Monday, July 27, 2009

Reflections on the state of things

We had a lovely evening last Friday with the principal and his wife. It was interesting and inspiring to hear his testimony and his take on the college and the state of theological education here. He's keen to improve what the college is doing for its students which he believes this in turn will strengthen the Sri Lankan church at a time when it really needs strengthening.

He was sharing that having come to faith in the assemblies of God, a church that he still serves, he has found the spirituality of the churches here generally here to be thin. This particularly came home to him when he spent a year at St John’s College, Nottingham and was introduced to other forms of spirituality and liturgical traditions.

It reminded me of a conversation that I had had with a Swiss guy who studied with me both weeks – a glutton for punishment! He’d been asking me whether I thought it appropriate to introduce western theological ideas that could undermine or unsettle people’s faith in the simple scriptures. I can see his point – up to a point.

But Sri Lanka (like most developing nations) is actually awash with ideas and ‘theologies’ from the western church that are no more appropriate here than they are anywhere. So Hillsongs is where it’s at in terms of worship, theological and spiritual support for the state of Israel is a given (odd in a country that is politically seeking alliances with the gulf states and Iran!), and charismatic ministry and prayer styles derived from South Korea are de rigueur.

So the question is not shall we bring ‘western’ ideas – they are here whether we want them or not. And every month one international ministry or another pitches its tent announcing that it is introducing the next wave we've all got to ride. The question is what kind of thinking will strengthen and build the Sri Lankan church? Answering that is a much more subtle affair.

One of the answers I gave my Swiss friend was that I see a huge need for a church leadership that is able to think, to discern what is right and what is wrong, what will help their church and what won’t. My hope is that in a tiny way what I was teaching about the New Testament might help students to see that there are other biblical ways of approaching these issues that might just help them to reflect on their situations and what the scripture is saying about them.

Just like the UK church, the church here is prone to leap on whatever bandwagon is passing. Undoubtedly some churches are growing. But it's worth asking whether current approaches to worship and mission will make significant inroads into the Buddhist community - the evidence seems to suggest not yet.

Unlike the UK church there seems to be a correlation between theology and the funding of work over here. Support for Israel could be a product of the fact that American fundamentalists spend a lot of dollars keeping things going here. And he who pays the piper picks the tune.

Independence of thought and genuinely contextualised theology and church structures are vital for the Christian community if it's going to make Jesus known in ways that appeal to all sections of Sri Lankan society.

And a really cool thing to finish with: One of my students last week is the coach of the Sri Lankan rugby union team. No, I didn’t know they had one either. Apparently, they play in the Asian Five Nations and everything. He's a South African who played his club rugby at Richmond and in the Irish republic. He’s a really nice guy, taking the course to improve his knowledge. Let’s hope it works - though I'm not sure it'll improve his team's performance on the field!

Mixing with the chic and the fancy

Just got back from shopping at Paradise Road and Odel - these are the two coolest retail places in Colombo. But, my, how they've changed.

I remember going to both in 1999 on my first visit here. Paradise Road sold locally-made arts and crafts, fabrics and candles and smelly things (a bit like the Pier only more authentically Sri Lankan), while Odel sold over-runs of clothes made here for the likes of Gap, M&S, Tommy Hilfiger and others.

Now both stores are brands in their own right. Paradise Road still sells Sri Lankan-made arts and crafts, ceramics, cloth and pictures, but it also has complete kitchen ranges and dinner services in lovely pure white porcelain. It's the kind of place where you'd have your wedding list - and I suspect one or two of the young couples I saw in there this morning were putting one of those together.

Odel has become a mall selling clothes, jewelry, shoes and accessories -many of them at prices that wouldn't be out of place in Harrods. It's busy with chic Sri Lankans and tourists but it's lost something of its character.

I guess both places indicate something of Sri Lanka's development over the past decade. Despite the war, it has been doing OK with garment making for many major brands as well as tourist industry that, judging by the number of new hotels going up in Colombo alone, can't doing that badly.

