Saturday, December 2, 2017

A God Connection!

Have you ever had one of those days where everything seems to go wrong?

While in Sri Lanka we had one of those days! It started with us waking up at 2:30 a.m. to take Cyndy to the airport for her return trip home.

Later that morning we spent time sorting, packing and taking inventory of eyeglasses for our upcoming clinic.  Sounds simple, but it's a lot of work in a small room with no A/C.  After a couple of hours Pat and I were drenched in sweat.  We were looking forward to heading back to our hotel room, taking a shower and getting some rest.  Pat went into the bathroom and nearly slipped in a sea of water covering the floor!  

Now, this is not a fancy hotel;  a little lower then a Motel 6, (sorry to all of you that stay there, no disrespect).  Many times people think we stay at hotels suited for Westerners - but we stay where our own personal criteria is that one of the rooms has to be clean. We've noticed in our travels over the years is that if the bedroom is clean, then the bathroom is dirty and vice versa.

I could see the water was coming out from the wall and immediately knew - we have a broken pipe and this was going to be a problem.

The hotel clerk spoke reasonable English, so I went downstairs to let him know what was happening. His response was to send a porter to squeegee the floor.  Three minutes later our swimming pool was back, so down I went to the hotel clerk, with Pat's parting words ringing in my ears, "Remember you're a Christian, so act Christlike!"  I asked nicely for us to be moved to another room, but was informed that wouldn't be possible because  the air conditioners in the two other A/C rooms, were broken.  To stay in a non-A/C room would be unbearable as the humidity in Sri Lanka is very high!

What to do?  We let our contacts know about our predicament and went right to the Internet to find a reasonably price hotel nearby.   Now, Pat and I have learned through the years that 'God's got it'. We know He is in control, even when everything in our lives seems out of control. What came about because of a broken water pipe, was more then we could imagine.  

As we searched for a different place to stay, the Lord led us to a studio apartment attached to a private residence.  The apartment has it's own kitchen, a washer and dryer; and the property is right on the shores of Lake Bolgoda.  This mean we could prepare our own meals, no more laundry in the bathroom sink and wonderful peace and quiet. (Note: we love trains, but not when they are rambling by at 4:00 am to wake us up.)   Yeah God!  And all of this was just a little bit more then we were paying for at our other hotel.

But wait, this was not the connection.  Here is where the Lord really showed off.  The family we rented the apartment from 'just happened' to be Christians; who 'just happened' to be involved in the local Lions Club doing eye clinics;  and the Husband of the house 'just happened' to be on the Board of Directors for the Gift of Sight Hospital - that primarily does cataract surgeries.

Gift of Sight Hospital, Panadura, Sri Lanka

This is something that was an ongoing challenge for us.  We see so many people who have cataracts but we didn't have a place send them for the surgery.  Now we do!

Cataract surgery is simple and very effective.  Because of our non-profit status and mission work, they will take referrals, and perform the cataract surgery at cost.  Which is between 8,000 - 8,500 Sri Lankan Rupees for one eye.  That converts to  US$50 -$55 per eye for the surgery and follow up care. Wow!

Pat and I have experienced countless times in our lives where the Lord does something that causes us to come into a divine connection we needed.  There are no coincidences with God!

As the journey continues, we are looking forward to seeing who will be helped through this God Connection.

Blessings - Gary
The setting of our studio apartment - very peaceful

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Sri Lanka Morning

We are safely back home, and mostly readjusted and recovered from jet lag.   There is still so much to share about our month in Sri Lanka. 

Sri Lanka is an island nation surrounded by the Indian Ocean. It has many gorgeous tropical beaches that attract a growing tourist market.


Several of our eye clinics were held in rural villages with no hotels. Beach hotels, however, were within an hour's drive, so we were blessed to return to a refreshing ocean setting after each day's eye clinics.



Early morning walks on the beach are a wonderful way to start the day, communing with the Creator of the natural splendor that surrounds us. Plus breathing in the refreshing ocean air and positive ions is quite energizing.


