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..."

Sunday, August 21, 2005


august 21: day 12: sunday (part 4)

i was on the phone with mrs jollybeggar and the boys (who were visiting the in-laws while i was away- why should i have all the fun, right?) when ben and dan got back.

the guys had with them my beautiful new dholki. this instrument was no souvenir- it was real: a thing of beauty. however, the surprise came with a bag that ben handed me, his eyes twinkling. i assured him that it wasn't mine and he, of course, assured me that it was. inside was a salvar, bought for mrs jollybeggar by mrs lazarus, and a sarong for me!

i don't care which language- there are no words to describe my feelings in response to this kindness. i wrote the lazarus family a letter, but i'm afraid that it was incapable of speaking the full truth, for this was too profound- in any event, i tried to say thank you.

the guys in the topaz showed me how to play the dholki and wrap the sarong and i rushed up to my room to lose the shorts underneath.

amazingly cool, i can understand why these things are worn by men and women all over the world. i don't think i'll be preaching in it, though... i'll leave that to danglin' dan.

i keep going through the pictures in my digital camera- never since the boys were born have i looked at some pictures again and again, incapable of keeping the smile inside. there is simply joy in this recollection.

we waited up and spoke together of many things; dan, al, ben and i. colleen and ruby had gone to jennifer's house with mohamed in the afternoon, and then went on to mohamed and ivon's house in the evening. i felt quite jealous of this (for i had really wanted to go to both homes myself upon our return- it just hadn't worked out that way) but i knew that there is no place for jealousy in love. i will just have to visit their home next time i come.

interesting how easy it is to say 'next time i come' compared to how difficult it was to initially commit to going. the first cut is the deepest.

to my pleasant surprise, mohamed (w/ ivon) drove ruby and colleen back to the hotel in the auto rather than sending them with a driver... it took nearly two hours, but was no doubt an experience that colleen will never forget! we talked and laughed and took pictures of each other, putting off the inevitable separation that would have to take place in the same way that teenagers seem to say goodbye about fifty times at the end of camp.

both mohamed and ivon were experiencing God's healing- in his throat and head and in her feet. this was great to see. not only was mohamed experiencing God's grace and mercy in physical healing, but he had been approved by the free methodist church in sri lanka's board of administration to go ahead and find a place within a specific monthly budget. eustace and dan and ben had gone with mohamed earlier in the day to look at three possible new sites for mohamed's church. this was all exciting, for it meant that he would be able to have one church service together with his people, rather than constant visitations which can be so much more tiring.

God continues to provide in response to faithfulness.

eventually all of the stalling was done and our friends got back into their three-out-of-four-speed, three wheel auto and started out on the two-hour journey home. this poitu varam was as difficult as the one with lazarus that morning (which at this point, because of the fullness of the day, felt like a week earlier.)

i went to bed not knowing when i would spend the night in this country again, and wondering why time seems to move so fast when you are happiest. i eventually dropped off to sleep as mohamed and ivon drove home and my wife and sons ate lunch on the other side of the world.

interesting note: i am (in real time, this being the end of january, 2006, as i post these final journal entries) stalling in the same way even now. i know that i am just about done transcribing these written accounts and it is kinda bothering me... it's as if leaving the final entry unwritten will somehow delay closure to a splendid chapter of my life that i can never reopen.

recently i viewed a will smith movie called 'hitch.' there is this scene in it where one of the characters, a guy named albert, has had his heart broken for the first time. he confesses something odd that feels familiar to my sri lankan experience somehow: he says that he doesn't want to move past the pain or the sense of loss because (now i'm probably putting words into his mouth here) these feelings legitimize the love that he has experienced.

i have said many times that i was only in the country for ten days, but that this was long enough to fall in love. drippy or not, that's what happened.

i sit here typing late on a saturday night, knowing that my friends in sri lanka are worshiping together right now.


august 21: day 12: sunday (part 3)
upon arriving back in negombo, al and i decided to hit the ocean for awhile. we knew that the others wouldn't be returning until much later in the afternoon.

repeat shot: up by that boat where the beach curves a bit is where al went 'swimming.'
the waves were huge and al went at them hard, wearing a mask and snorkel (but no flippers) and looking- well- picture it and draw your own conclusions. i stayed close to where i had set down my camera and my coveted norwex towel, but had to do so intentionally because of the natural pull of the water up the beach (north, i think)... this made sense to me in that when the tsunami hit the east side of the island with its full force, the currents took the effects in a clockwise direction down around the southernmost part and then back up the west side. al appeared to be having a good time splashing around, letting the surf carry him away. eventually he got too far and swam in to shore and then hung out on the beach.

at least that’s how it looked to me.

however, the thing with al is that, no matter what you do with him, you always seem to come out of it with a story to tell. it’s just the way he is. i think it has to do with his basic human authenticity or something. i mean, this is one of the only people i’ve ever met who bears absolutely no pretense. it is really refreshing to be afforded the privilege of calling someone like that ‘friend.’ there is safety and peace in some relationships that strengthens a person rather than drawing from them. knowing al is like that.

anyway, what actually happened was al got a real scare out in the surf. the harder he swam, the more he seemed to be pulled out to sea. he panicked and expended an incredible amount of energy trying to swim against the waves that seemed to be more interested in being one with him than he was with them.

once he got to shore, he sat gasping for at least a half-an-hour before getting up and making his way unsteadily back to the hotel, where he showered with his glasses on and passed out for at least two hours. for al, it really put a cloud into the sky of an otherwise perfect day, as he found himself projecting his feelings of fear and helplessness onto the women and children killed in the tsunami. the image of all those saris drifting in and out with the tides long after the disaster, each one representing a woman or a girl, had haunted his imagination and engaged his empathy. on the beach gasping, weeping and nearly puking, he had been reliving an experience for real that had only been his to imagine for the past eight months. he was quite upset.

sleeping motionless on his bed for so long, the hard water drops eventually becoming dry circles on the lenses of the glasses he still wore as he lay on his back, al was kinda making me nervous... all I could think of was ‘what if he made it back to the room and then had a heart attack?’

apparently al wasn’t the only one whose imagination was working overtime.

on the road we had been talking a lot about how we discern what God is calling us to do. as i hung out in the sri lankan sun drinking rich ceylon tea with loads of cream, i thought of many such things- finally stopping from the intense 'go' that had characterized the trip's long, full days.

it's kind of simple, really. you sense a call to missions; you ask God where; God sends you somewhere through an incredible course of events and 'coincidences' that you interpret as his doing, thus gaining some heavenly perspective; and you fall in love.

i'm sure i'd feel the same no matter where i went. the point is that i came here in response to a moving of God, and was invited (as opposed to being simply allowed) to participate in it. to now say 'well i'm not sure if sri lanka is the place; perhaps i should try brazil' or something would be absurd, in my view. God knew i would love wherever i went, so he sent me here.

