I am from the United States of America - a Greek-thinking, logical, Western mindset. I naturally approach most situations as a problem to solve so I can bring closure to the challenges in my world. I know it is not THE right nor THE wrong way of thinking, it is just my way.
But serving throughout SE Asia & Africa has taught me that much of the world does not think like that. So I am working hard to understand this.
Here is an example for you. We went to the famous Jaffna ice cream shop today where Andie and I decided to each get something different and then share - like we always do. Our dishes came out and we had a variety of options to enjoy.
When we looked around at different tables, no matter how many people were in each group, they all ordered the exact same thing! Really? Why?
After one person chose, everyone else went with that option so they could enjoy ice cream as a group, in community. We went to get what we wanted. They went to share an experience together.
So when God called me to serve the people of SE Asia and Africa, He must have had a good laugh watching me struggle for many years to learn how to think and understand completely different cultures. Actually, I'm sure He had many good laughs this trip.
Sam has recently received personal invitations from three different Sri Lankan pastors to relocate his family and start a Bible school here. I immediately start thinking in terms of logistics. Who is the group you are going to be serving? Where should you be located? What kind of resources are required? When will this start taking place? Etc. But ministry is way more complicated than that.
Sam is not concerned about those type of details at this point. First off there is an intense and dark spiritual climate here.
People living in SE Asia very much interact with with spiritual world on a daily basis. You can see and experience it everyday. Hindus, Buddists, Muslims, Christians, etc. all recognize the spiritual realm as a truth not an opinion. Atheism really only exists in first world countries typically among those claiming to be highly academic. I've written about this quite a bit in the past so I won't spend much time on it here. This can't be ignored.
Sam is challenged with how he can effectively enter into this very spiritual culture and bring two groups together that really are not set up to work together.
Jaffna is historically a poetic culture founded on music and singing. There is a song and dance for every situation in life both in daily activities (cleaning, working in the field, cooking, eating, etc) and big events (puberty, weddings, child births). They do this for everything.
This painting hangs in the lobby of our hotel and provides a great cultural teaching opportunity, so let me give it a try of my own understanding of the current climate here in Sri Lanka:
The woman on the left is a Sinhala dancer. You can tell by her dress, dancing form and the colors that she wears. Sinhalese make up 75% of the people here in Sri Lanka. They are primarily Buddhist and speak Sinhalese.
The woman on the right is a Tamil dancer also revealed by her dress, form and colors. Tamil make up 18% of the population in Sri Lanka. They are primarily Hindu and speak Tamil.
The ballet dancer in the middle represents the European dance and influence. She appeals to the younger generation that is heavily influenced by Europe and want to be different than their parents.
The older generations lived through 26 years of military civil war between the two groups that ended in 2009. They will spend the rest of their lives working through the healing process and deep scars that have left this country torn apart. Every single person was affected by death and loss. There is anger and bitterness and plenty of blame to go around.
Over 100,000 people (mostly civilians) were killed and countless others are still missing. The war ended, but they are still looking for peace.
Both sides blame each other. Both sides want to hold on to their own culture, religions and language. Both sides were victims.
And there was the tsumani in 2004 in which over 30,000 died and over 500,000 were displaced.
As we witnessed this trip, there are abandoned houses everywhere. Over 50% in many areas. The country doesn't look much different than it did when I was here in 2013. It is not progressing like one would expect.
But we have hope. We believe in these great people. And we are willing to follow God's calling to invest our time, energy & passion in this country.
Sam has a vision to bring unity. We could immediately enter into the Tamil culture and probably flourish right away with strong support. But his calling for the Bible school is for a unified school where both Tamils and Sinhalese are studying, learning and growing together. We discovered that the gap between the two is far greater than we realized, but we also see the need is greater as well.
So before we just come on over and open up a Bible school, there is a lot more preparation needed. Sam and his family are asking for your commitment to prayer over the next couple of months. The local team is coming together, but we still need several more leaders who are willing to break away from the comforts of their own people groups and catch the vision to help reach Sri Lanka for Jesus.
Will you be willing to pray? If so, will you start right now?