I believe in Providence – Providence that has abided with me every step of my life. To say my life is a series of coincidences, rather than providence, would be to defy the obvious.
Providence saved my life when I was twelve years old in Sri Lanka, an island in the Indian Ocean, torn by civil war. I remember weeks in July of 1983 in Colombo, the capitol of Sri Lanka, when its people lost their civility, humanity and, in too many cases, their lives. A few days earlier, Sinhalese police officers, members of the majority ethnic group in the country, were killed by the Tamil Tigers in the North of Sri Lanka, terrorists using indiscriminate violence to further their political agenda. My family is Tamil. We Tamils living in the capital feared the consequences of the brazen attack.
The month of July 1983 began with rumors of sporadic instances of violence towards Tamils in Colombo and the days that followed unfolded events such as fires fueled by the homes, possessions, families, and flesh of Tamils who had been caught by the roving gangs of Sinhalese thugs, working off a government issued voting list. The voices of the angry mob as they went home to home destroying Tamil homes and possessions were the worst. I remember my father, mother, sister and myself, hiding under a bed and praying with our Bible, in the annex of a Sinhalese home that we rented and called home. The Sinhalese family we lived with denied our presence in the annex of their home and stated that we had moved to Jaffna, in the north. They hid us, risking their lives, children and home. We hid by the bed and our neighbors fed us breakfast, lunch and dinner for the next couple of weeks as we hid. We did not want to raise any suspicion by cooking and having smoke rise from our chimney or go out to play or turn on any lights for weeks. We cried and prayed for the lives of all our loved ones living through out Colombo, many of whom lost their homes, possessions and lives. Our faith in God and our prayers allowed us to entrust our lives to the Sinhalese family while angry mobs destroyed the world we knew all around us.
The only possession we clung to, other than each other, was a tattered Bible. I can’t explain why we weren’t discovered those days. Providence had a sympathetic Singhalese family protect us, shepherding and feeding us in their home, trying their best to prevent my sister and I from witnessing the hatred that could destroy so many lives. My sister and I will never again enjoy growing up with our Singhalese neighbors, with their two daughters, of going to the same school, coming home and playing together in the front yard. The carefree days of childhood innocence was lost forever.
Shortly after calm was restored, my mother wrote to an American dentist, who had hired my father as a tour guide the previous year, to tour the beautiful island, who barely knew us, except for stopping by our home and taking a picture with my family, after his tour. Upon hearing all that we had faced, he immediately sent us a check for $2,000 and the photograph taken a year ago inviting us to visit Portland, Oregon and spend some time with his family. Once we received our visa to visit the United States we sold the few possessions we had and arrived in Portland with four suitcases. We lived in Oregon for six months but my father was unable to find a job without a social security card. We contacted another family in Los Angeles, who had also traveled to Sri Lanka and toured with my father and when we spoke to them they advised us to move to Los Angeles and that they would help us get settled. They were immigration attorneys, who helped my parents find jobs, schools for us, our Green Cards and eventually our United States Citizenship. God’s hand in our lives brought these people into our lives way before we knew the purpose for our paths crossing. These people, who lived comfortably in the greatest country on earth, had the compassion and, I believe, benevolence, to send us money to buy our tickets, and provide my family a new life, bringing us to America. Providence brought these strangers into my family’s life, offering my family a new beginning in America.
Two decades later, in the metropolis of Houston, Providence has blessed my husband and I with three angels, neither of whom, we pray, will know the fear of losing their lives, or seeing their parents left impotent with fear.
Providence has blest this country, securing sanctuary and opportunity for its people. My country, now. My people. My children’s people. When I look back at my life, and look at where I am, how can I not believe in the design of Providence?
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