now the task is to capitalize upon the relationship that already exists between myself and my church family back home, and the newly formed relationship with the church in sri lanka- introducing the people back home to the movement taking place among the churches here.

there seem to be basically three levels of partnership (or rather, expressions of missional partnership) each one more personal than the last:

  • one- nonspecific giving
  • two- specific giving
  • three- specific sending.

the third is the most exciting because it engages more people both in the stewardship of their cash and/or their talents. plan?

eustace and sylvia and i talked about these things on the walk we took upon their return.

eustace was a great example of the third level, having been sent by his church to perform a specific task on this trip. his work here being done, he would return home... i had a sneaky suspicion that he'd be back, though. he had caught the bug- you could see it not only in his approach to this place and his work here, but also in the relationships cultivated.

we strolled down the streets of this town, all aware that this would be the last time... for awhile.

yep, this is a repeat as well. my camera was so full that i had no space left to take fresh pictures by the end. on our walk, eustace, sylvia and i headed in this direction and walked for about a half hour, then turned around and came back...

as the sun went down, the beach lit up. sunday night. apparently it's this way every week... six days shall you toil. people were everywhere; playing cricket, flying kites, parasurfing, eating sri lankan doughnuts- it was a gala evening comparable to that famous painting by georges seurat... only in the dark.

i spoke with chris again and listened as he and an engineer from england discussed surfing. i honoured the commitment made earlier in the week to buy the cricket shirts from she-har... overall, the evening felt like a whole lotta poitu varam.

the road less travelled

august 21: day 12: sunday (part 2)

around lunchtime, i realized that it had already been a full day since the batticaloan luncheon grenade had gone off the day before. still hadn't heard if anyone had claimed responsibility... it would be hard to say what had wreaked more havoc on this place- the tsunami or the civil war... both had contributed to the arrested development of this beautiful place.

you could tell that almost everything that existed there had been quite progressive when it was built, but also that that was a long time ago. now it was a land of stark contrasts.

even breathing here is a rich experience: at any given time you can be ambushed by air so thick and rich and heavy that you can hardly take it in- sometimes it's good rich, other times it's just heavy rich. i remember saying how i couldn't wait to taste the air here... little did i realized it was going to be quite so literal.

midride, we stopped in a lush, shaded roadside attraction for some coconuts.

the guy serving us was pretty amazing with his mini machete. however, al tried to joke with him about being careful to not cut his fingers off or something and spent nearly five minutes trying to explain the joke. priceless.

interesting the things you'll notice driving through a city... one day i spied a kid with an amazing black and gold john lennon t-shirt; today it was that smiling buddha on the hill again- by day you can see that buddha is flanked by radio towers that were not visible at night... so much for mystical unions- even buddha rides the airwaves in search of a common vibration that will unite us all.

jollybeggar and the whistling driver

i was sitting eating my coconut when i happened to glance over onto a side table where i spied some doughnuts... (mmm- don't bother... sri lankan doughnuts look like cake numnums, but they don't taste any good. i had one the night before in batticaloa and was disappointed to discover no sweetness whatsoever- just more spice and heat.)

it's like the clubhouse sandwich i had a couple days earlier while listening to the cars chattering in the streets of kandy- pure tasteless garbage. they do eastern well, but the western stuff falls short... had to wonder if that's how sri lankans and other asians feel about the canadian or american versions of their quisine.

on the road, al and i were talking about music and somehow dylan and the travelling wilburies came up... he said (as if to 'stump' me with a little-known band) 'have you heard of the flying willoughbies?'

we saw many more soldiers on the road from batticaloa than the road to it. along with the regular military outposts with their manned gun turrets and the checkpoints with stern-faced young men holding semi-automatic weapons,

there were trucks full of soldiers and large groups of soldiers walking along the road side poking around with long contraptions that looked like those things you use to scoop your golf ball out of a water trap. however, these soldiers were not looking for golf balls or empty ginger beer bottles, they were combing the roadsides for mines that may have been placed there in the darkness of the night before.

there was not a lot of traffic- the military activity tends to discourage travel, which is probably the idea...

still, lorries full of straw, bicycles laden with sticks and carts with fresh new bricks were met regularly on their way towards tsunami-affected cities and towns.

our driver had taken to whistling- no discernable tune really, just whistling. the whistling stopped momentarily as we watched a bus come around a corner, passing an auto at high speed only to wildly swerve to miss the oncoming vehicle which was just ahead of us... careening back into it's own lane caused a major sway which was then corrected to swing the thing the other way. i thought for sure she was gonna roll, full of passengers and all... but it didn't, and our driver resumed his whistling- business as usual.

sundry sunday observations

august 21: sunday: day 12 (part 1)

it's always hard to believe that you've come to the last day of an experience. this one (the last full day in sri lanka) began with an alarm at 5:30 a.m.

mark twain and brent butt? nope, my friends lazarus and jey... notice the cell phone?
al and i got up, showered etc in time for leaving at 6:00. stepping out of the room, we were met in the dark by a rather weary-looking lazarus and jey who had gotten themselves up to see us off. turned out that they were going to propositioning some land for relief development today, so it would be down to al and me on the road back to negombo.

the smallest things touch my heart and lazarus is very good at those kinds of things.

he let me know that they had picked up a dolkie for me, so i thanked him far too much and then paid the man (300 rupees for the drum and 500 more for the taxi...)

strangely, he enquired as to how 'big' my wife is... my first, western humour response was something like 'no bigger than your wife!' but i suppressed the urge to deliver it, as the cultural differences between easy 'kibbitzing' gauche familiarity/disrespect might very well spoil everything that had been developing between us. i chose the socially safer route, responded earnestly in bit phrases and gesticulations. still, who knows what he was thinking? i had mentioned that i was interested in buying some cool sri lankan shirt or other for mrs jollybegger...

it was funny last night (is 'funny' the right word?) when we were talking. he said how at first he didn't understand my speaking at all and how now it's easy... i've been thinking the same thing.

lazarus gave me a package of photos and we embraced beyond ceremony.

he has become a dear friend and i will deeply miss his smile.

the drive moved along uneventfully for a couple of hours. in times like these i would often scroll through the faces and places locked in the memory of my digital camera. i don't believe that there has ever been a time in my life where i've been so incapalbe of withholding a smile as i was upon looking through the shots taken. even upon returning home i would find myself smiling foolishly to myself at a mental image of lazarus or mohamed or isac or jay... or pretty much anyone i encountered on the trip.

we saw many peacocks in the wild, but upon seeing four of them draggin through a pile of garbage, somehow that sense of pride seemed to fade. real life and face-to-face experience will do that with just about anyone. still, whne these magnificent birds spread their wings to fly out of your way, it was something incredible to behold.

