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..."

Saturday, August 20, 2005

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 )


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