We'll see what effect the recent granting of an IMF loan will have. Chances are that stringent enforcement of market mechanisms by the IMF will send the cost of basics - like fuel oil, grains, especially rice - through the roof. At the same time the rupee will fall on the open market - assuming the IMF insists that the Government can no longer artificially peg it to the dollar.

The chic in Odel might be OK. The rest of the population could feel quite a pinch.

The difference in Colombo

Back in Colombo. As you drive down from Peredeniya, which is only a couple of kilometers from Kandy, to Colombo, you feel the temperature rising. By the time you hit the Colombo suburbs, it's a good 10 degrees Celsius hotter than up country.

Colombo is also noticeable for three other things: the traffic, security and Chinese road builders.

The Colombo traffic is permanently heavy, as though anyone who has a car just loves to be out in it, sitting in the semi-chaos, sounding their horns. Trishaws, buses, lorries and vans compete with cars and bikes and a new phenomenon - 4x4s: there seem many more of these leviathans on Colombo's roads than even three years ago when I was last here. Maybe it's a sign of rising prosperity for some.

Security is much more noticeable in Colombo than elsewhere in the country. On many street corners heavily armed soldiers stand and watch, various buildings have guards posted, some in sand-bagged constructed machine gun posts. Some roads around government buildings are closed; others have been made one way. Occasionally the checkpoints on the edge of the city pull you over to check your identity - though vehicles with foreigners tend not to be stopped.

The Chinese are here are building all sorts of things. The road coming in from Kandy is being widened by gangs of Chinese workers with sparkling new equipment. This is part of China's investment in the country, which includes a new port near Galle. Again, this is a sign of rising prosperity for some.

Around the Galle Face Hotel, complexes of apartments and hotels, with restaurants and leisure clubs, as well as the ubiquitous shopping malls are going up faster than in the gulf states. The skyline in this part of the city will resemble Dubai in no time at all. The question is: who is all this building for? How many of Colombo's current residences can afford to live in such places? As we sat in an Italian restaurant last night, eating reasonable versions of Italian dishes, all the diners, bar one couple, appeared to be foreign, many eating alone on a Sunday evening, indicating that they were business people staying upstairs, here for meetings and deals.

This country feels that is on the cusp of something. Let's pray that it'll be good for all its people.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

A meeting over the tracks

At the end of my second of week of teaching, I'm feeling a little knackered!

We've been at Perandeniya this week. I say we because Linda and Liv joined me on Tuesday which is great. Their train was delayed by two hours - which wasn't!

The week has been generally good but hard. The students on BTh course are not as competent in English as the MDiv students which makes teaching more challenging. Even more of a challenge is grading papers. I have 25 exam papers to mark this afternoon - blogging is a welcome relief!

Today we went to the elephant orphanage at peniwalla which was fabulous. It was our second visit but Liv's not been before. It's great to large numbers of these amazing animals up close.

While waiting for Linda and Liv's train on Tuesday, a man from another delayed train – one that had been shunted into a siding and all-but abandoned there – came across the tracks to ask what was happening. He looked up from the tracks and asked in Sinhala. I apologised for not speaking his language, so he spoke mine. I explained what was going on as far as I understood it – there had been no announcements over the public address system, no word shouted by station staff to the stranded passengers.

We then got talking about Sri Lanka. He was in the hotel business – as far as I could make out, his family owned a hotel – and he was worried about the world economy and the effect of the war on tourism. He kept asking whether I liked his country. It felt as though he thought I might be the key to its economic turnaround, my tourist rupees alone would cause an upturn! It was an interesting conversation. There was something desperate in his tone, as if he wanted to see his country’s fortunes restored but despaired of them having the wherewithal to do it.