eating in or driving through the city- any city- there was the constant chattering of automobiles comparably to the sounds of the birds in the treas at dusk with countless voices and topics of conversation, as if these creatures can only think verbally- some horns greet each other, some acknowledge others' points of view, some communicate a sense of urgency or restlessness, but none swear at each other like roadrage-ridden north america.


on sunday mornings (and others) one could hear sri lankan gospel radio... rather than actually broadcast, the churches simply pointed their speakers out into the street so that neighbours and passersby heard what was taking place inside God's house. even robert's little housechurch of about twenty-five people had this sound system thing going on.

the more time you spend here, the more you become aware of the basic cultural distinctives... i can now understand why lazarus wants an amplifier and microphones for the ministry centre. the muslims travel around blasting their prayers thorugh loudspeakers three times a day- the christians amplify worship services; the hindus place shrines to peleal (the elephant guy with all the additional arms) and the catholics place similar shrines on corners depicting stations of the cross or mary holding the Christ.

interesting how, in wartime, one's own weaponry and tactics are deployed by the enemy.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

pastoral ministry in 3D

august 20: saturday: day 11 (part 3)
at robert's church, the worship time was great- jesuthas and his younger brother alternated between playing bongos and tambourines; he and his sister traded off in the leading of the worship singing. a friend played guitar with a delay effect that was a bit distracting for me, but understandably 'contemporary' for the group there assembled. the worship leaders faced the front rather than facing the crowd- cool.

there was much sharing of personal faith experiences, particularly the epiphanies that were still registering as a result of the tsunami in december. there were stories of new personal visions and callings, healings and celebrations of the grace of God amidst life as experienced in tsunami-affected batticaloa.

there was nowhere near the same spiritual battling going on as the week prior in colombo... more accurately, it appeared as though the spiritual battles taking place here were manifesting themselves in different ways. in a different place, on different terrain within different circumstances, different strategies are employed. the people had been hit with such an incredible natural disaster in the tsunami that it was as if God had put out his hand and said:

okay, only the following demons can go through: disease, despair and discouragement. that's it. the rest of you are going to have to busy yourselves with something else for awhile.

this was, of course, simply my observation.

whatever the case, joining together with some twenty-five other believers in the same room that had, just a couple hours earlier, housed our wonderful meal and fellowship time with robert and his family was a rich experience.

afterwards we enjoyed some humble tea and delicious bananas before heading to the hotel.

jesuthas presented me with a plaque from the front of their church, bearing exodus 33.14 in tamil. i gave him the hemp necklace (made by my son poet) that he had admired earlier in the week at kabool lanka. in truth, i had planned on giving it to him on this day anyway, i just needed to find an expressed reason to do so.

we spoke of many things, including music. it was quite interesting to me to note the many instruments that jesuthas played. heart-breaking was his remark 'i used to play keyboard as well until tsunami took my keyboard away.'

there were many more warm poitu varam's and at least one canadian in the van played tap-the-window games with the children outside and swore to himself that he would be back.

on the way to our hotel, we stopped but no one was really hungry so we just picked up a sri lankan dough-nut and burrito to go...

i didn't like the burrito thing, so i gave half of it to the kid manning the hotel (who didn't seem to mind, but didn't seem too interested either.)
the room, nowhere near as horrid as i had feared from the stories i had heard at the travel doctor before leaving canada, was clean but simple- like a dorm at camp. al and i sat up talking about leadership stuff until about to fall asleep... so it even felt like camp except without the bugs! there was one lone mosquito which i killed early on in the evening, making the room safe for those of us who were fearfully and faithfully taking our malaria meds.

al spoke of how the guys' cell phones were driving him nuts.

of unwelcome tennants and welcoming homeowners

august 20: saturday: day 11 (part 2)

as we drove across a bridge, my attention was drawn to some functional distinctives: many of the bridges here were multi-purpose: a causeway for vehicles, bicycles and trains. lazarus looked up from his near-sleep and said 'like salvation- one bridge.'

jey explains why this is obviously a cobra den, not an anthill...
all along the sides of the road we saw cobra dens...
there were apparently a LOT of cobras here.

the cobra does not build its own den. it lets a certain rather tasty, however industrious, type of ant do it... then it eats all the ants and moves in. you can tell the difference between a cobra den and a basic ant hill by the size of the holes...

jey told me that ancient hindus would build little prayer shelters around and over the den of a cobra and then worship it from a spot safely outside. reminiscent of the hebrews' 'holy of holies.' therein resides the glory of a dangerous God.

upon arriving at batticaloa, we came immediately to robert's house and church. his first words to us were 'you're two hours late...' which put al off a bit, not because it was true but because it flew in the face of his sri lanka math/time theory.

however, robert and his wife then extended a touching kindness: they drew water from their own well and presented it to us to wash our hands in- refusing to let us share a bucket, it was one fresh bucket per man- then robert proceeded to pour out al's bucket over his feet when his hands were done. this took me back to Jesus' washing of the disciples' feet and the model of servanthood that Jesus, the master, provided for us, the servants.

the meal was amazing and robert hovered over us, repouring sprite every time we would take a sip.

everyone continued to make a big deal about my eating with my hand. i went to eat my salad with a fork and happened to glance over at lazarus, who gave me an encouraging frown and head shake as if to say come on, you're not really gonna us a fork are you? i realized my folly, for if anything is easy to eat with your hand, it's gotta be salad!

to the hand-eating business, my reply was always the same:
now that i've learned how to eat, i guess i better learn how to speak next
(only half-joking)

standing out in robert's sunny front yard with his four amazing kids
interesting. it occurs to me while talking to jesuthas that he may very well be studying to become a driver because he is interested in hauling the living, not the dead. i believe that God will call him to be a pastor- perhaps like mohamed with his taxi- in time.

we visited the tsunami-affected area and struck up a conversation with a home owner named xavier who was busy rebuilding his house. he'd had a lot of westerners taking his picture, making empty promises. however, he was willing to share his story nonetheless.

his family is alive today because he had taken them to church in another district that fateful morning. he is alive today because he saw the wave coming over and through the village across the bay, got on his motorcycle and made a break for it.

yet how many thousand others in this country did not experience the same deliverence of God?

al told me of long pieces of fabric hanging from trees and floating among the debris- even when he came in february, two months after the disaster- these were the saris of women caught in the wave... amidst the apparent flotsam and jetsum left on the shores after entire islands were 'shipwrecked' you would see items like a single child's shoe half buried in the sand; things bearing testimony to the mortal battle that had taken place between man and nature, calling into question whether man could ever really have dominion over the awesomeness of a physical domain as great as this planet.

we are caretakers- gardeners at best- subject to the physically causal forces of gravity, motion, and seismic activity. makes one feel quite small, actually...

this elderly man sits reading the paper outside of what was once a sturdy home...
as we drove along 'the strip,' al took some really powerful pictures. he had been here before, six months earlier, and had fired off many shots of rubble and destruction. his motivation and resulting subjects were different this time: essentially what al seemed to be chronicling was the rebuilding effort and the apparent price of survival as etched into the deep wrinkles of the faces of those left behind to shoulder its burden.

xavier tells his story while his hired help picks up around the place.
xavier put it well:
(although the exact words are gone, their meaning remains, haunting me with integrity, purpose and sentimentally stubborn resolve)
my grandfather built this house, my father was raised in this house, he raised me in this house- this house is mine to rebuild.

