Friday, August 23, 2013

...In a remote village

On our third day in Sri Lanka we had the sweetest privilege of delivering school supplies to a remote village, however it didn't start out that way, God has an incredible way of working above what we see in the moment.

God has given Bethany Church favor among the nation of Sri Lanka not just in the Christian circles but in the Government as well. They have a great relationship with the Social Minister of the entire country, not sure exactly his role but he's big time and there's only one of him in the whole nation, AND he was wearing white linen clothes when we met him so that impressed me right off the bat.

On our itinerary for the trip was a charity event if you will at the Social Minister's home (imagine a mansion) where we would hand out school supplies to children. Shortly after arriving in country we were told that because of a death in the family we would not be able to have the event where it was planned but they would have to find somewhere else, to be determined. That morning we were praying for the day and my prayer was for the children, that wherever the event was God would make a way to tell the people that He would bring even more children than would have been at the Minister's house.

Once we finally arrived in the village our van pulled up on some event that was happening, there were drums and people and dancing. Immediately I thought, "how lucky they are having this ceremony and we can watch". It never crossed my mind that all the fuss was over us coming to their village. And it was! The ceremony was to honor us and the social minister coming to their community.

Here is a rice field on the outskirts of the village

We exited the van to be greeted by crowds, hundreds of people on both sides and a procession of the sweetest children I've ever seen. A particular group of them dressed in traditional white dresses each a little different. At the end of the line were two ceremonial dancers adorned in special jewelry on their arms and head, feet and neck  a pair of strong men dancing and drumming to a beat. As we walked toward the people each child in white came up and handed each of us a stack of Beetle leaves (this is a gesture of hospitality in the Sri Lankan culture) and then put their hands together in prayer and nodded their head at us, as if to say "bless you". This moment straight out of a national geographic magazine was moving beyond words. I could barely hold back my tears, I just felt so unworthy to receive this place of respect and honor from complete strangers. It was as if we were celebrities- but we had done nothing to earn their adoration. Isn't that how it is with our God? He puts us in a place of honor and showers us with un-due privilege and favor, love and position. God has called us sons and daughters of Him, the most high king to ever be. I was overwhelmed.

As the ceremony progressed and we gave the children their school supplies, I felt a moment of understanding with the Lord that he had answered my prayer to bring so many children. I'm convinced it was even sweeter because we were visiting them in THEIR home, not making them travel to the city to collect the supplies. It was a privilege to see where they live and work. As we distributed the gifts I kept praying their would be enough bags and every time I thought we ran out someone would bring a handful from the building, like feeding the five thousand. The children lined up in such order and were  grateful to receive such a small token. Some of them even bowed at our feet. In their culture that is a sign of respect and gratitude, but for me it felt wrong, like too much. I wanted to lift up their heads and just smile at them, as I believe Jesus would, just to say He loves you, it is our pleasure to give on his behalf.

There were so many more sweet moments wrapped up into that day, I could write for hours.

I just. feel. blessed. 

and honored that God chose me to be part of that special day, I will remember it forever.

Side note: I wish I had pictures to share from this incredible memory, I had no pockets in my skirt so I left my phone in the van- worst dressing mistake I made the whole trip.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

...the less spiritual parts

I would be dishonest if I didn't share another favorite part of my trip... the not as spiritual but just as lovely part of things, the shopping! If you know me at all you know I love shopping and bargain shopping even more. Being that the cost of living is lower in Sri Lanka the shops were much more affordable. I thought I wouldn't be doing my tourist duty if I didn't bless the shops with the patronage, so of course I did. Stephanie and the girls of Bethany were so great to serve us and take us shopping when we had a little free time. Here are my favorites....

Oh the clothes! I am a sucker for tunics and leggings, and the Sri Lankan women have mastered this art. I had to cut myself off at the second shop. 

Possibly a little known fact, there is a new phenomenon happening in Sri Lanka... paper making out of Elephant dung...yes you heard correctly. Naturally I had to purchase some poo paper for my loved ones 

Even a cute owl tank for my little

Tea is one of the biggest exports of the country. I loved the tea so I brought some stateside. A moment of honesty: I bought the wooden box kind because I loved the box itself but, bonus- the tea inside is delicious as well. 

And last but certainly not least my prized purchase during my time overseas.