Wherever you find yourself today, may your day be blessed with the knowledge of your Creator God.
Blessings, Pat



Friday, November 10, 2017

Journey's End

The end of every mission trip produces mixed emotions. 

Bittersweet conflicting feelings as we leave our friends and ministry partners in this beautiful nation that we love; coming home to friends and family in the US, whom we also love.

A deep satisfaction for the individuals helped and community relations strengthened; along with a yearning to address the great need that remains.

A feeling of "is it over already?" as we make the long journey home, and assimilate into a somewhat normal routine.

Each day is an opportunity to make a difference right where we are. Right where you are.
Our prayer is that you will be inspired by our journey even as you live out yours. 

With grateful hearts for you ~ Pat and Gary

Bangkok Dawn as we Journey Home

Monday, November 6, 2017

Quick Report - Weekend #4

Since my energy level has been low, I find myself napping rather than summarizing events of this past week. 

Please forgive the brevity of this overview, and stay tuned for details and photos. 

Weekend #4 wrapped up Sunday evening with a six hour drive back to home base. Thursday through Sunday was spent in the Buttala area, which has had a lot of persecution and unrest.

Praising the Lord that the eye clinics Friday and Saturday were successful with 256 people seen for eye exams, and 211 pair of glasses given.  We had Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and Christians all come. In fact Friday's clinic was in a partially constructed home of a Buddhist man!

Overall this trip has had the largest and most successful eye clinics. During 9 clinics, 1,023 people had eye exams, and 838 received eye glasses.  All at no cost to them, through your generosity.

Thank you for all the loving prayers and support. Each if you are important to us and the Lord.     Gary & Pat


Wednesday, November 1, 2017

My Sri Lankan Birthday Celebration

As birthday celebrations go, this one is right up there in my Top Ten.

Due to the time difference between North America and Asia - I actually celebrated for 2 days!

Sunday in Sri Lanka started with a perfect cup of milk tea, enjoyed at dawn on the shore of Bolgoda Lake.  Water birds provided our morning's sound track and entertainment.

The traditional Sri Lankan birthday breakfast of rice milk, coconut jaggery, and chili paste was delivered by our friends and hosts Deepthi and Layasing.  The apartment we are renting in a private residence has a kitchen/dining/living area - so we were able to reciprocate their hospitality and invite them to share the breakfast they so graciously provided.  Did I mention they included a tasty coffee mocha birthday cake?

The day was spent doing laundry, catching up on correspondence, and relaxing.  That evening we attended an English service at Kollupitiya Methodist Church in Colombo.  There is an reverent sense of history when walking into this 121 year old sanctuary with vaulted ceilings and stained glass.  An inspiring expository teaching on "Why The Reformation Matters" marked the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation (Begun when Martin Luther nailed his 95 thesis to the door of the Wittenberg Church)

When my birthday dawned in North America, I was fast asleep in Sri Lanka.  Electronic birthday greetings awaited when I woke up Monday.  Morning chapel at  Adara Sevana included a rousing account of Peter fishing all night, singing, prayer, and a special birthday lunch - with more cake.

The students greeted me with Birthday wishes and another Sri Lankan tradition - bouquets of flowers from their family gardens.  On this lush tropical island, that means vibrant exotic blooms.  And lots of smiles and love.   (Note: Adara Sevana means 'Love Shelter' in Sinhalese and is a non-profit school for the differently-abled.)

A special birthday lunch was served and enjoyed by all.  Feeling well celebrated indeed.

Refreshed and ready for our last week in Sri Lanka.  Thank you for being a part of what God is doing.  Your loving support and prayers means more than you can know.

Not feeling my age - - Pat

  



Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Plans We Make

"We should make plans—counting on God to direct us." Proverbs 16:9 TLB

Eye clinics were scheduled for two villages where the people primarily work in a coconut plantation, husking coconuts.  They are paid a few rupees for each coconut they husk.

As preparations were being made, with a small tent being erected for shade, a radical Buddhist group called the BBS opposed the eye clinics, accusing the church of bribing people to convert to Christianity.

