The final two days -- Sunday & Monday
Seeing an Elephant, our last Sunday, some thoughts about Sri Lanka (and Sri Lankan driving tips) and finally the trip back home.
There was a Hindu wedding going on next door with very loud music that woke us up before 5am. Then we were up at 6:45 to head off on an hour’s trip to a couple of remote churches to preach.
The first one was a tiny building at Neenarkeny, very near the coast where the tsunami hit a few years ago. The empty area in the foreground was once a refugee camp for the victims, but now all is left is the small white building where the church meets that you can just see in the distance behind me.
Before I preached there was a worship time. All the singing in churches was unaccompanied by instruments.
Once the meeting was over, we drove to another, larger, church in the same area. Here I preached, and we broke bread together. Then Anne brought a message for the children on how Jesus welcomed children and they were not too young to believe in him:
Once again a couple of soldiers showed up to check up on what we were doing, but this time thankfully there were no machine guns and we were allowed to set off on the long trip home.
In the afternoon we began the seven-hour drive across the country to the capital city Colombo, where the airport is. On the way we saw an elephant. Most elephants roam in herds, destroying crops and lives, and terrifying villagers. This one was tame and was used for carrying tourists on its back for mini-safaris.
We fed it some bananas, which it took off our hands with its trunk, then the owner showed me how to put them directly into its mouth. (The tongue felt very slimy.)
We arrived at 11pm and stayed the night in Colombo at a hotel—the first hot shower in two weeks!
Monday morning we set off for the airport. I captured some clips of the traffic. This is actually pretty tame compared with yesterday’s journey.
Every tiny roadside store/shack is plastered with cell-phone advertisements like these. Signs are usually in three languages: English, Sinhala and Tamil. Slogans are often in English with very high claims like this one: “Powering the Passion of our Nation”.
Things that have surprised me about Sri Lanka
- Being barefoot most of the time for two weeks. It is rude not to leave your sandals at the door.
- The cellphone network—reliable high speed 4G data even in the mountains, with data plans starting at $1/month. The sight of a man whose home is just a frame covered in palm leaves talking on his cell phone is very strange. (And how come it can’t be this cheap in Canada!!)
- Sun tan—I didn’t get one, and never wore sunscreen. It is almost the equator and you never go in the sun for more than a few seconds at a time. There is lots of shade from palm trees.
- Felt very safe and people were extremely friendly
- The extreme poverty is not very visible. No beggars. Even the poor dress well, especially the women who wear amazingly patterned saris.
- Good main roads, mostly built in the last 5 years. Off the main road is another story!
- very surprised that there are not more road accidents!
- and how much you can carry on a bike!
- No music. At least, no instruments. Occasionally radios/CDs and in church there was unaccompanied singing. My guess is that learning an instrument is an expensive luxury.
- Palm trees everywhere, and other spectacular vegetation
- The military presence. Check points everywhere.
- The courage of the pastors in the face of opposition and persecution, and how hard they worked.
- How hungry the people were for preaching, how passionately they prayed, and how much it meant to them that we visited them.
- The rate of growth of this group of churches—starting from 1 there are now 58.
- How full our schedule was. Many days we started at 8am and got back for supper at 10pm
When we visited a church they usually cooked a meal for us. The “kitchen” was usually a small area with an open fire. But the food was amazing!
Walls and roofs were often made of very cleverly woven palm branches. It is surprising what a tight screen they can make.
Here you can see what it all looks like. The floor is concrete and the lower part of the walls is made of cement blocks.
Rules for Driving in Sri Lanka
- Always drive at a speed appropriate for the road, unless
- The police are doing a speed check, in which case slow down to the limit
- It is a gravel road, in which case drive far too fast for comfort
- The horn must be sounded
- when passing other vehicles
- on approaching blind corners
- to warn cows, dogs or pedestrians
- on every other possible occasion.
- The car / tuk-tuk / motorcycle / bus in front of you is there to test how good you are at passing. Rise to the challenge!
- Leave your flasher on all the time indicating you are passing—there is no point in turning it off
- When pulling out from a minor road to a major, wait until you see traffic approaching and pull out immediately in front of it without signalling.
- When passing a vehicle on a blind bend, if you sound the horn enough there will not be any danger.
- Motorcycles and tuk-tuks do not need any road space. They will happily pull off the road to avoid a head-on collision with you.
- Finally, if you see a bus heading straight towards you on your side of the road, it’s probably best to brake hard and pull off the road.
Return to Canada
On Monday morning we went to the airport for the 10½ hour flight to the UK where we stayed overnight. At I write this (Tuesday) I’m about to take the plane back to Canada, and Anne is staying on a few more days. We praise God for keeping us safe and healthy, and giving us such front-row experience of what he is doing.