Woman on a mission – Therapist heads to Sri Lanka to help heal tsunami victims
Two years ago, Marilyn Morton realized that just sitting in a pew every Sunday was not fulfilling her faith.
“It’s been my heart’s desire to be a missionary since I was young,” said Morton, a respiratory therapist who lives in Nevada City.
So she went to her pastor, Marvin Talamantez, at the Foothill Church just outside Grass Valley.
“She said, ‘I know I should be in a missionary field,'” Talamantez recalled. “She asked me, ‘What do I do?’ So I hooked her up with our missions department (of The International Church of the Foursquare Gospel).”
“I went to Sri Lanka in October of 2003,” Morton said. “We treated 18,000 patients.”
That was before the December 2004 tsunamis, which devastated the island nation south of India.
Now she is going back to help the victims at the top of the northern tip of the country, in a town called Jaffna. The town where she served in 2003, Trincomalee, “was wiped out,” said Morton, a 62-year-old employee at Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital in Grass Valley.
To help pay the $2,500 she needs for the two-week trip, the church is holding a spaghetti dinner and auction at 5 p.m. Sunday. Donations are also being taken.
In her first tour to war-torn Sri Lanka, Morton worked with a team of doctors, dentists and nurses from the U.S., Nigeria and the Philippines. “Sometimes they walk for days to get to these clinics,” she said of the residents she helped treat.
The worst part was the 23-hour plane trip, Morton said. After a quick indoctrination, it’s eight days of steady work with two days off at the end to enjoy the country.
“The first time I went, it changed me forever,” Morton said. “I didn’t want to do anything else, it gives you an incredible sense of being in the will of God.
“The bond you get with the other team members is amazing because of what you see,” Morton said. “We saw leprosy on our last trip,” which was to Anlong Veng, Cambodia, in 2004.
They were in the last area decimated by Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge, which was the Communist Party of Cambodia widely blamed for the deaths of upward of 2 million Cambodians from in the late 1970s.
“They had had no medical care, no dental. There was no commerce, no industry, no nothing; those people have nothing.”
Seeing such sites takes its toll, Morton said.
“When I come back, I can’t watch television. You don’t want to come back too fast or you get the bends.
“I feel like we’re a country of excess anyway. After you’ve been to Anlong Veng … it’s pretty profound.”
There are also rewards.
“The people, they smile, they’re so grateful that you come,” Morton said. “You see healing. You see miracles. You see things that reinforce your beliefs.”
Morton will go on her third mission back to Sri Lanka in July.
“How could anyone not be moved by the pictures of the tsunami?” Morton said. “I’m not an extraordinary person, but God takes ordinary people and does extraordinary things.”
So what about the future?
“My heart’s desire is China,” Morton said. “The doors are opening for missionaries in China.”
KNOW AND GO
WHAT: Free spaghetti dinner with donations accepted, pie auction and silent auction for gifts and services.
WHY: To finance Marilyn Morton’s missionary trip to help Sri Lanka tsunami victims.
WHEN: 5 p.m. Sunday.
WHERE: Foothill Church, 14600 Highway 49, Grass Valley CA, 95945. For more information, call 272-8511, or send donations to the Sri Lanka Missionary Fund at the church’s address.
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