 200 miles from where we live.In that town on Friday, the make-shift thatch classroom structure erected on the top of a 2-story school building caught on fire.The school lunches were cooked in a thatched-roofed room just below and a fire in the kitchen quickly spread to the thatch classrooms where the youngest children studied.The teacher in the upstairs room went to investigate and latched the gate to keep the children in, thinking that would prevent a panic.The thatch quickly became engulfed in flames, and all the teachers fled from the school in horror.The young children, trapped in the burning rooms, had no chance of escape.Most of them succumbed, clinging to each other in fear and pain.90 young lives were lost.

The Kumbakonum school's thatch structure is not unique in this part of India.Many schools are very crowded, with 50 or more students per teacher.For a lack of resources to build proper structures, many are constructed with thatch roofs or even entirely of palm panels and bamboo supports.While the government has deemed these materials illegal for school buildings, funding is not available to KR Child Carecorrect this.The annual per capita expenditure on school education in India is less than 100 rupees, the equivalent of US$2.16!A year ago, while on a short visit to the US, we shared with our home church in Wisconsin the story of a day-care center that was being held in a thatch room.Thanks to a generous gift from someone in the congregation, that day-care center now has brick walls and a tin roof.Not only are the children warm and dry in that room, they are also safe from the kind of horror that claimed the lives of children in Kumbakonum.

Please pray for the families that mourn the loss of their sons and daughters, brothers and sisters.Pray for the children who are being treated for extensive burns.Many of them do not know the comfort and confidence of faith in a God who loves and saves and offers eternal hope.Pray that God's Word may reach them in this time of suffering.May the Church Worldwide not tire of its mission to spread the Good News of Jesus and to serve the poor and weak.Thank you for not tiring in your support of us so we can be your representatives in this place.