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Pastor returns to native India to provide relief

Pastor returns to native India to provide relief

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Pastor returns to native India to provide relief

Jan. 18, 2005    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*    
407-897-1140     Orlando  {0229}

An e-Review Feature
By Ronald K. Owen**

JACKSONVILLE — As he watched the unfolding tragedy caused by the giant tsunami that hit his native land of India, the Rev. Deva Godwin remembered he was consumed by the thought, "If I were there I could have been of some help to these grieving people."

Aware of his anguish and known as "the small church with the big heart," Godwin's congregation at Faith United Methodist Church in Miami responded immediately and arranged for Godwin and his wife, Femila, to go India to minister to victims of the earthquake and tsunamis that hit the Indian Ocean area Dec. 26.

The couple will leave Jan. 21 for Trivandrum and join the South Kerala Diocese of the Church of South India to assist in the relief work. Godwin is from Kerala, the southern most state of India, and originally belonged to the diocese he and his wife will be helping.

"Our mission involves visiting the affected areas and assisting the local pastors in pastoral counseling to the families who have lost dear ones," Godwin said. "We will visit and comfort injured victims in the hospital, provide temporary shelter and find permanent homes for hundreds of displaced children."

Godwin and his wife, who both speak the local language, will also assist the church in its effort to rebuild the area's shattered communities. More than 2,000 people were killed as the giant wave washed away the huts of the fishing villages along Kerala's 40-mile stretch of shoreline. The death toll throughout the Indian Ocean region now tops 175,000, according to Reuters news service.

The Godwins will encourage and assist local pastors in their efforts to bring survivors together.

"Dr. Somerwell Memorial Mission Hospital has already agreed to provide health-care services, including hospitalization and surgical procedures, for the victims of the tsunami for $20 per family," Godwin said. "For each family, no matter how many members. This is a great offer!"

Godwin was also grateful for the support of fellow pastors in the Miami District. Godwin shared his vision to go to India and minister to the victims of the tsunami at a district pastor's meeting last week.

"It was a very emotional moment for me, and I noticed the same with my colleagues," Godwin said. "After the meeting, Rev. Thom Shafer, pastor of Coral Gables First United Methodist Church, came to me and asked how much the fare to India was. I told him $3,000 roundtrip, and he said that the fare would be paid by Coral Gables First. I felt like crying out loud, but kept quiet. God is good all the time!"

Godwin received his theological education at United Theological College in Bangalore and was ordained a pastor in 1969. He received a scholarship to McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago in 1974 where he received his master's degree. Godwin relocated to Miami in 1987 and joined Faith United Methodist Church. He became the church's pastor in 2002.


This article relates to Disaster Relief.

*Wacht is director of Florida United Methodist Communications and managing editor
of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Owen is a freelance writer based in Jacksonville, Fla.