A SRI Lankan priest who narrowly escaped death in the tsunami has sent an emotional letter of thanks to the charity Aid to the Church in Need for helping to rebuild one of the country's main Catholic shrines.
When staff from the charity for suffering Christians visited the Church of Our Lady of Matara back in March, Fr Charles Hewawasam wept as he told how the shrine was devastated by the killer wave.
Out of a congregation of 75, more than 20 people died that Sunday on Boxing Day 2004 when waves at speeds of up to 500mph came crashing down on Sri Lanka's southern coast, home to the country's main Catholic shrine.
Moments after Communion got under way, the water smashed through windows and doors and wrecked everything inside.
The retreating tide swept up the much-venerated Statue of Our Lady of Matara before depositing her back on the seashore three days later, much to the relief of Fr Charles and fellow Catholics.
Now the priest and his people have more cause for rejoicing after the completion of the first phase of construction work, part funded by ACN.
The charity, which also helped with tsunami emergency relief in Sri Lanka, helped to fund vital repairs to the church and the shrine.
In his letter, Fr Charles wrote: "My heart rejoices with gratitude for the many donors who came along with all their love and strength to help us rebuild and reconstruct the destroyed lives and property."