poitu varam

THE CHRONICLES OF A FLEDGLING MISSIONARY CALLED JOLLYBEGGAR "i still gaze fondly at all of the pictures, drink ginger beer, bunch my food, listen to punjabi dj tunes, play my dholki, wear my sarong (around the house only because in canada it is still really uncommon for a man to wear a wraparound skirt in public) and speak way too much of the differences between east and west..."

Wednesday, April 27, 2005


really, my reasons for this blog are selfish ones.

on december 26, 2004, a tsunami tore across the indian ocean, devastating everything on the shorelines of countries in its path... with virtually no warning, the coasts of indonesia and sri lanka in particular were lain to waist by two massive waves in a period of about 37 seconds. thousands upon thousands of lives were lost along with billions of dollars worth of property.

in canada, i was slated to preach on the sunday that followed. i had a nice "new year's" message about something... the details of it are long gone now. as i was praying, God spoke to me...

i know that this always sounds odd- i read these words in a hotel in kabool lanka, sri lanka, eight months later:

one of my favorite characters in 'braveheart' was the irish guy who joined william wallace in his crusade. remember him, the crazy guy who talked to God? appropriately his name was stephen. his most memorable quote was this: "the Almighty says this must be a fashionable fight. it draws the finest people." of course, any civilized christian knows he's crazy. every devout believer- in fact, any person of faith from any religious persuasion, whether christian, muslim, buddhist, hindu, or whatever- believes in prayer, but we all know prayer is supposed to be us talking to God. we get a little nervous when someone starts hearing from God. what has the Almighty been saying to you lately? (erwin raphael mcmanus- the barbarian way)

so anyway, he said:
"do you really want to deliver this message, or do you want to actually address the urgent?"

i knew what he meant- we all knew what he meant. the urgent was the need that existed as a result of this incredible natural disaster. the urgent was something tangible. the urgent was something immediate. clearly, the message i was prepared to deliver on january 2nd could wait until next year...

on that sunday, we looked at a conceptual circle of faithfulness:

  • james 1.22-25... faith without works is dead
  • 1 corinthians 13.1-2... works without love are empty
  • 1 timothy 1.4-6... love without faith is of no eternal consequence

and God moved. in the wake of an overindulgent western Christmas yet in response to a prompting from God, the people in our smallish church, having already taken up an offering that day, gave 2/3 that amount again to tsunami aid.

and something took hold of my soul. an embracing, if you will, of what it means to be part of something bigger than your own locally circumstancial bubble. it was a great place to start... for me it was my first step out of the land of ideas and into the real world.


four months later, on wednesday, april 27, 2005, i was having breakfast with a friend who does missions work regularly. he asked me a simple question: 'i know what we believe, but what do we actually do?'

my first answers were predictably programmy. however, with deeper prodding, i was bumped out of the place where i had lived my whole life, presuming that global ministries were someone else's calling. here, it appeared, was a call from God to get involved. my comfort zone would never be the same, for my changlessness and my lack of faithfulness to live beyond my means and therefore according to God's grace and provision was now a place of great discomfort. the idea just would not go away, because God had packaged it in the words of my friend so that it would get in...

what i heard my friend say was: until the leaders of our church do something other than sunday, the people of the church will continue to hide behind them.

i don't know how many leaders you know, but none of the ones i know are particularly interested in a tidy status quo. we all want to be instruments of positive change, yeah?

through a series of emails with different people including my father, a pile of praying, and some really good late night coffees, i eventually figured out that God was calling me to do something radically different than anything i would have ever dreamt up on my own.

this blog is one of the means by which i am trying to keep that experience alive in my own heart and life, for it has now been well over a month since i left for sri lanka, and just under a month since i returned. i still gaze fondly at all of the pictures, drink ginger beer, bunch my food, listen to punjabi dj tunes, play my dolkie and wear my sarhe (around the house only because in canada it is still really uncommon for a man to wear a wraparound skirt thingie) and speak way too much of the differences between the east and the west.

yet there is a sense that it is all going to slip away into the annals of my personal history, a single (albeit exotic) chapter in an otherwise average north american walk with Jesus. that's where the whole 'selfish reasons' idea comes from. i just don't want the colours of the memories to fade, so i am typing out the journals from the trip, not so much to live in the past as to simply keep this past alive.

poitu varam is tamil for 'go and return again soon.' although it probably initially meant to take this little exploratory trip to another land to see how God might use me and my canadian church friends there, i heard it first as i got into a van in colombo. my sri lankan friend lazarus was simply saying 'we'll see you tomorrow' but these words have come to mean much more to me concerning the hope of one day returning to the faraway home of some very dear friends. i have said many times that i was only in sri lanka for ten days, but it was long enough to fall in love. i long to be reunited with my beloved, and to bring friends with me, that the gospel would be preached and the life changing power of Jesus would be testified to in jerusalem, judea, samaria... and even to the ends of the earth.