(for more reflections upon xavier's story go to
http://e-pistles.blogspot.com/2005/09/blaming-god.html )

everything informs everything else

august 20: saturday: day 11 (part 1)

still on call, these guys were at work when we checked in the night before, and now here they were at 8:30 a.m. showing no signs of being 'relieved' by the dayshift guys. i encountered this often... i think the sri lankans clone themselves.

we awakened to discover that the generator was down and there was no power. still, it was such a nice place that it didn't matter. by the time al got into the shower, though, the power and the hot water were both up and running.

jey later described a dance that he did in the shower. the telling left us all a bit creeped out because the image of this big, bald, sri lanken buddha/ brent butt lookalike dancing naked in the shower stall of a resort hotel just wasn't working and wouldn't leave.

i saw westerners coming and going with their white socks and their polo shirts and that am i ever going to get some service around here? look on their pink faces. in time, they all climbed onto their luxurious tour bus and pulled out for another adventure- the order of the day was a safari encounter with some elephants. this fancy resort had been built for them so that they would feel at home in a strange and distant land. eventually i would put my negative feelings in the right place, but at the time i was condescendingly annoyed with their complaints about the cold water and all that.

(growth is the result of having embraced change, and i would grow out of my own little snot-nosed presumptions about people and places in time- every new experience brings with it its own wisdom. these personal attitude adjustments were mine to accept in response to a curious reverse culture-shock that is, apparently, quite common for newbie missionaries. the thing is, it doesn't matter how many books (or blogs, for that matter) are written to prepare others for transcultural experiences... ultimately one's greatest growth will be registered as a direct result of the experience itself: that's where the most exciting change and challenges are encountered. it was that way for me, anyway.

i think that it all comes down to one's willingness to embrace the change and be embraced by it- being reshaped by the encounter.)

although we left in good time, we couldn't help but do a bit of sightseeing, as this area was rich in sights to see. twelve monkeys (no, not the terry gilliam film) played by the side of the road, cobra dens and elephants in the wild were all part of the first ten minutes.

most interesting was this crazy stone formation that looked like a huge fist thrust upwards towards the sky through the earth's crust. it was, in fact, a spot chosen by an ancient king (kashuba) as a place of refuge from his enemies (reminiscent of the stories we read of david in his fugitive years.)

for some sense of proportion: i think that the cluster of little tiny things standing upright by the tree is a group of people... and maybe an ox or buffalo or something.

eventually kashuba had developed the area, making it into his place of royal residence, complete with an interior spa already built in by God and a bricked-in moat built by his hired (?) hands.

lazarus, al and jey stand by the coffer.
we came upon this huge standing buddha beside a very picturesque bay that lazarus said was a 'traditional place.' (interesting- the use of 'traditional' rather than 'sacred.')

this buddha reminded me of a seated one that we had seen the night before upon a hill outside of another town, bright lights ensuring that the people could plainly see buddha smiling down upon them from anywhere in town... like the hollywood sign.

the buddha on the hill brought to memory two things that i had seen a couple weeks earlier on a family trip to mt rushmore... not the heralded, four-faced shrine to democracy, nor the crazy horse national monument (although kashuba's fortress looked very much like the crazy horse project) but something seen en route: outside one town was a massive sign with the ten commandments on it; in a farmer's field in the middle of literally nowhere was a huge cross on a knoll, lit up and visible for miles around in the same way.

it is really interesting how everything seems to be informed by everything else.
outside of another town, we saw cows feasting upon the garbage in its dump, sharing it with an elephant. elephants in the streets of some of the towns was not uncommon- although, unlike this one in the dump, they were also kept on leashes. we saw three or four on the trip to batticaloa and back.

apparently, the sinhala translation for 'lamb and lion lying down together' is 'cow and elephant eating garbage together...' although you won't find it in any phrasebook.

Friday, August 19, 2005

of lizard, lavatory and the laughing God

august 19: friday: day 10 (part 3)

the process of journalling became almost as addictive as blogging- although for different reasons... i just couldn't bear losing so many of those thoughts and memories because i knew i'd have no way of retrieving them afterwards.

the mind is a funny computer- everything you've done, everything you've seen, heard, felt, tasted or otherwise experienced is saved somewhere on your internal hard-drive... but the files are buried so deep in unlabelled folders that accessing them is next to impossible sometimes.

the journal is a labelled shortcut

so we set out for batticaloa. the conversation was warm and free, which was refreshing after our trip to the garden and back.

we ate at an amazing restaurant that was suggested by our driver. al took some great 'album cover shots' at the table. ginger beer was as omnipresent as God in our photographs- kinda funny how many times afterward i found myself explaining to people that this was just soda pop bottled by coca-cola.

feeling some pressure from the journey, i excused myself and went to the washroom. i was about to assume the position when i noticed that the seat was wet (quite common, as they have the little squirtgun thingie which sends water- well- anywhere you point the thing) so i went to wipe off the seat... a lizard of some sort about four to six inches long zipped around inside the toilet bowl up to the spot where the water comes down just below the seat in the front... well, that was it for me- suddenly i didn't have to take a dump anymore... it wasn't until the following morning that i was able to declench after that one!

on the road, lazarus was passing out, so i moved from the back of the van to the all-but-uninhabitable middle seat. having no legroom at all, i decided to lay on my back with my legs crossed up against the side window- somehow i allowed myself to fall asleep while travelling a sri lankan highway at night.

when i awoke, we were at the hotel... and what a hotel! for 6300 rupees/night, we had all the western comforts of your basic resort hotel. it represented the laughter of God, for it was a surprise outpouring of his goodness. (for more on the laughing God, go to http://northvus.blogspot.com/2005/03/laughing-god.html)

by far the nicest restroom facilities encountered on the trip were here in this $63/night hotel. hot water, a shower stall, toilet paper- you name it!

i joked with al, as we lay in our tidy little sri lankan resort hotel beds, that in this light he had very nice eyes. to take things further in the wrong direction, we discussed the possibility of sending jey a massage at 7 a.m. the following morning.

