Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Our Hearts are Overwhelmed - Sri Lanka

Two weeks into our time in Sri Lanka and our hearts are overwhelmed with the goodness of the Lord.  So many experiences, impressions, emotions - we’re on sensory overload.  

We are overwhelmed as we reflect on:  

  • Our great joy to be back in Sri Lanka after almost 5 years. Working with our ministry partners Deepthi and Layasing, we slipped back into fellowship and ministry as if no time had passed.
  • The overabundance of beauty.  Sri Lanka Means Resplendent land - and it truly is that. Photos provided as proof.
  • Gracious people who organize and host the eye clinics and services and prepare delicious local dishes for lunch: even toning down the spice level so as not to overwhelm our western tastebuds (although Gary has a missionary stomach  and can eat the spiciest of foods without concern).
  • The extreme poverty and seemingly un-ending need. Sri Lanka suffered through 25 years of civil war, ending in 2009. The nation was beginning to recover, when the world shut down during the pandemic.  Sri Lanka experienced a severe economic collapse beginning in 2019 and their Prime Minister was forced to resign. Costs of basic necessities have increased 400% over the past 3-4 years. There is little help for the people, their suffering is real.
  • Gratitude that we can come alongside and show the love of Jesus in a practical way – by giving eyeglasses to those who could never afford them.

Eye vision clinics provide a unique opportunity to serve the needs of people on both a physical level and a spiritual level. Local church workers, pastors, evangelists are involved, meet the people and follow up with them regardless of religion or church affiliation. 

First weekend: Deniyaya  By 5:30 Friday morning the van is loaded with eye glasses, exam equipment, overnight bags, drinking water.  We drive three and a half hours southeast, much of it on the country’s new E-01 toll-road which greatly reduces our drive time.  

Because of the potential for persecution by the Buddhists in this area, the eye clinic was very low key.  With the goal of developing positive relationships in the neighborhood, news of the eye clinic was discreetly spread by word of mouth.

During four and a half hours, sixty-six (66) people had their eyes examined with assistance and translation by local church workers. The local church workers had helped Deepthi and Layasing in another community a few months ago and were very organized and efficient. 

Fifty-six (56) people received glasses. Many had cataracts so severe glasses could not help. Younger people were experiencing eyestrain because of excessive time on their devices. They were given some basic eye care instruction and were taught exercises to strengthen their eyes.

Because of the very real danger of increased persecution, we only prayed with those who were already followers of Jesus; or those who specifically said they believed Jesus could heal them.  This helps to avoid the accusation of 'buying' conversions by giving free eyeglasses.

Sunday morning service at Diniyaya – Joyful praise to the Lord went up from the roof top terrace of a local hotel, rented for Sunday morning’s church service.  Gary shared the Word, communion was received.  What a joy to worship with our Sri Lankan family. 

Second weekend - Udugama & Hiniduma The last time an eye clinic was held in these two villages was October 2017 and my sister Cyndy was with us. Much has changed in the past seven years.  Click here to check out posts from 2017 - Udugama      Hiniduma a    Hiniduma b  

Udugama – is just two and a half hours from Moratuwa.  Friday’s eye clinic was held on an estate that produces palm oil, rubber and tea. Estates or gardens are basically plantations. Tea garden villages are built up over time, workers live and raise their families right where they work.

With three people doing the eye exams, and Pat dispensing glasses, we saw eighty-four (84) people in three hours. All but 6 or 7 were given glasses.   Tea and a local snack were served mid-morning.  A delicious and bountiful lunch followed the eye clinic.

Early evening we drove an hour further south to Galle to visit a brother from the Buttala Church who was in hospital for full checkup - high blood sugar.  Since we were right on a bay of the Indian Ocean, we found a seafood restaurant and enjoyed prawns, cuttlefish and seafood fried rice. Along with Sri Lanka’s most famous beverage – Elephant House ginger beer. 

The local Holiday Inn in Udugama provided basic accommodations (including air conditioning, but not hot water) for SLR 3,000 each; equal to US $10.  We seemed to be the only guests in this beautiful large facility, which apparently stays in business with income from their events hall.  

Hiniduma was a short twenty minute drive on Saturday morning. The eye clinic was held in  the Methodist church house.  People waited patiently under the shade of large trees or in the covered meeting hall where church services are held. 

Eighty eight (88) people were seen in just under four hours, and most were given glasses.  Sister Deepthi also checked several children and youth and taught them exercises to do for vision convergence - which happens when we are on the computer or devices for long periods of time. 

Mid-morning we were served coffee made from locally grown Sri Lankan coffee beans. It was enjoyed with a local dessert crepe rolled around a honey coconut filling and slices of lovely chocolate layer cake, all on very pretty China. 

The church ladies prepared and served a bountiful  lunch, featuring a  special local vegetable.  In Sinhala it’s called “paththra koku” which translates as ‘newspaper hooks’.  Two teenage girls went out and foraged some plants to show us how it looks before cooking; turns out it is a variety of fiddlehead fern. Another new taste experience. 

Plans are to be in Nurawa Eliya for our final weekend. Our last visit there was in February 2016 – click to read Cyndy’s account of that drive. (note this was before the toll road was constructed).

Look for future posts on Sri Lanka and Adara Sevana – a school for the differently-abled. 

Each of you – have a part in the ongoing work God is doing in Sri Lanka.  There is a ripple effect as hearts are opened to hear more about Jesus, families are changed, communities are healed; the long term impact that we will only know in eternity.
~ The Journey Continues -  Pat & Gary

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