This place is full of such chance meetings.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Completing the first stage

My first week of teaching yesterday afternoon. I bade a tearful farewell to all my students and then went off to meet an old friend. The students seemed to appreciate the course. They worked pretty hard and joined in class discussion. All the first assignments were way beyond what I was expecting and indicated wide reading, good thinking and the desire to reflect on how this applied personally and to their ministries.

The old friend I met yesterday runs a micro finance project here that now has 4000 project holders and has contributed seven billion rupees to Sri Lanka's GDP. As he says 'not bad for something that started with 200 rupees and faith'!

He spells faith r-i-s-k and is continually putting himself on the line so that the poor on this island get a shot at living. He's one the most inspiring people I know,

Today I'm off to buy a motor bike for another friend who's current bike is clapped out and unroadworthy. I've never bought a motor bike before, so this should be fun.

Tomorrow, it's off to Kandy. Not sure what the internet access will be like up there, so blogging might become a bit light.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Trouble with the air con has me camping out

Yesterday evening disappeared in a blur, I'm afraid. It was a busy day and I think I was feeling tired. So here we are - Thursday and that's almost over (at least for me!)

Today opened with torrential rain turning travel round Colombo into chaos. So lots of students were late and dripping when they did get here. But one had stopped off to buy me fruit - how sweet is that? people here are like that.

It was the day of the class photo which was a wonderfully shambolic affair with one of the college handy men standing on a chair taking three pictures on each of about ten different types of digital cameras. Not surprisingly, it took an age to get through - prolonged by lots of fooling around and gales of laughter from all round the room - and no one felt like being photographed by the end.

The rain affected the air conditioning in my room which means I can't sleep in it tonight as it's stiflingly hot. So I am camping out in the faculty office where the air con is so fierce I might need to sleep in a coat! Unlikely. It just makes it very much more comfortable.

So, my nightly routine will be a bit different tonight. But it will end as it has most evenings this week with the final few tracks of Leonard Cohen’s wonderfully uplifting live at the O2 album. It has become my lights out music – two prayers, great playing, the Webb sisters and his voice like angel wings brushing against granite filling the darkness with a sublime wonder. You can't ask for more really!

Tomorrow I'll be catching up with an old Sri Lankan friend and seeing his new office which will be great fun. It's also the last day of lectures with this group - though I discovered that one of them, a Swiss guy who's studying over here, is coming to Kandy to do my course next week. Now he is some glutton for punishment! I'll be sorry to see them go - though I have their assignments to look forward to - because they've been a good group, lively, engaging, wanting to talk, full of questions, keen to learn and aching to be useful to God.

One guy - who really struggles with his English and was deeply apologetic about that - works in the East of the island with displaced people, bringing them aid and the gospel. He spends three months at a time literally camping out, with no air con or creature comforts, sharing God's love and what practical support he can with the people worst affected by the war, those who've lost absolutely everything. He's the reason I'm here. If I can encourage him half as much as hearing his story has encouraged me, then that's worth the air fare - and camping out in the faculty office.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Healing wounds

Another full day of teaching. The students were fairly responsive, which is good. Some of the assignments I read last night were very good indeed – much better than I was expecting. It’s always nice to be pleasantly surprised by things!

I visited the health centre where one of my students works and am going back in the morning to lead their devotions at 8:30am.

It's a place where a friend of worked for some time and which we visited three years ago. It continues to be an amazing place, offering primary health care to all kinds of people, some of whom can pay something and some of whom can pay nothing. It has Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, Tamil and Sinhala people all receiving the same standard of care.

Steve, the director, explained to me that, following the experience of the tsunami, where they went out to people in need, the staff are very keen to do more outreach work, taking medical care to where the people who need it are and not just waiting for them to come to the clinic.

After all, he says, most of the word God is go!

They already run a medical outreach programme in the North East, a spin-off of their tsunami response. There are lots of places where such work is still needed in Sri Lanka.