For safety, the clinics were relocated to another village about 30 minutes away.  Arrangements were made to transport the people on lorries (trucks).  Sadly it turned out that because they would need to be gone for several hours, their plantation manager would not give them leave from work.  Our prayer is that the opposition will die down, and an eye clinic can be held for them in the future. 

Friday and Saturday's clinics were still in the Negombo area, in the villages of Horogasmulla and Polwatta (which means coconut garden.  This particular village is so small it doesn't show up on Google Maps). The local Methodist churches organized and hosted the clinics. The Methodist Church of Sri Lanka has a 200 year history here, and retains a level of respect from villagers and officials. 

The villagers primarily work as potters.  Shaping and firing serviceable clay pots for flowers, water, then selling them to wholesalers.  At least 2 men came that drive commercial trucks.  We were glad to help them, and make the roads safer.

During two days, 237 people had their eyes examined; 207 received eye glasses.  All were prayed for and encouraged.  The broad smiles on their faces as they look through their new glasses and see clearly is a rich reward.





The lady in the middle runs a small shop and needed to be able to read the tiny writing on her product packages.

The two men are commercial truck drivers.  Without glasses, one could only read the 1st to lines of the chart.  Working with Commercial Truck Drivers for many years, I know how critical good eyesight is to them.

Thank you for being a part of what God is doing in Sri Lanka.

For the Least of These - we continue the journey.    Gary and Pat


Catch up with Cyndy as she gets over her jet lag at www.Montana1aDay.com. 

Thursday, October 26, 2017

On Travel Food


Dear Dr. Dawn, 

If you are reading this, please cover your eyes and scroll down or up to a different post - unless you have absolution on offer. 
Because my confession is: In the roughly 11,000 air and land miles of the past couple weeks, I fell pretty hard off your prescribed No Dairy-Grains-Sweetener wagon. Yes, there were plenty of tasty vegetables and protein choices - which I gratefully and heartily enjoyed. But there were also warm croissants. With butter from sweet-eyed Sri Lankan cows. And mango pie. And those little traditional spiral pastries infused with honey. And not just ice cream - which I could have passed up - but gelato. It would have been decidedly impolite to rebuff the hospitably smiling flight attendant who handed it over without asking if I wanted any, right? 
And, as a Canadian, it goes against my inborn ethics to be impolite.  
Plus, even if she HAD asked if I wanted a micro-serving of frozen delight (in an elfin cup with a wee little spoon, no less!), I couldn't have LIED - particularly in my pseudo-missionary status - because I truthfully wanted it desperately enough to lay aside my handcrafted Sweet Peaks snobbery and fully live in the deliciously chilly moment presented.

So, now I hope you can understand why I could no more refuse the gelato (or creamy yoghurt, Biskoff cookies, and the stroopwaffle I saved for later...) than the swallows can NOT fly to San Juan Capistrano.
(And aren't they fortunate to not have their flight path fraught with dairy danger?!!)

But tomorrow is a new day ripe for new beginnings  - starting right after we meet the kids downtown at Sweet Peaks. (Anyone else in for a scoop of Candy Corn or Plum Cadamom?

Sincerely, 

Cyndy aka Your Prodigal Patient

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Airport Run on Empty Roads


Tuesday's early morning airport run on traffic-free highways took us about 45 minutes.  
By 6 am, rush hour is at full capacity, and the same commute would take twice as long.

Sadly, we could not delay bidding bon voyage to Cyndy who is now back on US soil.  We will miss her inquisitive mind, organizational skills, and decidedly positive outlook.  Not to mention that I will miss the joy of spending time with my 'little' sister.
Enjoy Cyndy's views of her home state at Montana1aDay


Driving the new highways of Sri Lanka sometimes seems surreal.  
We could be anywhere in the world.  Well, anywhere that they drive on the left side of the road that is.


Stay tuned for more of our Sri Lankan Journey with God. ~~~ Pat

Monday, October 23, 2017

On Packing

Well, my one carry on suitcase is locked and in the van, along with my personal bag. And contents have increased to include a lovely gift plaque and chest of tea, plus 30 small packs of pepper and cinnamon, and 100 packets of a tasty tincture called Samehan. 
So I guess I can say I've successfully achieved my packing goal to not check any bags, aside from the two allowed bags that will stay here along with the useful gifts and eyeglasses we brought to leave.

