Two missionary families representing the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod remain in Sri Lanka nearly three weeks after gruesome Easter Sunday bombings that killed at least 250 people attending Sri Lankan churches and staying in hotels, according to the Rev. Dr. Wilfred Karsten of Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Moline.
Karsten has made 20 trips to Sri Lanka since 1987, and Holy Cross has hosted several special Sri Lankan church officials and visitors during that time, he said.
Karsten plans to make another trip to Sri Lanka in September unless the U.S. State Department "totally prohibits it," he said recently.
"I began traveling to Sri Lanka when I was a pastor in Maryland," he said. "When I came to Holy Cross in 2006, they were supportive of my continued involvement, and they have contributed in many and various ways to the life of the people there.
"Each year, our congregation provides school supplies at Christmas to between 500 and 700 children," he said. "We have supported scholarships for pastor's children, and helped individuals with health needs. One year we provided funds for a school to construct toilet facilities.
"We also support many conferences and convocations of the church there, in addition to our support of expatriate missionaries."
Holy Cross continues to pray for peace in Sri Lanka and throughout the world, Karsten said.
"They talk of increased military presence in most areas of Sri Lanka," he said.
Karsten said Sri Lanka had been the target of real persecution in the past.
"They've been through a lot and certainly know what it means to suffer for the faith," he said.
Karsten recently had a visit from the Rev. Subramaniam Devanesan, 41, pastor of Emanuel Lutheran Church in Colombo, Sri Lanka, the country's capital city and scene of one of the bombing attacks.
The two pastors have been friends since Karsten mentored Devanesan during 15 earlier mission trips to Sri Lanka, according to earlier reports.
Their churches also have developed a partnership, Karsten said.
It was Davanesan's first trip to the United States, and it was paid for by Holy Cross as a gift to Karsten in honor of his 30th ordination anniversary.