The recession means that finances are stretched, however. The Sri Lankan rupee is linked to the dollar but most of the clinic's donations come in sterling which has fallen against the dollar. Added to that, Sri Lankan inflation is running at 25%. It all means that a pound doesn’t go anything like as far as it did a couple of years ago.

Sri Lanka is in the throes of agreeing an IMF loan. One of the conditions for that loan will probably be that the rupee is allowed to float free of the dollar. In purely financial terms that probably makes sense. But it will be catastrophic for inflation in the country as the rupee will plummet and prices of imports, especially oil and other essential raw materials will go up. That means bus fares will rise and other basic costs for already hard-pressed people.

Added to that, the recession in the West has cost about 100,000 jobs in the garment industry. Because we are not buying as much from Marks & Spencer, Gap, Top Shop and other high street names who source a lot of clothes from this country, people are losing their jobs. Recessions always bite hardest on the poorest. Tightening our belts – by not buying new trousers or belts – means families here often lose their single wage earner.

And who says they don’t believe in structural sin, in systems that unravel and hurt the least able to cope?

The challenge for the church on this island is growing by the day. But if the students I have in my class are anything to go by, there are lots of people in the churches able to rise to this challenge and make a tangible difference to the real lives of thousands of people here.

The health centre is in the throes of redoing its publicity. Everything it produces is in three languages – Sinhala, Tamil and English. I have noticed that around the college here too – signs in the toilets asking you to leave them clean for the next user, the sign announcing the opening times of the library and other notices are all in three languages.

Sadly this is rare these days in Sri Lanka. Many places have signs in just one language. For instance, many doctors serve either the Tamil or the Sinhala communities and all their signage is in one language only – this despite the two communities living cheek by jowl with one another. In the state hospitals, signs are increasingly in Sinhala and English only.

Is this a symptom of a society coming together after the war or of the continuing division between the two peoples that populate this beautiful place?

Monday, July 13, 2009

And the real work begins

First day of lectures. I was apprehensive but the group was a manageable size – 14 students, a mixture of men and women, a good number of lay people, including two doctors. After introductions we got down to business. I think most of them appreciated what we are doing. Certainly a number joined in the discussion in the afternoon. This is a step up from my group last year.

I was teaching from 9am to 4pm with some breaks (see below). it felt a bit gruelling!

One of my students is a doctor from a medical centre that a friend of mine used to work at and I have discovered that it is literally two doors down the road. This is why the junction near the college seemed vaguely familiar – I have been here before!

It runs from 4pm-7pm offering services mainly to poorer people who can't pay for medical treatment. So I’m going to visit tomorrow afternoon after classes.

The system here is slightly odd. Each class has a monitor appointed who’s job is to help the lecturer. They will get hand outs from the office and distribute them to the class. Mine has decided that I need help remembering when the breaks are due and so has got a bell which he pings loudly, grinning broadly, when I need to stop.

Another thing I’m struggling to remember is that when a Sri Lankan agrees with you, they shake their head from side-to-side. To move the head up and down means disagreement. So when I nod and say ‘yes’ people get confused. Body language is so culture specific!

I went for a walk along the Galle Road after class in search of a supermarket. I was determined to buy my own cornflakes (I’ve run out). About half a mile or so down the busy drag I duly found one and got bread, milk and cornflakes for just over 500 rupees (a bit under £3). I think things are more expensive here than they were. But I walked back in the sunshine (pretty hot) feeling really chuffed that I'd managed to negotiate such a complex task!!

Tonight I have eight assignments to read. Most of the students were completely daunted by what I set them, an assignment I thought was fairly straight-forward. I asked them to write too many words (2,500 – is that unreasonable for a post-grad assignment? Not in England but probably it is when English is your second or third language!) and – apparently – the reading was hard. But the hardest bit was that I asked them to reflect on their own experience and how what they were reading – on the supper in 1 Corinthians 11 – might make them think differently about the way they do meals at their church. Ah well. We’ll see what they make of it.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

What a great job for a boy!