My husband makes me look like a  profligate travel packer. For a week's stay, two pairs of jeans, three t-shirts, and daily skivvies go into his duffel. And then, when doing laundry on our return home, he remarks  that he packed too much.

So, in that spirit, I've compiled my list of Things I Didn't Need: 
-Yoga pants, since Pat loaned me a Sri Lankan house dress (kind of like a mumu) which is great in the humidity 
-My favourite grey tshirt
-Stupid Peds purchased for the trip that, upon wearing, were not actually as low cut as advertised
-two tank tops
-One lightweight pair of just-in-case pants shoved in at the last minute
-full size bar of soap (a mini-bar would have sufficed as a back up)

For illustration, this is my suitcase coming from the USA


and going back.


Next time, I'll pack lighter and have more room for more tea!

Today I'm off to Bangkok, then tomorrow to Tokyo and through to Denver and Missoula.

Pat and Gary are prepping for services in Moratuwa and then on to the next eye clinics.

Bon voyage to moi!
-Cyndy

Last Day Treats: Curd and Treacle, and Mango Pie

Yesterday's return travels took us through an area where water buffalo are common and a regional food specialty is curd made from water buffalo milk. 
Much like a thick, smooth yoghurt but with a tasty tang unique to the milk source, it's set in shallow clay pots made for this purpose - and which often are repurposed as charming flower pots. (Too bad my one and only suitcase is already full...)
A drizzle of treacle completes the treat. Lucky me, everyone else was full so I got to finish up the pot! 


And to finish my stay, we had dinner at our hosts' home: coconut roti, pittu, deviled smoked fish, and mango pie made from fresh mangos from a tree in our Thambalagamuwa host's yard.
Tomorrow we leave to the airport at 3:30 AM for my 7 AM departure flight - always the bittersweet segment of any journey, as I'm sad to leave dear ones here, but looking forward to seeing dear ones at home.
-Cyndy 


Saturday, October 21, 2017

Thambalagamuwa: Day 2 of 2

Today we returned to the general area of Thambalagamuwa, but another 15 or 10 minutes further up the road, at the home of one of the members of the church.
As always, people were already waiting well ahead of the clinic start time. As the day continued, people kept arriving via foot, motorcycle, tuk tuk, and motor scooter, and waited patiently in the shade of the trees and patio in our host's yard.

Totals exceeded what was expected to be a short day. In 4 hours & 50 minutes active working time, we gave:
 148 total eye exams &
 128 pairs of eye glasses.

That's 148 distinct individuals who thought it worth their time to wait, sometimes hours, for a basic eye exam, in hopes of receiving help for vision impairment. And that's 148 people of differing religions and backgrounds who received time and personal attention and care from our team - including our host family, two local pastors, and one pastor's wife - who all agreed it is a privilege to be a tangible & useful expression of how Jesus loves.


Please be encouraged right where you are: You don't have to travel away from home to be used by God to show His love.  It doesn't have to be the biggest or the most lavish anything - you just have to look, and God will help you see a genuine need you have the ability to fill.


In case you wondered at the difference between the numbers of eye exams and distributed glasses, there are varied reasons some people do not receive eyeglasses at these clinics.
The best scenario is when they have perfect vision. Other reasons are typically for situations we cannot cover: different prescriptions in each eye, cataracts, glaucoma, injury to the eye, or extreme prescriptions strengths.

This gentleman informed us that he is a tailor and the reading glasses he received today will be very helpful in his daily work.



















After we'd finished the last exam and packed up our gear, our gracious hosts served tea in a traditional village manner, with chunks of hakuru or jaggery, a raw sweetener made from reduced kithul palm tree sap - you take a small bite of the hakuru then a sip of tea - yum!



On our return journey, we again debarked to portage at a very deep and rough section of the road. The little van has been impressive on its inaugural road trip with 5 adults and eye clinic luggage, but this would have been asking too much.





