in sri lanka – 2006

The Colombo, Sri Lanka airport is beautiful when you come in – high, glass walls, beautiful polished granite floors, moving sidewalks, spotless toilets.  I thot i was back in Japan.  Then i saw the sign on the wall: “Made possible by a loan from the Japan Government.”  That is just the main terminal wing, but when you get to the lobby and outside, you realize you are in 3rd World.  Immigration was interesting, as the officer changed his date stamper from the 6th to the 7th just before he took my passport 🙂

My friend has graciously driven his van to get me, and he takes me to his friend’s guest house where he kindly allows me free use of an empty room.  The room has its own shower, and i get an auspicious feeling when with just one whack of my shoe i knock a cockroach off the wall straight into the smallish drain hole in the floor.  Gone.  Maybe my cockroach destroying skills have improved since leaving Japan to the point where i can represent some country in the cockroach-extermination Olympics?  Is that on Animal Planet?

I’m awakened in the morning by a lady bringing me my breakfast – some kind of drink, and spicy garbanzos with rocks.  It is a rude awakening that i’m no longer in even 2nd world countries – this is really close to Indian style!  But it tastes quite nice (no, not the rocks, the beans in the rocks) until my taste buds are all worn out and quit making sense.

My friend takes me to the SDA publishing house where we talk awhile with the director.  He shares an amazing story – that when he took over the publishing house last year in May, that it was running in the red.  Thanks to my order for 5,000 Sinhala 1858 Great Controversy Between Christ and His Angels, and Satan and His Angels books, he was able to pay his workers for awhile, and they were able to work to get out of the hole and in a better position where they are today.  To think that this book helped keep a SDA publishing house from closing down – wow!  Thank you God for using us in this manner, and may you continue to use us as you wish, in your appointed time, in the future.

My friend here who worked out all the arrangements of finding the translator and getting the funds i sent to the printer, and getting it promoted, finding distributors etc. has taken it upon himself to print 1,000 English 1858 GC books!  Wow!  I’m sure he is going to ask for funds to do it, but no.  Not even no, but he is trying to give me the little bit of funds that have come in from the sale of the Sinhala GC books!  Wow again!  I refuse, and tell him to use the funds to print the English books.  I pray he does a good job, and many souls will be enriched by reading this precious book.

On Sabbath i give the sermon at English-speaking Shiloh SDA church.  The building is a nice, 50s style place, but the seats aren’t even 1/4 filled.  Seems like anyone with any desire to succeed in life tries to get out of this country.  Too bad tho, that more don’t stay to help evangelise their fellow countrymen.  Many times i hear that: “Sri Lanka is difficult to evangelise”.  Don’t believe it.  Yes, it is true that once in a while when giving out tracts or going door-to-door that someone will get irate, and maybe even call the police, and they may unjustly beat you up or throw you in jail for awhile, but the people’s hearts are open to the gospel.  More open than in Thailand, and much more open than in Japan.  But the workers are few, and when i see the small of amount of literature available, and the health magazine from India that is sold by subscription that doesn’t even mention Jesus Christ, i see why our church in SL is not doing too well – there is very little vision, and much compromise with the world.  Sound familiar?

I show the GC animation on a big screen to the 30 people or so, and they seem to enjoy it.  In the afternoon i go to Bethel SDA church and give a talk to those gathered for the Adventist Youth meeting.  About half the people aren’t youth, and these do all the talking.  Bethel is at the Sri Lankan SDA Mission Headquarters.  I meet the president and several of the pastors and workers there in the nice compound.

The next day is time to head out and see the ocean and the city.  I get on a bus and get off at Galle Face.  There is a long beach with some little shops up on the concrete walkway, and couples here and there, and some people playing cricket in the onrushing waves.  The seawater and sand feels great on my feet which have become athletized.  They itch.  Seeing the ocean from this level is a great experience, and makes one realize the smallness of the land.  I walk over to downtown Colombo (Fort), and admire many of the old, colonial-era buildings.  Too bad that much of the downtown area is blocked off to prevent terrorist attacks, as the Tamil Tigers are active.  The red and white paint on the few painted buildings looks really nice.  Colombo has two tall skyscrapers, and several 15+ story buildings.  But a lot of it is trashy, and not kept up.

