Monday, December 1st, 2008
My “post-Sri Lanka outreach” letter is long overdue. While I could make excuses about hitting the ground running when I got home with special assignments at work, the truth is, I’ve needed some time to process my recent trip abroad. For starters, Sri Lanka’s extensive coastline takes my breath away, not only for it’s beauty but because it also reminds me of the deadliest Tsunami in recorded history which hit its’ shoreline in December 2004. But even without this natural disaster, Sri Lanka is a study in contrasts, a place where mayhem and mangos grow side by side. Here tropical flowers and tropical disease keep good company. If ever there was a land where Christ’s journey to the cross might readily be understood, I believe it is Sri Lanka. For here, beauty and agony walk together hand in hand, and it is all so disturbingly normal.
“So have you heard the one about the two Americans, two British and one Australian who traveled to Sri Lanka to open a ‘safe house’ for child soldiers right under the noses of rebel forces?” Can you see why I’ve had trouble writing to you? Just the mention of this outreach sounds a bit like the beginning of a bad knock-knock joke, or at best a really good nightmare. But instead it is the continuation of a very old story and a very beautiful one:
But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.
1Corinthians 1:27, NIV
Oh the stories of my weakness and Jesus’ strength I could tell! Perhaps one of my favorites is that of ridiculous ‘over the top’ favor extended to me by Sinhalese military personnel as my team and I traveled deeper and deeper into hostile territory. I assure you it was not for any experience or eloquence on my part that this favor was given.
The ‘foolish fact’ alone allowing me (and all those in my party) to receive preferential treatment was simply this: I was the “whitest” person they had ever seen! Ok, perhaps there was one other distinction for which I give God thanks and praise. In a pinch and when provoked, I can smile “as big as Texas,” (though I admit I am reluctant to share this, lest you think I am boasting!) My point is this. I have a new ministry in Southern Asia: “Operation Skin and Grin.”
This is how it works: Jenna get’s placed in the front seat of a 7-passenger van next to our driver who does not understand safety directives such as “please slow down” or “be careful!” Then, every time our driver approaches a military check point, Jenna removes her sunglasses, flashes her Texas smile, and all of us, driver included, watch and pray as Jenna’s “glow-in-the-dark” skin simultaneously surprises and disarms many a soldier at many a checkpoint. Consequently we are granted free-access to the area ‘intended’ and our long prayed for work begins without incident. (Alright, there was that one incident when a certain soldier gave me his phone number, but that’s a story for another time!)
So, go ahead, call me foolish. Indeed, that is what I am. But to each of you who likewise accompanied me to Sri Lanka via prayers, finances and words of encouragement: thank you so much for sharing your resources, beanie babies, medical supplies, intercession, musical instruments and Heaven’s brand of foolishness with me. You see, TOGETHER by God’s grace we were able to start a ministry in Sri Lanka that I believe will rescue many a child ‘from the fowler’s snare,’ and bring hope and salvation to generations to come.
Yes, I admit it’s a bit easier to do in hindsight, but I sincerely praise God for each “challenging, 120 degree, I can’t eat another bite of curry, do you think they’ll shoot?” moment. Though three members of my six member team had quite a bit of trouble getting out of the country post our outreach (because our project’s undercover status was suddenly uncovered,) even in this the Lord used our weakness for His glory and gave us even more amazing testimonies of His faithfulness and strength.
With so much love,
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