Sri Lanka isn’t a big country, about 25,332 sq mi compared to California at about 163,696 sq mi. The population about 21,128,773 with less than 10% Christian according to Gospel For Asia. My husband and I were guests of friends, Rob and Heidi Douglass, who live in Colombo, the Capital City. They were gracious and made us feel very welcome and comfortable in between our jaunts into the jungle and across country .
Rob, Heidi and little Lilah Douglass
After arriving in Colombo on March 21, and treated to some cool air and sweet fellowship we settled in and prepared for some serious ministry. My husband, Bob, would visit the Gospel For Asia Bible College in Colombo with Dan Finfrock to teach the Inductive Bible Study Method. I, on the other hand, was scheduled to travel to, Habarana, a small village in the jungle about 4-1/2 hours into the Sri Lanka interior, north-east of Colombo to teach at a Gospel for Asia satellite bible campus for two days. My pre-visit impressions were a quaint little campus in a small town but I got a big surprise. (travel tip I: reset your expectations, study the culture, climate and living conditions)
I arrived in Habarana after an early start and a long, bumpy ride. We discovered that the satellite campus was a short drive, about 1/2 mi. on a dirt road, into the jungle after which we completed the distance on foot for another 1/4 mi. (travel tip II: heels in the jungle…. NOT!)
It’s a jungle out there! Habarana is a favorite elephant safari spot for tourists. I saw monkeys and heard wild peacocks in between all the other unusual sounds of animals and birds. It was dense and beautiful and I couldn’t see into it more than a few feet.
We passed a communications building hidden behind a wall and a few simple dwellings along the road as we walked…. and there we were, Habarana GFA Satellite Campus. A small compound really, which seemed to consist of two or three small brick and block buildings, tin roofs with bare windows and fabric hung in door openings for shade and privacy.
Students sat on grass mats on the rough concrete floor in the chapel which was swept clean with walls white washed all over to catch the light coming in the glass-less windows that allowed flies to stumble in and out lazily.
The main building housed the chapel/classroom and the pastors residence, consisting of what looked like two rooms. I met the pastors wife, a young woman with a sweet, tender spirit. She was noticeably concerned as she reported that her husband had been quite ill, unable to eat or drink. He would be transported to a hospital later the next day. (good reports trickled in later that week)
Satellite buildings in Habarana
satellite chapel interior, Habarana
I wish I could have gotten some pics of the students but my phone/camera went dead so I only got the few I’ll share here. I apologize for the lousy quality.
a student with her son and my GFA translator, Tusi
Tusi in the doorway with more students, Habarana. notice the international gesture of friendship? yep, they get phone reception even in the jungle.... amazing!
Habarana was my first experience ministering in a jungle setting. With no electricity, fans or air-conditioning, and no running water…. it was very hot and humid, which at first was a distraction, but once I got busy teaching from His Word things were as they should be.
God is so good and had been preparing me and the students long before He sent me there to share what I have learned about worshipping Him. Around mid day we broke for a lunch of white rice, a lentil paste with a bit of egg and other simple foods. Later in the afternoon, our hosts were gracious and served very hot, very sweet, cream tea which would have been more welcome had it been cooler weather but it was a nice treat even in the heat if the day.
These students were so genuine and hungry to hear and learn. They recieved the Word with gladness and we shared the common bond of fellowship in spite of language and culture barriers.
two wonderful little "guitar students" we learned chords and spent some time bonding... precious!
An unusual thing happened on this trip. At least it was unusual for me. On the long drive down I had time to ponder, pray and get to know my translator, Tusi. During one of our quiet stretches, she had fallen asleep. I distinctly heard the Lord speak to my heart that I would be praying for someone demon possessed. I promptly thanked the Lord for the fore-warning seeing as how I’d never been in that situation before and began to pray for His Spirit to empower me and Tusi and go before us.
I had no idea what would occur but what could I do? Just go with it and trust my Jesus. :) At the end of the first day of teaching I asked the students if any of them wanted prayer. Tusi and I prayed for several, maybe 20, students. It was a sweet time and I discovered that their prayer requests were much the same as those I hear in the states; “please pray for my sick mother,” Please pray for my unsaved family,” one needed healing, another needed a place to stay. All the usual requests except for a common request to pray for restoration of families as Buddhist and Hindu parents will disown their children for becoming Christians.
Then a young man, maybe in his late teens, was brought to us by some friends or family members, I wasn’t sure which. I found out that he was not a student at the bible college.
It was explained that “he was possessed with a demon.” I declared to Tusi that this had been what the Spirit had foretold me. We set our hearts to pray and all the students began praying out loud in their own language.
I wont go into detail except to note that he displayed biblical demonic possession behavior as we prayed for him. After about 10 minutes he began to call out to the Lord and fell quiet and was delivered. The next day he was sitting with the students studying the Word and smiling from ear to ear. Later that day I saw him running with the other boys and so full of life. It was glorious!
We returned to the Douglass home in Colombo and I was reunited with my husband and Dan who shared their own adventures, enjoyed a cool night in air-conditioned luxury with a new assignment ahead.
That mostly describes my first 3 days in Sri Lanka….. The balance of the trip included teaching at another GFA campus. I praise my Lord for His mercy and grace to fulfill what He had given me to do and for glorifying Himself in my life.
Peace in Jesus Christ!
PS Thanks to all those who were praying for this trip. Your prayers were felt and much appreciated.