to eden and back

august 19: friday: day 10 (part 2)

on our way to the hotel after breakfast, a bigass iguana went ... well, now here's a problem: what do bigass iguanas do? do they 'scurry'? do they 'slither'? check www.Dictionary.com for an apt synonym for 'cross' and get back to me- the most accurate one will be posted! (yeah, whatever.)

anyway, we headed from the hotel uddawaththa to kandy to 'see the sights.' the day before, while i was at the mission distract meeting, a number from our group went to the elephant sanctuary- now today it was off to the botanical gardens. there were two things that actually sustained me during this time (apart from the obvious beauty of the gardens themselves)

  • jay's wife, son (my buddy 'prince') and daughters were with us on the excursion, so i was still with the sri lankan people
  • we had changed our plans yet again and would, in fact, be leaving for batticaloa upon returning to kabool lanka in the afternoon after all.
driving through one of the towns on the way, i was amazed at how often the buildings and storefronts that lined the streets were facades, obscuring from the autopublic's eye the shacks and shanties immediately behind. how like people everywhere?

we greet the faces shown to us with a face we've chosen for the occasion

on the road, colleen started singing the songs that she had taught the kids. with jay's family travelling with us, the sound of the different voices and accents singing the old chestnut bind us together felt allegorical.

we drove by a lot with row upon row of van fronts and side panels. my western mind smirked but my eastern experience would not get the joke until later, as the only traffic mishap we had seen up to that point was the day when we came upon a bus that had backed over some guy's bike...

(sadly, two days later when al and i would return from batticaloa, we would come upon the collision of a van and a lorry which had claimed the lives of two in the van... the van had passed on a blind corner and found itself occupying the same space as the front righthand corner of the truck.)

... not like at home where it's pretty hard to go for a drive anywhere without coming upon someone taking down someone else's insurance info after a fender bender.

i was glad for about a million reasons that i was to go with al and jey and lazarus to batticaloa instead of to the tea plantation the next day... (although i would regret it a bit later, upon discovering that one of the pastors- john peter i think- had taken those who had visited him there around and had bestowed upon them gifts of rich ceylon tea. still, i wouldn't trade away the batticaloa experience for anything... not even amazing tea!)

unlike our group, which was on quite a tight schedule for the day's excursion, this bus had backed down into the river at kandy to allow the passengers a brief respite from the heat

the dynamic of the group upon entering the gardens at kandy was stiff and cool because of some thermal inversion that had taken place at the gate when a warm front of good intention collided with a cold front of brisk pragmatism brought in by a high wind. some pouting and some counterpunctual 'all i said was...' ensued. i found myself sadly resolved to the fact that, no matter where you are and no matter what you are trying to do, there are times when bind us together is only a song.

jay's daughters reach for some forbidden fruit... 'forbidden' in that no one is allowed to remove anything from this botanical sanctuary... i thought of taking a picture of some 'big bambu' but i was running out of space!

still, it all makes sense. people are great at focussing and getting a job done, working well towards a common goal- holding it together until the task at hand is completed. when issues arise, they press on because they are unified to some degree by their collective mission. however, once that mission is complete, then the diverse personalities that have been brought together for the mission have to somehow relate without the mission itself dictating the pace at which the relationships progress or digress. having completed the main work to which we are called, having battled together to keep the soldiers to our right and our left alive, we sometimes turn that energy on each other during peacetime... can't we all just get along?

eustace gazes upon what i think the 'tree of life' looked like in eden
a vanload of pastors drove away just after we returned from our thrilling drive to the sri lankan 'eden' and back. some on their way to the bus, some connecting bus and train- many travelled four to nine hours to return home. we had dropped jay's family off at the bus depot in kandy before making our twisting, turning mountainous way back to kabool lanka, and jay headed off with the group in the van after passing me a sunday morning church program bearing his address.

no one had their own vehicles (with the exception of a couple motorcycles) largely because of the cost of petrol. although it was only $0.75/litre, in the economy of sri lanka this would translate to something absolutely unaffordable for most people, especially pastors of devout but impoverished congregations.

salt and light

august 19: friday: day 10 (part 1)

the next morning found me feeling still very reflective, remembering kumarasiri's request for prayers of protection from the 'police monks' who have already been in his face bigtime; remembering mohamed taking lazarus' wife and daughters back to colombo in his 3-out-of-4-speed 'auto' while still fighting off a major fever; remembering isac- the only sri lankan other than lazarus to regularly smile for pictures- giddiness; remembering jay's dark face, his bright red shirt and his invitation to come speak at his church in the hill country the following summer; remembering how these people glow with a simple yet profound light when speaking of or singing to Jesus...

in many ways it feels like i am being sent from sri lanka to the west to bring this light to my own country, not the other way round. this is the way i must see things or i grow anxious thinking of 'church in canada' and all that goes with it.

i long for my own family to experience this, and dare to imagine one or both of my sons choosing to serve Jesus in this place. yet, i know that canada is alos in desperate need of a few good men.

every morning, ben was up at 4:30 reading his bible and praying. even as i came upon him in the dining commons on that last day of meetings in kabool lanka, the bible was open.

that's the key, isn't it? being that everything happening was happening at the ground floor of the building God was erecting here, it was really important to regulate everything in the interest of a healthy movement in the future.

the one thing that was jeopardizing (or at least slowing down) the progress of this movement was not the tsunami... it was mammon.

this is a god that divides even men of God from each other, compromising relationships and character, eclipsing God's sun with a lifeless but more immediate moon.

while we were readying ourselves for a lengthy trip into kandy, we were largely unaware of the reason that ben was, on this day, so earnestly seeking strength and direction from scripture. there was a meeting that was to take place in the morning prior to the coming together of the b.o.a. (board of administration) involving a couple of pastors- in fact a pastor and his associate- that were experiencing relational difficulty.

driving throughout the morning and then visiting the spectacular gardens at kandy, we would have no idea until later on of the difficulty that had been consuming these men's joy. however, by the time we arrived back at kabool lanka that evening, the issues had been resolved and the b.o.a. had in fact been able to meet- although they had met in the afternoon as the salt of the matthew 18 process had taken all morning to work into their wounds... the point is, however, not how long it took but how it healed.

in the end there was newly restored trust between two colleagues, and that which had been used by hell to splinter their relationship had instead united them and strengthened their resolve. instead of david and absalom, these men got back to being paul and silas.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

pictures and an exhibition

august 18: thursday: day 9 (part 4)
taking pictures after the ordination service, the funniest ones by far involved the youth.