Many people call out to me to ride in their tuk-tuks (called tri-shaws here), but i politely decline.  Then i’m walking down one road, and a man walks past me.  In a natural manner i come up about even with him again, and he asks “You’re from?!” like everyone else, but not in such a threatening manner as most.  I say “Japan” which throws most people for a loop, but he says he has a brother working in Tokyo, and he is on break from his job for a few hours, and if i’d like, he’ll show me around town to where a festival is going on today.  Danny makes a big mistake, one you are never, ever supposed to make – he gets in the tuk-tuk with this man.  We sit in the back, and the driver takes us out to a Hindu temple where almost no one is.  I’m told to get out and take a pic, which i do, but it is not interesting.  Then we go to a Buddhist temple where i do get some interesting pics of the garish insides, and of the big, old elephant.  Then we head back to about where we started.  While still moving, my acquaintance asks the price of this 40minute excursion, and the driver says “2,300” (23usd).  I smile inwardly, thinking i’ve either been swindled big-time, or he made a mistake.  I offer 200, and am laughed at.  My acquaintance, who said he would pay it all, is arguing about how he will pay the driver with a card if he takes him somewhere, but i know what the game is now – he is in cahoots with the driver, and they are going to split whatever “prize” falls from my wallet into theirs.  I offer 200 again, and am laughed at again, so tell the driver to take me to the tourist police.  The two of them talk a bit excitedly, and then i offer 500 which they accept, and i walk away with the acquaintance left in the tuk-tuk.  I’m upset, mostly at myself for getting into this situation, but am told later that i should have been very thankful that they didn’t take me to some lonely spot and strip me of everything and run.  Yes, thank you Jesus for sending your angels to save this “too-trusting” traveller.  I want to believe everyone is good, and hate it when i have to suspect everyone, but in this world, that seems to be the only way to keep alive.  I miss Japan.

My sunburn from the little jaunt to the ocean and downtown will stay with me a few days i guess.  It doesn’t feel too bad, but i worry a bit about skin cancer, as i have some spots that don’t really heal.

I spend a couple of days getting caught up on reading and writing on my computer, and walk around a bit to find an internet cafe and some place to eat.  I usually eat bread and fruit for breakfast, but like a hot meal at least once a day.  No, i don’t mean THAT kind of hot either.  One meal was sooooo hot, it felt like blood was coming all out at the tip of my tongue.  I touched it with my finger twice to make sure, but nothing red appeared on it.  To help put the fire out – eat yoghurt.  Fortunately there are many places that sell 14lkr Highland yoghurt, and it is the best 14cent fire extinguisher you will ever try 🙂  Many restaurants are vegetarian, but not as many as i remember in India.

Wish i could spend some time with the SDA guest house owner, but it just doesn’t happen, and i head off with a group of over 20 people from the church up to Kandy.  People tell me it’s in the hills, but i’m thinking mostly junky hills instead of junky lowland.  Whoa!  Am i ever wrong!  This is beautiful, very, very beautiful.  Up in the hills above Kandy, there are many tea plantations.  Of course these were built by the British, as most everything else in this country, and did they ever do a nice job!!  Sorry Japan, and America, these hills look better to me than anything i remember there.  I’m sure it is the nicely trained tea plants that are spread out over the hills, with a few tall trees spaced nicely to give them shade that makes it so lovely – like someone has taken an interest in making improvements, and yet it is nature’s green color – Nice!