 
Once back in Trincomalee, we refueled with dinner at Trinco Lanka Seafood Restaurant, owned by friends of the local pastor - amazing fresh seafood! In a show of sisterly love, I gladly gave up my shrimp heads for Gary to enjoy.


Tomorrow we return to the same home for morning church service, and then continue our 6-ish hour drive back to Moratuwa.

This is a perfect illustration of the contrast in both geography and population between my home state of Montana and the nation of Sri Lanka. On developed roads in Sri Lanka (population: just under 21 million), with villages and towns peppered along many segments, the 6-ish hours covers about 270 km, or 168 miles. 
In Montana (population: just over 1 million, in a land mass almost 6 times that of Sri Lanka) the drive of 165 miles from Kalispell to Drummond will take just under 3 hours, through mountain & lakeside communities. You may see a few cows, deer, elk, bear - but not an abundance of three-wheel tuk-tuks. (Note: Click the text links for more information.)

And then Monday we rest up and prep for the week ahead - me to travel homeward, and Pat & Gary and the local team to prep for services in Moratuwa and eye clinics in Buttala. We appreciate all your support for this journey and your continued prayers.
-Cyndy 

Friday, October 20, 2017

Thambalagamuwa: Day 1 of 2

Well, grand totals from today's eye clinic in Thambalagamuwa set a new record for a single day clinic thus far:
 -186 people's eyes examined
 -141 pairs of glasses given away.
And this all in 6 hours and 20 minutes of working time.
Exams started at 9:40 AM, paused for a short lunch break in the early afternoon, and the last one finished at 5:05 PM.



There is a bit of a back story to this amazing day unfolding as it did.
The Methodist pastor's requests to build a church have been denied by local officials. But when he brought a request for permission to hold the eye clinic at a private location in the district, the same officials said, "Why don't you hold it at our district government offices?" So, this morning's clinic started with formal greetings and addresses from several district representatives, as well as the local pastor who laid the groundwork & coordinated logistics.


We saw a fair number of students in the morning, many brought by their parents with permission from the school officials.


During both the morning and afternoon, many area police officers took their break time to wait for an exam. We saw this as a positive opportunity to build goodwill relationships with more local officials.


The caption that sprung to mind for this next scene was:
How many Reverends does it take to examine the eyes of a Buddhist monk?
(From these pictures, the answer, apparently, is three!)


The entire day was an amazing example of eye clinics - or any relevant answer to an actual need - opening doors and building relationship bridges - and relationship opens doors of the heart and mind for the very relevant Gospel of Jesus to be heard.
-Cyndy

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Tuesday and Wednesday Gatherings


Tuesday morning, we were delighted to join the morning chapel singing and storytime at Adara Sevana, a local privately funded school for the differently-able. We noticed a significant change of increased calm and joy in several of the young people who were noticeably agitated on our February 2016 visits. Each student was thrilled to receive a kazoo that Kim Cline sent for them. This was a perfect gift, as none of them had ever before seen a kazoo, and they all enjoy participating in the music segments of their day. Once we figured out how to explain you don''t blow to create the noise, the kazoos were soon added into song accompaniments!

Tuesday evening, we were privileged to join a weekly prayer meeting hosted in a home in a fishing village right along the ocean, just 10 minutes drive from our hotel in Moratuwa. 29 people attended, half of whom were children who all stayed through the hour-long meeting. The meeting is led by a couple who both teach at Adara Sevana. They also started a Thursday evening children's program in the village, currently with 21 regular participants.

Wednesday evening, Gary spoke at the weekly interdenominational service held in the same facility that is home to Adara Sevana. He shared spiritual insight to the principle that we attain or become like what we actually expend our time and focus on. For example, spending notable amounts of time on social media feeds, TV, movies, etc, results in our thoughts and perception of life being influenced by this content. By the same principle, spending time with Jesus and ingesting the content of His Word results in our viewpoints aligning more and more to His. About 60 people came to the service; many requested prayer after the teaching. As we prayed for individuals, it was wonderful to see in person that there is no language barrier when it comes to prayer.