the two rather sunny-looking people in the back are colleen and me. .. in the front row (although i'm so frustrated that i don't have their names- colleen probably has them in her journals) is the singing group consisting of lazarus' two daughters flanking robert's daughter (jesuthas' sister) here, with their attorney in black, wearing the cool poncho-thing refered to below. then of course there is jesuthas and isac.

first, there was prince (jay's son, the
dolkie player, who eventually took the shot above- the abandoned dolkie to the right represents him) who couldn't figure out the digital camera, standing there with a completely baffled look on his face reminiscent of steve martin's 1979 schtick ('this camera is so simple that even an idiot...' poof, the camera's flash goes off right in his face) trying to sort it all out; then isac took a pictue when nobody was ready and the whole group (but particularly the girls) exploded with tamil versions of 'HEY, WAIT UNTIL WE'RE READY, DUMBASS!'... well finally when isac did get it together, he completely cut jesuthas' and my heads from the frame.

i asked the girls at lunch where i could get one of those cool 'girl pancho' backwards scarf things. apparently i just need to go shopping in colombo... one of the girls spoke english more clearly and fluently than i'd heard- even smoother in accent than ben! she intends to become a lawyer.

trio: jesuthas, me and isac
as we ate together, jesuthas, isac and i laughed a lot. these guys had such warmth and silly humour that the laughter was always easy with them. of course it was a great novelty item to have this stupid canadian bunching his food at your table, rather than eating with cutlery at his. still, who knew when i would see these guys again? i was determined to drink deeply of their friendship in whatever way i could.

at one point, isac looked into my plate and asked 'what's this?'

i proceded to provide him with the english phrase 'green beans', thinking (presuming) that he was asking for an english lesson. he looked at me with one of those 'do i look stupid to you?' looks and tried again.

'what's this?'
'curried fish'
'this?' (back to the green beans again... i was beginning to feel like i was the one receiving the lesson, but it was happening in a roundabout way.)
'green beans'
'and this?' (the penny dropped- i could see now that there was something- in fact many somethings- nestled in with my green beans that were decidedly NOT green beans!)
'aaah- pepper!'

from here i was instructed to not, under any circumstances, eat one of these because they would make my eyes water. yep, it was a dare. being the performing monkey that i have let myself become over the years, i stuffed the thing into my mouth and proceeded to chew it in defiance (knowing that you are not supposed to chew these things if you want to avoid the power surge.)

lucky for me, this was a mild one. made me look like a star. isac brought water and i waved it off. after the second one i was grateful for it, however. these things were heavy fuel.

still, i wouldn't have traded that fire for comfort. that fire was because of a friendship that had even extended to the humiliation of your buddy. only the deepest friendships are mutually permitted to go there.

at the missions district meeting, lazarus passes me a pack of photos showing gifts received (bicycles, sewing machines, fans, a motorcycle, power saws etc) and tsunami rubble. this is part of the sharing of oneself.

i think it's fair to say that i've fallen in love with this land and its people.

many warm poitu varams and many photographs, that the faces would not be permitted to fade from memory.

al and i visited together until late in the night, talking about church buildings, servant hearts, idolatry, music, beatles records that got away and whatever else. this friendship i share with him is a blessed, unassuming thing.

sri lankan FM, the next generation

august 18: thursday: day 9 (part 3)

the one thing that i don't think i spent much time thinking about until the ordination service was the kids' program. i mean, i knew that it was running and everything, but it never floated across the screen of my mind until i saw these beautiful little kids standing onstage reciting scriptures that they had learned in tamil and singing songs.

colleen, sylvia and ruby worked with the kids and many of the ladies all week- in truth, once the pastor sessions were going we didn't see any of them except for meals. this was colleen's mission, as she represented the 'women's ministries' group in eastern (well, ontario) canada that had raised $4000 dollars in order to see resourcing come directly to the families of the pastors at this retreat. colleen, having an incredible love for children and that 'early childhood teacher connection' (which i have also observed, acknowledged and affirmed so much in mrs jollybeggar, a kindergarten teacher) was deeply involved in the lives of the kids here. she was always writing down names and descriptions, and was the other 'journalist' on our trip... although i think she feel desperately behind after that first wild sunday! anyway, in addition to being clearly equipped for the task of teaching the kids, colleen was also adept at building up and empowering other leaders amongst the sri lankan women present- in keeping with our global ministries directive: 'how can we live amongst you so that Jesus would be more real to you?'

what a gift (similar to the drama the night before) it was to see the next generation of sri lankan free methodist leaders together. the vision was eventually shared with us the next day that the movement in sri lankan free methodism anticipates incredible growth over the next few years, so the kids standing before us represented the foundation of something exciting yet to come.

as equally touching was to see lazarus with his own daughters and their friends, united in song as one voice... to the sound of lazarus out of tune guitar that seemed to be ubiquitous and therefore synonymous for the worship music here up to this point!

ordained roles in the kingdom

august 18: thursday: day 9 (part 2)
well by this point, i had taken note of a number of cultural differences:
  • eating with the right hand (bunching)
  • driving on the left side
  • not saying 'excuse me' etc... just acting in courtesy
  • openly clearing sinuses (hocking) even during prayer
  • taking shoes off in church
  • head bobbling rather than nodding in agreement
  • introductions by last name, as first names are way difficult for anglos
  • almost everyone younger is older than they look
  • almost everyone older is younger than they look

thinking about the whole dances with wolves thing further, i am amazed at how, with basic familiarity (but probably more importantly within the context of relationship) conversation with many (e.g. lazarus, mohamed etc) becomes easier and more natural. the sri lankans let you into conversation with them when they are ready... they have to be feel you first.

although i don't have a copy of it yet, al did me a huge favour by filming the songs we did together at the ordination service. playing and leading worship singing as part of this event was a blessing. lazarus told me afterward that he had prayed that parasute avi ya navare would flow freely, and that his prayer was answered.

this was a relief because i thought that i had lost his guitar pick (turned out he had put it in his pocket and then changed his shirt... because of the heat and humidity the sri lankans change their shirts a lot) and was worried that my part in the day would be somewhat intrusive.

what was affirming about the whole deal was that, although i had not gone there to be big mr worship leader guy from the west, God still used the gifts that he has entrusted to me in this area. the worship leader gifting was not simply something that he had intended to see used in my own culture, but in any culture within which i were to find myself.

sometimes because of the way i am wired up, i start thinking that perhaps God is done with this or that expression of my faithfulness to him... particularly as he calls me into new roles for his glory. it is at times like that that i am reminded how all things are to be for his glory and how i need not think so much...

robert, attended left to right by francis (white shirt) daniel, mahomed, lazarus (back) and jey (checking his notes)

whatever the case, the ordination service was touching- especially as the two pastors being ordained, david and robert, are both from tsunami-affected areas, having suffered great loss in their personal and community lives, yet remaining true to the calling of God in spite of residual bitterness, anger, confusion and questions.