We have a Bible camp for 4 days, and i give the first talk.  I talk about the symbolism behind the theme of the camp – Throw out the Life Line.  Singing with everyone is great, and i enjoy the interaction with fellow believers very much.  I’m so happy i was invited to come.  Meals are quite late here, as in all of Sri Lanka – breakfast is something very simple like just bread, or just garbanzos, or maybe a tapioca-like pudding.  Then lunch is around 2pm, and supper around 8.  One evening supper is still not served at 8:30, so i go to bed without.  The evening function is called “camp fire”, and is not spiritually-oriented.  Still, i’m shocked when the lady hands out the song sheet, and there is one extolling “Jamaican rum”, and “dancing girls” and another one talking about Lucifer lighting up a fag so dandy.  Fortunately they don’t sing them, so i don’t have to walk out.  But i do get up and leave when the lady says a humorless sexual joke.  What’s the point in trying to reach a higher standard during the day, if we reach for the lower standard at nite.  The contradiction is so clear, it is no wonder that most of the youth here seem to be indifferent to the gospel messages presented.

Several people ask me the next day why i walked out, and i’m glad for the opportunity to share a good witness for higher standards.  No one disagrees, except the lady who did it.  A layman in my room asks me one afternoon to pray for him as he witnesses to the young man in charge of cooking food here at the bungalow.  I pray earnestly for around 30 minutes when the man comes back into the room beaming: “He accepted Jesus Christ.  He accepted the gospel!”  I’m overjoyed, and can hardly believe my ears, yet aware that Christ can work a miracle to save souls all around us.  It was interesting to see that only this man took the “Lifeline” theme to heart, and tried to save a soul here.  God bless him, and may that young man grow, and come into the fold of Jesus Christ.  I gave him a Sinhala GC book.

Hiking to the top of the hill where the TV and cell-phone towers are is fun, but quite hot.  The view is breathtaking.  We spend some time there, and i lie down and look up at the puffy clouds.  Reminds me of younger days….. We learn some sign language, how to tie knots, and i give my first-ever cricket bat in my hands a might swing which went not very far for an easy catch out – ha!  Leeches everywhere make it a harrowing experience to step outside.  They don’t hurt when they attach themselves to you, and you don’t even notice them until you look down and see blood all over you leg – gross.  They are about 1 – 2 inches long, and not as big around as spaghetti, and dark brownish/red color.  Ticks are a huge nuisance in the States, but don’t seem as numerous as these guys.

The Lord provides several opportunities i catch, to be able to talk deeply spiritually here, and most precious time is spent one afternoon in reading several chapters of the 1858 GC book.  Even a pastor and the layman mentioned earlier are very humble, and receptive when shown some things from Ellen White’s first vision, and also regarding which Bible version is best to use.  At one other place too during my stay here, the pastors show humbleness of spirit, something quite refreshing to see.  In many places there is this thinking, and i was actually asked this point-blank in Malaysia: “Have you ever been to theological school?” (with the attitude of “What do you know?  You don’t have a theological degree hunh!”).  Cambodian leaders have very little of this attitude, and i’m very happy to know that Sri Lankan leaders do not have this attitude much either 🙂

With a name like Kandy, you know it has to be good.  Well, OK, it’s not as filthy as Colombo, but still not a beautiful city.  Stay in the hills far above, where the air is fresh, and the honking horns don’t reach, and no one asks you “You’re from?!”  Our Seventh-day Adventist hospital – Lakeside – is situated along the lake at one end of Kandy.  The president there graciously allows me to stay for two nites, and while being very thankful, i hope that i don’t have to use the real ward’s services.  I guess the cat wandering in and out of the patient’s rooms (12 to a room?) does help cut down the number of other small 4-legged creatures coming in.

While walking thru the town i see a park near the bus station.  The filth and stench is awful, reminding me of one of my homeless friends in Japan who did not like to keep his surroundings clean.  I thot about how blessed the homeless are in Japan, as most of them have more income and stuff, and cleaner living quarters than even people with houses in many parts of the world.

While thinking these thots a 20s man in a orangish robe comes up to me.  He is quite nice, and i tell him i’m looking for Cargill’s Food City.  He’s going there too, so we walk together.  I thank God for the opportunity to talk with this Buddhist monk, and look for an opportunity to share Jesus Christ with him.  He has studied Japanese for a year, and we laugh at how we both have this in common – a love for Japan.  He asks if i can help him get to Japan, and i have to disappoint him, but instead of deserting me when he finds out he can’t get anything, he stays nearby, even helping me in the supermarket, asking clerks where the soy milk is (not), and where the peanuts are (too spicy).  He wants to buy frozen french fries from America, but they have gone up in price, so he buys some jello mix instead, while i buy some roasted gram (garbanzos with a touch of salt and tumeric – turns the inside of your mouth to a desert).  The chance to witness is just outside the store, and i give him a Sinhala GC book.  He gives me his email address, and i part from him giving a prayer of praise to God for this opportunity.  Lord, please watch over that young man as he reads your prophet’s words, and may he be saved in your kingdom at last.

