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 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.


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