david and his wife, al's goatee, jay's white shirt this time, kumarisiri's white pants

the faith of these men has touched my own with its depth.

back row: lazarus, kumarisiri, daniel, mohamed, jey
front row: francis, robert, (mrs robert- sorry!), (mrs david- sorry again!), david, jay, (mrs jay-okay enough!) al, ben

snake jerky and smoked ego

august 18: thursday: day 9 (part 1)
after a really long, cold night (the air conditioning finally came on on the coolest night so far, and turn my room into an inverse igloo- subzero temperatures inside but comfortably warm outside) i walked with al to the conference centre.

following breakfast i came upon a hippy scene where lazarus and his daughters and some of the other young people (prince, isac and jesuthas were all there) were sitting in a sunbeam singing while lazarus strummed his guitar. it had such an informal, easy feel that i didn't realize that they were actually practicing for the music they would perform as part of the ordination service. i just sat and listened to the harmony in another one of those i still can't believe i'm here moments.

with 'rehearsal' done, the girls left and lazarus put his guitar down. i asked if i could play it a bit (because we had a half an hour or so before the ordination service was to begin) and lazarus ceremonially handed me the pick.

i was jamming on the guitar with jesuthas and isac (and i think colleen had joined us too by then) when mohamed came by with song sheets- he was sick as a dog, having caught some flu the night he took ivon home (he got back that night after 3 a.m.) and we sang a bunch of common songs including Lord i lift your name on high in english then tamil then sinhala.

ben happened upon all this singing and caught the energy, suggesting that we do the three-language thing for the ordination service.

speaking of ben... the night before, i was heading back from the hotel to the conference centre on foot when i was taken hostage by ben, jey and kumarasiri (an absolutely warm and altogether amazing translator) who were on a water run.

we drove to the nearby village where we bought water for the canadians back at the ministry centre and ginger beers for ourselves. i also had an apple which was a nice treat. then ben convinced me that this stuff that looked like wood was actually dried snake...

ben ate a piece and so, not to be outdone(?) i took a piece. "kinda like jerky..." i said "what kind of snake is this?"

ben couldn't hold it any longer- "it's just fish" he said.

ben sat beside me all innocent in the morning session- he's a slippery one in some ways!

ruby started eating with her hand. at breakfast, jey made some joke to ben about eating with a fork saying 'oh right- you're canadian..." he then pointed at me slopping around in my rice and fish and said "and he's sri lankan!"

we all laughed, but i hoped that the joke hadn't poked ben. he would love to return here for good- he told me so while we were sampling dried snake- but his kids don't like it in sri lanka. i sensed a deep disappointment in this...

whatever, the case, sylvia said "well then we can leave him here!"

no ego allowed... it is an exposed button that satan loves to push, regardless of your own personal intercontinental drift.

still, once the ego smoke had cleared, i realized that part of me kinda liked the idea...

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

dolkies, drunks and dramatic conclusions

august 17: wednesday: day 8 (part 4)

as part of the vespers service (which was typically in tamil and sinhala) antony included some english singing... traditional songs like there is power in the blood etc... which allowed me, for one, to feel very much part of the fellowship.

added to lazarus' guitar accompaniment and the collective voices and natural percussion of the people as they sang was a cool sounding drum played by prince, jay's son (that's the three of us above- you can probably tell who's who... i hope everyone reading appreciates the trouble i went to to make my face the the blocks on prince's dolkie match the colour scheme of this blog... in order to accomplish this i had to hold my breath while smiling- no small task!) this drum, the likes of which i'd seen in the tourist market shops of negombo, was essentially conical in shape, having a small skin on one end and a large one on the other. it was called a dolkie and was played sideways, allowing the player to keep a high cadence on the tighter, smaller skin while punctuating the meter with the looser, larger skin. the percussion that prince added was brilliant, having that familiar swing and swagger that much of the punjabi dj stuff on the radio (and on my bend it like beckham cd) features.

i found that the extra instrument really added another dimension to the worship singing, introducing greater polyrhythmic possibilities. most intriguing were prince's fills... they always came unexpectedly and were delivered in ways that were clearly natural here and very foreign to my western sense of timing and emphasis. i resolved myself to somehow bringing one home with me.

it would be really cool to hear my friends in the west singing 'avi ya navare' but somehow i doubt that that's going to happen.

(a word about faith and presumption: i wrote this sentence in my journal, believing completely in the truth of the statement. however, within a month we were singing the song in a church service back home with, among other things, dolkie accompaniment. these things don't happen as long as you live in agreement with the sulphurous lies of faithlessness breathed into the hearts of the faithful by the staff of hell... only in embracing impossibilities does one see the possibilities of the will of Almighty God...)

prayers were also introduced in english ('now we will pray for our countries') before continuing in tamil and sinhala.

following vespers, there was an impromptu (at least it wasn't part of the initial plan for the evening drafted up by the ministry centre) youth program- similar to the final pagaents of our familiy camps. it involved a drama about the tsunami...

drama here appeared to be more of a reenactment of life than a skit put on for a laugh. this collective creation had a series of episodes:

  • a church service, complete with two full worship songs having dolkie accompaniment and a full sermon preached by prince. in this episode, the people ignore the word.
  • at the bar, the boys are drinking and staggering around- now these are all peachers' kids in real life, so to see them staggering around with their ginger beer bottles was pretty fun in and of itself- until a warning comes on the phone of the coming tsunami. the guy who answers looks into the group of drunks and says "sue nami is coming... anybody here know this sue nami?" ( i just about died- these young people have never seen the simpsons, yet these bad phone jokes are all over the world!)
  • the pastor preaches but the people continue to look preoccupied.
  • the pastor comes to preach in the bar, but he gets beaten up and thrown into the street.
  • tsunami comes- the teens run a lap of the auditorium screaming (and laughing of course because running screaming through an auditorium is fun no matter what part of the world you are in)
  • final chapter: the people now fall down crying before the pastor- "pastor save us; we will listen- we need Jesus! give us Jesus!"

as i think upon this, i marvel at the piece's sublimity. there are two significant imes of imprinting in life... early infancy and early adolescence. the difference is that, in early adolescence, the imprinting time is remembered and the memories are vivid. this group will remember tsunami more than those oldern than them and those younger than them. these memories will shape the world that they eventually lead.

it was only eight months earlier that roberts' oldest son, jesuthas, was hired to clear bodies off the beach of batticaloa using a cart much like the guy in the holy grail who is loading away plague victims. the capacity of jesuthas' cart was thirteen bodies/load... he put his best friend on the cart. he was twenty now- only nineteen then.