I stupidly follow a man walking towards the market who has just told me that he has oils and creams at a very cheap price.  I remember once buying a tiny bottle of jasmine oil or something like that in Kolkota (was it still Calcutta then?)  So i go to his shop where i hear him and another man hawk their wares.  I’m not in much of a buying mood, but finally do buy a tub of aloe cream for 200lkr (2usd).  Being in these 3rd world countries for a while has steeled me for many things, but the way the man asks after i put the purchase in my backpack: “What’s your income?!”.  The gall, the ingratitude to the customer; i force a thin smile and say “nothing”.  Thus the deal closes.  With this type of thinking, they will never, ever, do well in life. 

But that was the idea i got from many people in India too, 8 years ago – You are rich, we are poor, so we deserve your money.  The sooner you get up and study something and WORK, the better.  But that takes EFFORT.  That’s right.  And it is not encouraging for the Philippines or Sri Lanka, to see them hardly ever reading.  But there are some in SL who do work, as i saw many more active at doing something than in the Philippines.  My guest house owner, who has spent many years in Australia, may disagree tho, as he was always having to tell his workers over and over to do some work.  Wonder why the internet cable in my room was broken, and the water pipe broken, and…….

I take a bus out to Lakpahana.  This SDA school, meaning “Light of Sri Lanka”, is the oldest and most well-known SDA school in this country of 19million people.  Nearly all of our SDA workers have gotten their training here.  It looks nice enough, a bit ragged, cows roaming right near the front steps, and i go in.  It is holiday time (New Year’s in April??!) but a few of the workers are around, and they are interested in the GC book and especially animation, so i burn a CD for them right there.  They seem happy to have that material, along with all the Spirit of Prophecy material, and Bible software etc. that i added to the CD. 

The boys’ dean gives me a tour of the campus, and i hear an all-too-familiar story.  It goes like this: Lakpahana used to be run by missionaries, and was excellent.  They had a large dairy, 7,000 chickens laying eggs, 100,000 coconut trees, a large vegetable garden that supplied an income besides feeding the students, over 1,000 students, and most important – a healthy spiritual atmosphere.  Many missionaries came and went over the years, but it seems the last ones left around 10 years ago.  When they left, the school started going down financially, spiritually, and in student count.  The location is like exactly something from God’s prophet’s books – out in the country, 45 minutes to the city, plenty of land, good water, everything necessary to train young men and women to serve God in a nice atmosphere.  But now?  They have no dairy, no chickens, no vegetable garden, only 20,000 coconut trees, and they buy all their produce.  The saddest thing tho, is that the students are getting very little spiritual training now.  Hopefully someone with vision will come in, and in the power of God, will make the school what it could, and should be –  a light to Sri Lanka.

In the afternoon i have the great privilege of studying the GC book chapter 30 with around 5 people, 3 of which were at the Bible camp just previously.  The young girl especially is excited about what the book says, and the mother asks if i can’t stay a long time and teach them more.  The boys’ dean is very interested too, and it really encourages me to see some who have a desire to study the truth for themselves, and follow the Lord wherever he leads 🙂

The next day is for hiking.  Kandy is already around 450m above sea level, and we are headed to the highest mt. nearby, around 1,300m.  I wait at the train station for over 2 hours for everyone to come, and we go thru jungle, catch a bus, and then to Hunas Falls where we have lunch.  It is quite pretty, and we go up thru the tea terraces, finally stopping just a few meters below the tree line, as the last 300m or so of the mountain top is mostly jungle on this side.  It is so, so beautiful looking out over half of Sri Lanka it seems.  There is a small compound almost right below us, but not close enough to hear the noise.  When nite falls the sparkling necklace that appears is gorgeous. 

