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Religious groups reach out to victims

January 04, 2005

Andrew Edwards

Members of the religious community have begun dispatching money to

areas hit by last week's devastating tsunami, and in some cases they

simply sent themselves.

A team from Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa has already arrived in the

area, Pastor Gaylord Tohill said Monday. Members of the team are

connected to Safe Harbor International Relief, based out of Rancho

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Santa Margarita, and are trying to visit all areas affected by the

disaster, which according to United Nations estimates killed about

150,000 people -- nearly the population of Newport-Mesa.

"We're trying to hit them all," Tohill said.

The tsunami, triggered Dec. 28 by a major earthquake, caused

destruction along Thailand, Sri Lanka, the Indonesian island of

Sumatra, among other regions.

An online journal written by Gary Kusonoki, leader of the Safe

Harbor team, details the group's efforts. Kusonoki wrote that the

team arrived in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on Saturday and that his team's

mission would be to provide whatever immediate aid could be given and

figure out what projects will need to be undertaken in the future.

A group from Costa Mesa's Rock Harbor Church, which had planned a

trip to India before the tsunami struck, arrived near the city of

Hyderabad the day after the disaster. Rock Harbor church members

raised more than $50,000 in donations on Sunday, church spokeswoman

Jen Mulroney said. The money will be sent to those church members

already in India, so they can make care packages.

Many Rock Harbor members contacted the church in the week between

the tsunami and Sunday services, asking how they could help.

"We had a lot of phone calls in the last week, a lot of e-mails

[asking] 'What can we do?' 'What is Rock Harbor doing?'" Mulroney

said.

In India, Rock Harbor's team works with Harvest India, a Christian

group in that country.

The Newport-Mesa Christian Center in Costa Mesa also has a

connection to Harvest India, and that church plans to send a team to

India around the end of the month, associate pastor Jeff Keith said.

"This is such a cataclysmic event, we want to be in the middle of

it as much as we can," Keith said.

Many local religious groups collected special donations for

tsunami victims, and fundraising is ongoing:

* The Islamic Educational Center of Orange County in Costa Mesa

collected about $5,000 for relief efforts, board member Saide Khan

said.

* Members of Newport Center United Methodist Church gave about

$2,000, Pastor Cathleen Coots said.

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