Two posts today as it's Sunday (to make up for no posting yesterday!)

I had lunch at the Galle Face Hotel today. This is one of the most civilised experiences to be had on planet earth. The atmosphere is distinctly old colonial, the service is friendly and unassuming – and completely wonderful. The food is great and the view is to die for. 50 feet from our table the rollers crashed on the beach in the bright sunshine.

My mother danced and drank G+ts here during the war. Her memories of it right up to her death were fond and vivid. I always visit when I'm here.

I was hosted by a charming couple and the family matriarch, a dominant force in Sri Lankan Baptist life who is also a vice president of BWA. She is lovely, great company, full of conversation – even waxed lyrical about how amazing Michael Jackson was having watched his memorial service on CNN – but I imagine she is not someone to mess with.

He spoke of his parents coming to dances here at the Galle Face in the 1940s - who knows maybe they met my mum. The couple also had their wedding reception here many years ago.

At the Galle Face they employ a boy (he looked no older than 16), dressed in waiter’s uniform, complete with bow tie and starched shirt, who’s sole job is keep the crows off the guests. To do this, he is armed with a sturdy catapult and he spends his time patrolling the grass by the veranda aiming at crows and occasionally letting off whatever ammunition it is he fires. What a great job for a boy of a certain age! I have to say, he didn’t look too happy – the task is hot and somewhat unrewarding.

This evening I spoke at a seminar at William's church for young couples on family life. I spoke for 40 minutes (William took half that time translating) and then was questioned for an hour and a half. They asked some pretty searching questions. It was a hot and stimulating evening - once again rounded off with great food.

I got back to the college thinking I have a pretty great assignment at the moment (as people keep calling it here). It's a huge privilege to share the lives of these lovely people and have a modest input into their development as disciples. Tomorrow the assignment begins in earnest - 17 MDiv students for a week immersing ourselves in the social history of the New Testament. How cool is that!

Lessons in hospitality and endurance

As I walked by the sea yesterday afternoon, passing rows of broken buildings, a woman hailed me. People often shout hello as you pass by – it’s all the English they know. But this woman called me over asking ‘how are you? Do you live here or visit our country?’ She asked whether I liked Sri Lanka, how long I was staying, what I had come to do, had I been before. She understood all I said in response. She offered me food but I declined because I had to get back to the college (and didn’t want to contract anything, frankly).

But we started talking about tsunami time and I asked whether she’d been in her home when it came. They had run. And lived – all of them, even their small children (one a dot in nothing but her pants was running in and out of what’s left of the back of their home.

She invited me to look round. There wasn’t much to see. Two rooms still had something approaching a roof on it (that's where all the family slept), the rest are open to the elements save for a bit of plastic sheeting tied to the jagged top of the brick work – where the original roof had been torn off in the storm.

I asked why she’s had no assistance from the government. ‘because they been fighting the war, against the tigers. But now we won, help will come. It take long time cause we poor country.’ She is fiercely loyal to her government; their victory is her victory, proud, no doubt, of the banners flying not far away from her home lauding the triumph of the government forces over the terrorist tigers.

But what kind of government keeps it’s loyal people hanging on so long? And how long will she have to wait for the government to finally act on her behalf? And will it insist that she move the other side of the railway line, away from the sea, where her husband ekes out a meagre living as a fisherman?

The 500 rupees I gave her toddler ‘for milk’ (about £2.50) seemed more insult than charity or act of good will. He kid’s face lit up and she beamed a thank you before running off behind a wall where another family member was washing clothes.

If I lived here (grand gesture time…), I think I’d be wanting my church to visit, to assess what could usefully and helpfully be done for these people with them setting the agenda for the kind of assistance they want. I’d like to take William and Gary to visit. I’ve no doubt they’ll tell me that there are hundreds like this family and this little community on the other side of the tracks from relatively prosperous-seeming Dehiwala.