The group of 13, mostly teenagers, tries to cook some curry and noodles over the campfire, but no one is too interested to do it correctly, so it takes around 2 hours to accomplish.  I finally realize that it is going to be too late, and eat some bread and an apple, and crawl into my sleeping bag liner in one of the tents.  The kids are so noisy, whooping it up until after 11, so i poke my head out and ask them to go to bed.  They assure me they can’t, and i realize that they are standing watch to make sure the campfire doesn’t go out, so that no wild animals carry us away.  There are leopards in them there hills it seems…  OK, fine.  But the cold (maybe  18c?) and the constant noise, and the youngster coughing in my face make for a miserable nite.  I leave the next morning, telling them that i’m sorry, but it is too cold, and i must catch some sleep.  Also, i thot it was going to be real hiking, but so far it has just been a 2 hour walk, most of it on a dirt/gravel road.

I crash at the hospital again, making it all the way back except for the last 500m OK, when it starts to rain.  But i have to get a shot of that elephant with the trainer on his back walking along the road.  It costs a few extra drops of water on me, but is worth it.

The hospital cafeteria lady refuses to serve me, so i eat crackers, vegemite, gram, and some cookies for supper.  That’s fine with me.  Just so glad to have a place where i can bathe and sleep. 

Deciding to save money, i take the 3rd class cars back down to Colombo.  Big mistake.  Sometimes it is worth paying an extra 40 cents to be able to sit down for 4 hours.  Maybe i’ll learn one day.  The train is super-crowded, and it is difficult to stand up straight.  The kids near me are interested in me, and i happily take their videos.  They like to practice their English too, making the time go a bit quicker.  Of course the train isn’t air-conditioned, and sweat just pours off me.  After about 3 hours the man near me moves somewhere, and i can seat half of my body on the edge.  The vinyl bench is made for 2, but we have 3 1/2 on it.  The scenery is spectacular in places, with Bible Rock being the hilite.  Looking down tho, you see trash and filth and other things you wish you hadn’t seen.

I make it back to the guest house by myself, catching bus 138.  Another nap.  I never used to take naps, but they are coming more and more naturally these days 🙂  In the evening i happen to come across two of the young man who were at the Bible camp.  They invite me to come to their DVD rental store.  Harry Potter, Return of the Living Dead, Witch of Endor (joke,,,i think!) etc.  Hmmmm.  Maybe that helps explain their total lack of involvement in the program, and their complete silence when discussing spiritual themes?  Sure do pray they can get away from this stuff.

For the weekend my friend takes me up to his parents’ place.  It is north of Colombo along the coast, in a very humid, heavily Catholic area.  It was funny while driving up here.  All over Sri Lanka you will see the Buddha statues in public places enclosed in glass cases.  Going north, we started noticing very similar things, but with statues of Jesus or Mary or some saint in them.  I make a joke about it being “Battle of the Idols”.

His father is a retired pastor, and is the one who translated the Sinhala GC for me last year.  He knows the material very well, and i’m very happy to meet a strong brother in the Lord.  I give the sermon at the SDA church, and while expecting a “small village church”, am surprised to find a large church with loudspeakers and around 80 people attending!  God gives strength, and i talk about the 3 Angels’ Messages with freedom. 

After the service i have a very good talk with that man, his son, and the pastor of the church there.  We talk about Ellen White’s first vision, and they are all quite excited about it, and even the pastor is humble enough to say he would like to have more information on it.  It is wonderful to see them humbly accept what Ellen White wrote as from God 🙂

We go to the beach in the afternoon.  The waves are quite high, and the beach narrow, but the sand and sun and palm trees – everything is very beautiful, and i thank God profusely for this wonderful time in his nature.  My toes enjoy it tremendously too!  The tsunami hit mostly the eastern part of the island, but they say even here on the western side that it came up quite a ways, maybe 100m to the road even, pushing all the fishing boats etc. along.  Of course the people are interested now in tsunami warning systems!