the evening wound up with more games and skits and other things that had the same warmth and laughter of the last night of family camp back home. it felt like this was the night that everybody stayed up late because we were on the eve of the last day together. tomorrow would be the ordination service and many goodbyes.

you are our guest

august 17: wednesday: day 8 (part 3)
the group decided at lunch to go on an 8-hour trip to see a tea plantation. i asked al if there was some work or visitation i could do instead.

i don't feel comfortable going off sight-seeing when i have personally sequestered support from my friends and my church to go on this mission. apart from coming in response to a call from God, i haven't really done anything cool to get here like eustace or colleen and i feel enough like a freeloader without becoming a tourist to boot...

i was not judging the others who were interested in going; i was struggling with both the whole 'holiday' idea and the fact that i wanted to report back to my church the rebuilding progress in the tsunami-affected area around robert's church in batticaloa. because this wasn't happening, i felt not only disappointment but also the need to ensure that the money and the prayers of those who sent me were well-spent.

upon my return to the room in the afternoon after a really eye-catching walk back to the hotel from the conference centre through the lush tropical countryside (this path looks much different when you are driving an auto for the first time) i was pleasantly surprised to find my laundry. i had left it out in the morning as i left, secretly wondering if i'd ever actually see these items again. however, there they were outside my room, washed and neatly pressed. i would have to rewash the pair of pants worn at the baptism because they were still looking a bit rough from the ride back in mohamed's dusty auto, but things were certainly freshened up.

the laundry was wrapped in newspaper (an odd choice considering how newsprint runs) with various items of local and regional interest and colour- written in tamil, of course. the best section was 'spoken english' which had some simple and pointless dialogue in english to practice with a friend... reminded me of you are our guest on the bob and doug mckenzie album... or french classes i took in high school:

ou est bill? bill est dans la salle de bain.

no maryann, but a whole lotta ginger

august 17: wednesday: day 8 (part 2)
the opportunity arose to go to a tea plantation or something because the trip to batticaloa was cancelled due to basic time constraints and the current 'state of national emergency' that was declared immediately following the assassination of the sri lankan foreign minister. a state of national emergency in sri lanka means (at this level, anyway) that loose curfews are imposed resulting in random police checks of any vehicle after dark. typically these were pretty mellow though, because the soldiers would take one look at these white (or in my case, red, of course) faces and say 'move along.'

still, because of all of this going on, travel to the east (through many army training camps, official spot checks etc) had slowed down drastically, and it was already a seven to eight-hour drive.

a typical spot check... are your papers in order?
thing is, i wasn't really interested in a holiday excursion- i wanted to do some work or, at the very least, see God's hand at work rather than to see what man had done to agriculturally develop this area, wonderful as the tea was.

when adam was placed in the garden to 'tend it,' he had not yet sinned, therefore one could argue that there was no farming to do (and let's not even bother with the notion that it was probably women who developed irrigation systems and farm implements, as the men were traditionally held to have been hunting- either food or each other- after the fall... that's not the point) i wonder if tending the garden simply meant to watch it; to gaze upon it; to enjoy it... or maybe this is just my subconscious saying that i don't like yard work...

lazarus discovers something unexpected in his food while daniel chows down.
notice how 'uncluttered' the place settings are...
at lunch, as i walked into the dining commons, i saw things with new eyes. i realized for the first time that the only table that had cutlery on it was the canadians' table. funny how even the simplest of experiences can lead you to be open to perceptions to which you were blind because of basic environmental and cultural screens. anyway, i ate with my hand in public at that meal (and, in fact, from then on.) doesn't sound like any big deal, but there was a real knack to it. i had been a total mess the night before, but did much better at lunch with a table.

this was an immersion experience, of sorts, after all.

ginger tea and ginger beer, i don't think i'll ever taste ginger again without thinking of sri lanka.

varying degrees of transcultured, depending on time of day

august 17: wednesday: day 8 (part 1)
i woke up, having fallen asleep the night before a very happy man.

i had had a really great talk with al about vision and future and retirement in the service of God and missions involvement etc, and then had returned to my room where i lay on my bed flipping through pictures on the camera and smiling with an incredible love for the many new face that had become familiar friends.

a group of students waiting for the bus at kabool lanka

i was still struggling with unlove for the spiritual and social blindness that so often grips the west, and i would continue to do so until the flight home when God spoke to me somewhere between london and toronto... God challenged:

you must not bite the hand that feeds you
the west lovingly sent you out
and so to the west you are to lovingly return

okay. when God speaks to you on a plane, you make sure you listen, lest he resort to more drastic measures to get your attention!
(that is, of course, a joke steeped in really bad theology)

i didn't feel very well during morning prayer- weak and nauseous- and resolved to lay off of sri lankan food a bit for a day. i had been eating/sampling everything and was thoroughly enjoying the exotic new tastes and textures. however, a really good cup of ceylon tea seemed to cure whatever was ailing me. (later i discovered it was the malaria meds that were making me swoon)

the tea here is worthy of its reputation, rich and dark and deeply satisfying.

interesting clash of values: i was talking with lazarus about repairing the machine head of his guitar- you couldn't tune the low E because the knob is broken right off- but he made it clear that this was not needed.

what was needed? an amplifier.

i told this to dan, who replied that a few more chords wouldn't hurt either.

in the morning session a lively discussion ensued as these pastors engaged in business matters. a part-time pastor in sri lanka who holds another job is not recognized as a pastor by some 'organizations' (sri lankan euphemism for 'denominations')...

kinda rules me out- and considering that mohamed's taxi is literally rescuing people from a Godless eternity, i feel that the position of said organizations is pure bollocks.

there are certain inescapable economic realities here, and the poorest of people are being reached by 'part-time' pastors (as if a pastor could ever be 'part-time' and true to his or her call anyway)... how much are these people going to be able to financially support a full-time pastor? it takes many widows for the mites to be sufficient... do we damn the poor in order to focus on more 'lucrative' investments of our time? of course not; an unhealthy interest in mammon and 'success' and all that ultimately sends us down an all-consuming corridor of darkness- not into the 'light' of economic stability. God will not bless selfishness; God opposes the haughty and the proud.

i was invited by mohamed- not looking terribly well- to go to jennifer's house church (the girl whom we had baptized on the previous sunday) sometime in the coming weekend. i hoped i'd be back from batticaloa in time to do this.

i was thinking a lot about dances with wolves (even my handwritten journal bears some similarity to the packaging of the special edition) and john dunbar's transformation as he discovers a greater affinity with a culture other than his own. as his love grows for the sioux people and their ways, he becomes transcultured.

and i wondered if this was happening to me, and if so, what might it lead to if given over to God completely?
odd and pointless little tangent: my great great grandmother was full blooded sioux.
'where my people lay buried- there is my land' (crazy horse)