I feel helpless and guilty in the face of such need. I wouldn’t last a night in that house. And having had the sea come and attack me, rip the heart out of my community, tear the roof off my home, how could I lie awake at night and listen to the sound of the waves crashing on the beach 20 feet away from where my head was?

She asked me what I liked about Sri Lanka ‘is it the always smiling people?’ she asked. That’s certainly a big part of it. I left her on the step thanking me for stopping by, hoping I’ll visit again and smiling broadly as I went off along the beach. I’m not sure how or what I feel.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Sweating over discipleship

Spoke at a seminar for Baptist Christians this morning on discipleship. About 60 or so came and listened, joined in with questions and then had lunch together.

It went well. William was translating for me and did an excellent job. I found myself slipping into a rhythm of speaking in sentences without sub-clauses. And while it felt a little stilted, I did feel myself able to focus better and not stray from the point buoyed along by my oratory or flights of fancy.

I do feel sheepish about teaching Sri Lankans about discipleship, however. it seems to me we've a lot to learn from their grasp of the Gospel and commitment to Jesus. I found the question and answer time very challenging and have come away with a lot to process.

What I was reminded of, however, is that there is a lot of nominalism in the church over here. There are still good numbers of people who go to church because it's the thing to do, what their family has always done, where they meet their friends, etc.

Time and again I was asked about how we help, encourage or cajole people to take Jesus more seriously. I said all the obvious things in answer but came away thinking that exactly the same issues beset us in the UK; our churches are awash with Sunday Christians who seemingly want nothing to do with Jesus during the rest of the week.

John was right in his letters to the seven churches in Revelation to stress that apathy was a bigger killer of Christian commitment than persecution. It was then. It is now. And it is no respecter of national boundaries or cultures.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Day 2 in the Sri Lanka house

Just been for a mid-afternoon stroll to the very hot sunshine to the sea. It’s about a quarter of a mile and half a world away. Down the commercial street with shops at the top, a Dutch reformed church midway down, a couple of banks, rows of buses and tuk-tuks (trishaws – the main taxi) and you reach Dehiwala station – a raised concrete platform with a sign in the middle of the railway tracks. There’s a building in the centre of it where the staff sit and people can buy tickets.

There are groups of mainly men and gaggles of young people walking each way on the tracks. Then on the other side of the tracks between the station and breaking rollers is a fishing community, living in the still-broken remnants of homes smashed in the boxing day tsunami of 2004.

Bright blue signs in Sinhalese, Tamil and English with a bold graphic indicate one’s evacuation route should the sea come again with the ferocity it did on that day. That’s all the evidence there is down here of the government having spent any cash; all except a rather oddly-placed, barbed-wire surrounded outpost of the military with a couple of young soldiers passing the time with a group of equally young men on the other side of the wire.

The people live in homes that look as if they’ve gone the distance with Godzilla and King Kong. Tiled areas indicate where there was once a brick house. Some structures have part of the brick work in tack, the rest of the home being made of sheets of plastic, discarded advertising hoardings promoting fashionable menswear.

Families sit on plastic furniture, half in and half out of these structures. Here, a woman sorts laundry that’s hanging between walls made of pallets; there, a man washing through some clothes; in the distance another tends to his boat’s out-board engine; and everywhere, children play, jumping, hiding and giggling.

It’s hard not to feel a furious rage at the indifference of a government that seems able to man endless checkpoints around the city and pay for vast numbers of billboards everywhere lauding it’s victory in the recent war. In a bid to be fair, it is a poor country and it has been ravaged by a cruel and senseless war (aren’t they all? This one more than most, fuelled by the desire to atomise an already tiny living space, along ethnic, cultural and religious lines, pluralism in action, some might say; human sinfulness and the arrogance of power, some might reply; and so the argument goes on).

Surely somewhere the pittance can be found that would give these people decent hovels in which to live, where they can be near the sea that is their livelihood and rail track that takes their catch to markets along the lines. Surely somewhere the will raise these people’s lives above this level of destitution in a country that is showing signs of prosperity in other places can be found.

