So an eventful first working day in Sri Lanka...
We were involved in a road traffic accident, a shunt involving two cars and a motorcycle. No one was hurt and our van was not badly damaged, though the car that drove into us looked like a write-off.
We were on our way back from Rathnapura Baptist Church, a two hour drive from Colombo, where I was preaching yesterday morning. After we'd all come to a halt and got out of our cars, no one shouted at anyone; no one called anyone a plonker; no one doubted the parentage of any of the people involved. Instead, all parties calmly tried to account for what had happened and why; bystanders and passers-by - and even people arriving by three-wheeler who had been nowhere the accident when it happened - also gave their firm views on the ins and outs of events.
This went on for a good half and hour before a policeman arrived on a motorcycle, took off his helmet and set about asking anyone with a view what had happened. This took some time. Having made copious notes, he left.
We waited. It transpired that we had to wait for the insurance representative of the company that insured the car we were in because William, who was driving, is not the owner. It is Gary's car (and very robust it is too!). He had to come because although William was driving with Gary's approval and permission, he was not the insured person and so was not able to tell the insurance company what had happened.
It also transpired that the man in the sporty coupe that had crumpled on impact was not the owner and our insurance man had to produce a report for that car's owner too. The insurance man duly arrived, took photographs, made notes, nodded a lot, took more photographs and then left.
All that had to happen now was that we go to the police station so the paperwork could be filed. That done we set off for Colombo, a two hour journey stretched to five with a lot of hassle for William.
It was worth the trip (though not the hassle) as the church as Rathnapura turned out to be a revelation. William had told me that last time he was there, about 25 were gathering and a new young pastor had recently started work there. That was about four years ago. Well yesterday 75+ crowded into the tiny Victorian edifice for a service that was lively, interactive, involving and full of life. I really wondered what I had to contribute. Afterwards, people came for payer, wanting the minister but also Linda and I to pray with them, wanting to be blessed, touched by God, moved on in their faith. I wanted to bottle their spirit and bring it home!
They are poor people - tea pickers mainly, working long hours, living in modest homes - but they were full of faith and glad to see us, glad that we'd continue to pray for them when we got back home.
Interestingly, Rathnapura is where BMS established a base, housed some missionaries and founded a high school (now part of the state system) that is still there. The work of those early missionaries, it seems, continues to bear fruit.