Back in my guest house i stay stuck on internet.  They help me get my own computer set up, so i can surf and write in Japanese – yea!  God gives a great opportunity to witness to two of the workers there, just by showing them my computer screen where i have Jesus’ Coming as the wallpaper.  But showing them the animation of the Great Controversy chapter 1 – that really grabs their attention.  Both of them say they wish to go to heaven.  One of them has been going to church for a year, but her mother is Hindu, and her father Catholic, and they are against it.  I must remember to pray for this precious soul, who is so hungry for someone to lead her to the truth – to Jesus.  She cried when i left.

And i did leave two days later.  A European lady guest came and got this worker and i one evening, and we went into her room where two cockroaches were mating on the wall.  She said “They’re alive, don’t kill them” when i raised a shoe to kill them.  The worker got some spray, when this lady’s friend came in from a different room, and tried to grab them by a towel and throw the towel out the window.  Well that fortunately didn’t work, as the cockroaches started running wildly all over the towel so he threw it into the bathroom.  The lady is screaming “Spray them!”, so i do get one, but the other gets away.  What a farce.  You don’t want to smash them because they are living things, but it’s OK to spray them dead?  huh???  Typical evolutionary, save-the-planet, mother-earth, we-are-one satanic-thot.

My last day in Sri Lanka is spent madly emailing all my Japanese friends, as this may be the last time in a long while i can converse in Japanese with them.  It is so nice to know that someone, somewhere does care about you 🙂  Last nite was spent with the A/C on, and i slept soundly, but realized during the nite that 28c is a touch too chilly.

The man we gave the Sinhala GC to last week and asked to get it into PDF or RTF format for us returned it, but it is unusable.  The Publishing house cannot even use it.  So we decide to have the workers there spend a couple of days fixing up the mostly-displaying-correctly book as it is now, and then saving it in Microsoft Word instead of PageMaker.  Pagemaker should export to PDF with no problems, but it doesn’t have the correct fonts, as the book was typed in on an old Mac.

In the evening i’m taken to a SDA lady’s house, who is of Japanese descent.  It is nice to talk a bit in Japanese, but my Japanese is probably a bit better than hers.  She has lived in Sri Lanka all her life, even went to concentration camps during WWII.  The stories she has to tell…. She worked for the Japanese embassy in Colombo for 32 years, and was given the 5th highest medal of honor, being only the second Japanese woman in Asia to receive it.  She said that medal is bothering her, as she doesn’t know who to bequeath it to when she expires.  Some of the Japanese traits of keeping things clean, working hard, being a gracious hostess etc. shine thru.

I go back to the guest house for a few hours, read the Bible a bit with the worker, sleep for around an hour, when a taxi comes to pick me up.  My plane leaves at 3:30am, making this a long nite.  My friend paid for many things for me while i was in Colombo, but i gave him my last big Sri Lankan Rupees at the store we dropped in on while going to my guest house.  He protests, but i insist.  Because his van is having timing belt problems, he informs me i have to take a taxi, and what do you know – he gives me the exact same money i just handed him.  This is too unbelievable – that the amount i gave him of the last of my money was exactly enough to cover the taxi fare.  but at 1,500lkr, it is quite a large amount – almost 1/5 of a month/s income for many people on this island.  It is interesting to see how God worked this problem out so everyone can do what they need to, and no one is pinched.

There is heavy security at the airport.  Seems like there was a huge attack here around 7 or 8 years ago where many commercial airliners were destroyed by the Tamil Tigers.  I’ve forgotten to place my pocket knife in my check-in luggage, so have to open it at the airport.  Must remember to do that properly in the future…

The beautiful new wing of the airport beckons, and soon i’m in the Air Sahara plane bound for Chennai, India.  It was an interesting time Sri Lanka, and i believe you’ve helped me pressurize properly for India.  Thanks to my wonderful helpers, friends, brothers in the Lord.  I pray your work of spreading the 1858 GC book will go forward, and that you will be a great light in your country.  Thanks for letting me stay with you for a few weeks 🙂

NOTE: Post written May 8, 2006, but should be placed before the preceding “in india 2006 – i”

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