I was with my friend, William, earlier today. He’s been involved with a similar fishing village down the coast, near his church, since the tsunami (interestingly, Sri Lankans speak of the tsunami time; sentences often contain the phrase ‘in the tsunami time’). The reconstruction, which was still going on last we visited, has now finished. He’s promised to take me, which will be great. He’s done a wonderful job bringing this community together, helping them to rebuild as they wanted to, offering support with local officials, still there after the aid caravan has long since rolled on. Not surprisingly, some of the families have started coming to his church.

Just behind the beach community, on the other side of the railway track, a 122 appartment block is being built. I can see it from my room at the college, a concrete colossus, wrapped in blue plastic sheeting. It boasts parking and a rooftop swimming pool. It's owners will be able to look down on the shattered fishing community atthe end of a busy day.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Touch down

Arrived safely and have been welcomed by folk at the college. Internet access is good and plentiful at the moment. So, here's an account of my trip....

Uneventful departure from a wet heathrow. Good if noisy flight to Doha. Lots of extended middle eastern families running riot in economy. Food OK. Service good. Watched 2001: a space odyssey and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Lion. Both good – seen them before, of course but not for a long time. Did a little reading.

Not much time at Doha because our flight was slightly late. Rushing to get through the door to the bus and the Qatar Airways man asked me to wait. I asked him why and he replied it was because I was flying Business Class to Colombo. Woohoo! I’ve never been upgraded before.

Anyway I couldn’t travel on the coach that was there because it wasn’t a Business Class coach. When that arrived, it had seats rather than making everyone stand.

I’m not sure it’s worth the money, but the service and food and the space, the acres of space after being crammed between large people on the first leg of the journey, was just fabulous.

So I had a glass or two of nicely chilled New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, served with a selection of salted nuts. Followed by my appetizer of mezee (however you spell it!!) and an entre of chicken and green beans and a desert of custard tart and fresh fruit. The coffee wasn’t very good but the chocolate and extra glass or two of sauvignon blanc were just the ticket.

Then I slept for a couple of hours on a seat that went flat at the touch of a button. Who could ask for more?!

Met at a rainy Colombo airport by Chrishnan, the LBC administrator for a long drive to the college through Colombo’s riotous traffic. A melee of vehicles compete for space on the roads, no one gives way and no one waits and seemingly no one gets killed.

Lots of soldiers with Kalashnikov’s, lots of checkpoints – more than last time. That added to the congestion with trishaws being pulled over and passengers asked for papers, lorries being searched and some buses being stopped, all the passengers told to get off while it was searched and they were questioned. One gets a slight impression of needless oppression.

There are lots of pictures of the PM, smiling and waving, with slogans in Sinhalese that I can’t read no doubt lauding him as a hero, victor in the nation’s 25 year civil war.

And now I’m here at the LBC campus in Dehiwala in a well-appointed, if basic, air-conditioned room with a veranda that has a view of the sea in the distance over the roof tops. The sun is shining and, despite my kip in business class, I’m feeling a bit knackered - but very pleased to be here. There’s just the small detail of a course to teach next week!

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Off to Sri Lanka

I'm off to Sri Lanka tomorrow to teach New Testament at the Lanka Bible College in both the Colombo and Kandy campuses and do some ministry among our baptist family over there.

I'm really looking forward to going. I always find the LBC students challenging and hugely encouraging. I know I will hear stories and testimonies of God's goodness and provision that will make my spirit soar as well as stories of hardship and conflict that will bring me to tears. I'm sure I learn so much more about being a follower of Jesus from my students than i teach them.

I'll also be joined by my wife and youngest daughter for the latter stages of the trip - we'll be getting a few days in a hotel in the south and catching up with friends.

So blogging will infrequent for the next month - Internet access will be at best intermittent.