Our next clinics are in Thambalagamuwa, a village near the port city of Trincomalee, on Sri Lanka's northeast coast. 
We'll keep you updated!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Hiniduma Update

Apologies for the update delay.
Since arriving Sunday evening back at our base in Moratuwa, we've had a busy few days visiting Adara Savana, the school for differently-abled, sorting glasses for our next clinics, and a couple outside events. (Plus trying to sleep just a bit...and enjoying some tasty "short eats", as they call certain traditional snack foods prepared by local vendors.)

To catch up, I'll focus this post on our last eye clinic.

After resigning ourselves to not being able to travel to Sunday's planned location due to flood danger, we were blessed with clear skies, and were able to join with the local church in Hiniduma for Sunday morning service.


















Immediately following the service, we set up the clinic and got to work with exams and dispensing eyeglasses. The pastor, his mother, and sister graciously opened their home near the church to host the afternoon's clinic.

To reiterate, this home was flooded up to the roof just in May 2017.
It's a bit hard to tell from this next picture, but the still-high river level is currently 15-20 feet down the fairly steep riverbank behind their home. The floodwaters in May came up so quickly that some - including the pastor's family - had to be rescued from their rooftops, but we heard testimonies of thankfulness that they were able to get to safety, even though many homes required extensive repair.
We were inspired by the resourcefulness and lack of self-pity in the midst of heart-breaking and extremely difficult scenarios.

One gentlemen attending the clinic shared that he needed glasses because his were lost in the chaos of the flood.



 This little grandma, who is 76 years old, still has to support herself through the backbreaking work as a tea picker on a local estate. It has become very hard for her to even see the select leaves she must pluck. Her prescription ended up being a Coke-bottle-bottom -6.00 strength - the strongest glasses we had with us.






















And why, you may ask, is this gentleman threading a needle? He works as an umbrella repairman, and so this is the perfect practical double-check of his diagnosed prescription.

In 2 hours and 40 minutes, 98 people had their eyes examined, and 83 received free eyeglasses, thanks to the generosity of many of you reading this. Thank you so much for being a vital part of this exciting journey in Sri Lanka.

Tomorrow we drive about 6 hours northeast to Trincomalee, where we will hold clinics in nearby settlements on Friday and Saturday. I've never been to this area, and am looking forward to seeing new regions of this beautiful country and meeting more of its gracious people. Stay tuned!
- Cyndy

Saturday, October 14, 2017

On To Hiniduma

The rain kept pounding down  intermittently during Saturday's eye clinic in Udugama, but paused for our walk from and back to the car! 
The van couldn't traverse the last little bit so we got in a nice little hike down to the meeting hall. 


In 3.5 hours, we set up (& later packed up) 2 exam stations - one each for distance and near-sighted testing - and a dispensary for diagnosed strengths of glasses, examined the eyes of 53 people, and gave out 38 pairs of eyeglasses.


With the continuing rains, our Sunday plans were jeopardized, from a safety standpoint. Since Sunday's location was just further up the main road another 15 km, we booked it up there to say hello to the pastor and see the mission house and church location.
Rain persisted the entire drive up and back, and the water level in the river kept rising, with water across the road in a couple places. (Fear not - it wasn't over the tiny tyres on the van.)
In comparison to the murky high water pictured, this river is normally more of a trickling flow. 



The turquoise mission house pictured has a second story on the right side. This is the house I mentioned yesterday that flooded in May up to the second story roof, where the family was rescued. 


Just before the flood in May 2017, Buddhist leadership organized opposition to this church in Hiniduma being built. In response to the flood, the church pastors and people offered much needed aid to others in the community, and that was the end of that round of opposition. 

Many homes along the way had also been  flooded out at the same time. Some buildings and roads are still undergoing repair. This station for the #10 bus route was flooded to right below the roofline. Since May, it has been repaired and repainted. 





BUT today, prayers were answered with clear skies, both at our hotel in Hikkaduwa and up in the hills at Hiniduma. 


Even one of the little local orphan dogs is enjoying the clear view.


Breakfast was on time & delicious, and we are on our way with high expectations for both the morning service and afternoon eye clinic. 
Then we head back to our main base in Moratuwa, to prepare for next week's clinics in Trincomalee.