It has been my privilege to travel three times to preach and teach in Sri Lanka, the last two occasions with the Grace Fraternal group of churches.
My hosts have been pastor Benet Surendran (‘Suresh’) of Grace Evangelical Church, Colombo (a church of three congregations, English, Tamil and Sinhalese, each with its own pastor) and pastor Huthin Manohar, a former LTS student, who is principal of Baldaeus Theological College, Trincomalee.
After preaching at Grace on Sunday 26th April I travelled with a group from the church to Trincomalee for a three-day youth conference. About 29 youngsters from five churches attended; I preached once and spoke four times on ‘Thinking Biblically’ from Romans 12:1,2. Three other speakers, including Suresh, covered different topics including very practical ones like how to apply for jobs. After a day’s rest back in Colombo I spoke at Grace church’s own three-day Family Conference at a centre near Colombo. I preached three times and gave a variety of papers including two on ‘parenting’ (a brave thing to do, as I discovered, in a different culture).
Back, then, to Trincomalee (I think I spent 33 hours on this road in all!) for a course in New Testament Introduction with 25 students at Baldaeus. Not all are Reformed but it is exciting to see those from different theological traditions coming to appreciate the richer teaching of the Calvinistic heritage. Some of the young men here will be pastors; all are committed to working in their churches in Sri Lanka. I flew home on 8th May.
All my preaching was translated into Tamil and in some cases into Sinhalese as well. It is precious to enjoy fellowship with these kind and generous believers but language is a real barrier with most. It is good to see the ravages of war receding and the economy appearing to pick up, including the all important tourist industry. The election of a new President has given the Tamils at least a new optimism politically.
Spiritually there is much to give thanks for; pray for the fruit of the ministry of the word; for the overcoming of divisions and rivalries; and that our God ‘may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of the Lord Jesus may be glorified’ in Sri Lanka (2 Thess 1:11,12).
Overseas trips (especially on my own) give me a chance to catch up on reading too. I am having a crusade at the moment to read books which have been sitting on my shelves for a while. So I took with me 'A Pair of Blue Eyes'(a lesser known novel of Thomas Hardy); 'The Weight of Glory', a selection of C.S. Lewis essays, which I read twice; 'Travelling to Infinity', Jane Hawking's memoirs of her life with Stephen, made more piquant by the fact that I watched the film version, 'The Theory of Everything' on the flight to Colombo; Bradley Green's 'Covenant and Commandment'; Tom Lennie's 'Glory in the Glen' (revivals in Scotland 1880- 1940) and I began to read before coming home 'The Cambridge Companion to Puritanism'.
Two other films I was able to watch, this time on the way home (well, it is an eleven and a half hour flight), were the third in the 'Hunger Games' series, 'Mockingjay I', and the film version of the musical 'Les Miserables'.
Reviews some other time may be...