Thanks for entertaining my silliness. To put you at ease be assured I didn't use any trip donations for my shopping escapades ;). And if you are disinterested in shopping don't worry, I will share something more holy tomorrow :)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Leprosy Hospital

Probably the most moving experience during our trip was when we had the opportunity to visit a Leprosy Hospital. Living in America, many times I forget that leprosy still exists. We never see this in our country and certainly not in a hospital dedicated solely to the care of those infected with this crippling disease.

leprosy has taken this woman's fingers and all her toes as well

The hospital was set up somewhat like a compound there were grounds with outside space and different buildings each one holding about 12 leprosy patients many of which had been in the hospital for decades. One man we met had been there since 1945, can you imagine being in the same place for over sixty years never to leave? He would surely die there and his only joy would come from his caretakers and fellow patients. Many of these people no longer had leprosy but their bodies were so damaged it was obvious by looking that they were once sick. And in their culture that is enough, they are not welcome in the outside world. Their families do not visit them and they are confined to a bed. It was overwhelming to meet men and women who were happy under such circumstances simply because we came to visit and share a simple gift and some lunch. The saddest part however, is that the majority of the patients are buddhist, muslim and hindu. In fact we only met two Christians in the entire community.

...but there is hope, Bethany Church is serving this community on a regular basis! How awesome that they are bringing the love of Jesus to these people, sharing the only hope of healing and a future. Bethany works hard to bring the service and love of Jesus to this hospital in order that they as Christians are set apart. By loving, serving and praying for these patients their hope is that the patients may see that our God is different than other gods and he brings the only hope of true healing.

One particular woman I felt the nudge to pray for. She was asking for healing, as I prayed for healing I felt God communicate to me that He was the only hope of healing for her and that it would most likely look like healing through death and new life in Heaven. This woman was a Buddhist, she did not believe Jesus was the way to Heaven. God revealed to me I had to share this with her.... who else was going to? I asked her if she believed in Jesus and told her that if she chose to worship God over all other Gods then she would receive a new body and be fully healed in Heaven after this life. She gave a reluctant smile and did not choose to receive Christ, but at least she has now heard and I will continue to pray that she accepts Christ before she dies. In this situation it is easy to be discouraged, but remember it is not our job to carry the weight of whether someone accepts Christ or not, only to make sure that we share. Our job is to share the story of Jesus, He will do the work of bringing people into the kingdom. May God bring salvation to that woman and every soul at the Leprosy Hospital.  I am beyond thankful that Bethany Church will continue to serve this hospital and love and pray for these patients. The women at Bethany Church understand what it means to be the hands and feet of Jesus. I pray that I will continue to learn and be challenged to serve others in this way.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Lessons from Sri Lanka

After an incredible trip to Sri Lanka I sat down this morning  and asked God, "what's next?" I heard him say, "tell your story". There is so much to share and I know not everyone will be inclined to hear it all, but for those you who'd like to I will be sharing stories here all week starting with today. So here we go...

A Hindu temple sits behind the bus in this photo

On my trip I learned that Sri Lanka is a buddhist nation, not only that but Hinduism and Islam are practiced in a way that we do not see in America. I saw the first and second commandments in a new light. These people are radical about their faith and offer sacrifices to other God's on a daily basis. In certain establishments everyday twice a day there is a prayer song that comes across a loud speaker for those who practice a daily prayer time to their respective god. As I observed this part of their culture I was blown away by their allegiance to a false God, and at the same time filled with an urgency to share the freedom that comes in knowing the one true God. They are in bondage to something that brings them no true joy. These people not only worship Buddha and Ala but they welcome Jesus too. The challenge is getting them to abandon other God's to worship Jesus alone. How similar is our country? Our people may not bow to another God but they are lost in a journey to find true meaning in life, seeking material possessions and "things" to fill their lives with purpose.

Seeing the culture of Sri Lanka has helped me realize the importance of what we have to share and give in Jesus name. The VALUE of life with Jesus. We are bringing the good news- the BEST news.

News of... 


and so much more! What's not to share? We are sharing the best news there ever was! And why would be ever have fear in sharing such beautiful things.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind”.
                                        -2 Timothy 1:7

The possibility of rejection is nothing compared to the opportunity for people to receive salvation and new life.  I've gained from these people a new zest and encouragement to share God's love and salvation with those who don't know him. So be encouraged as well. Remember why we share what we share and that what we share is life changing to everyone who chooses to believe.

More tomorrow.