Encounters with Strangers
10th September, Colombo
Before setting off on our trip Sassi took to the internet to find out whether there were any English speaking church services in Colombo, Sri Lanka. After a little research there was a Baptist church with a morning services and the Facebook page was all up to date. So Sassi messaged them and they were quick to reply back and they were happy to have us join in on the Sunday.
The church (Cinnamon Garden Baptist Church) was a 200 year old building right in the centre of the city. We sat down near the back as we had all our luggage with us because we left our first apartment in the same morning and were going to the train station right after the service. We were greeted by many of the congregation, the lady who knew of us from the messages introduced herself and told us to chat after the service. We also had some clothes to donate, as we packed TOO MUCH for our trip and needed to lose some weight.
The church service was really good, we heard songs that we recognised and the sermon was very relevant and challenging, from an American Baptist missionary. He jumped into the world of peace and how can we be more like Jesus in times of conflict to try and bring peace in all situations. These conflicts could be anything from communities, families, to whole nations, it doesn’t matter about the size of the conflict but how you deal with it as a Christian. One of the main points was making how we can love our enemies and how we are called to be different by not fighting back and that if we fight back violently the conflict will only spread wider and that’s what the devil wants but we can only change the world around us by bringing peace and reconciliation. We are called to act but not how an average individual would do but differently, this message was very relevant for us but really for everyone in this day and age.
After the service we got the chance to speak to people, one guy spent some time working in Guildford (A city we lived near to in the UK) and knew most places around the area. We met people in charge of the youth at the church and other members, there was one a church member who told us that she converted from Buddhism, we were then invited for lunch by the worship leader and her husband (Kuvani & Iranjit) and they also offered to take us to the train station. We had a lovely lunch with them, they shared their stories and we shared ours and we also prayed together.
13th September, Galle
We were sitting on a sunbed under an umbrella looking out to the sea when Raji from Sri Lanka came to talk to us. The conversation soon turned interesting when I asked if I could share what brings me joy and fulfilment with him. I shared a bit about my faith in Jesus and how it brings me hope and peace. He then mentioned that he was a Muslim and then we talked about the similarities and differences between Christianity and Islam and he talked about how he liked living in Dubai because of the freedom, we talked about drinking alcohol, smoking etc and compared our beliefs about them.
He didn’t come across as a very traditional Muslim but more of a cultural open-minded Muslim, I was pleasantly surprised by this as most Muslims I have talked to before have come across quite argumentative and one sided. He talked a lot about drinking alcohol and that he feels guilty going to the mosque after drinking. I then mentioned the grace and the forgiveness that we can find in Jesus. We also talked about the fact that it is an unforgivable sin converting from Islam and is not allowed I think this is probably one of the main reasons why we can only share God’s grace with them and after this we need to leave it in God’s hands as it is dangerous to convert from Islam but need to keep praying for them that they will have an encounter with the living God. I think for many Muslims, Islam is just part of their culture rather than their religion and it also gives them an identity but they are not allowed to admit that.
20th September, Dehiwala
The worship leader (Kuvani) from Cinnamon Gardens Baptist Church put us in touch with a lovely couple (Joshua and Chrish) who came and visited us and we had dinner together. Joshua’s family lives in England, they moved to England when he was 12 but he felt the calling to come back to Sri Lanka and serve here, so he completed a Bible college and then he married his wife who spent time in India and now they both call Sri Lanka home, even though she actually prefers the cooler British climate. We got to spend time getting to know each other, sharing stories about our lives.
They are searching for where God wants them to go next as Joshua was told that he might not be able to keep his indefinite visa to England even though his family lives there because he lives in Sri Lanka. He chose not to get a British passport because he couldn’t have a dual nationality living in Sri Lanka. He was told to go back to England or he will lose his indefinite leave, however his wife Chrish would only be allowed to follow him if they decide to go back if he finds a job in England first. His parents are getting older so he wants to be there for them so they are in a tricky situation thanks to the stricter English rules. We prayed for them and shared some words of encouragement.
22nd Sept Colombo
We got an uber to the train station from our apartment and the journey was going to take half an hour. I prayed when we got into the car that God would give me some pictures and straight away I saw a picture of a little girl dancing and jumping and being happy and heard in my head that she was the driver’s daughter. The driver (Nalin) looked pretty young so just in case I was just imagining this picture, I asked the driver if he had a family and he said yes he does and then I asked him if he had a daughter and again he replied with yes. I then said that I just saw a picture of his daughter and that I knew that he had a daughter without him telling me, he seemed a bit freaked out and started asking how I would know that and how I could have seen a picture of his daughter. I reassured him that I don’t know him and have never met him before today and the picture was just in my head and explained a bit about our faith and how God shows me things sometimes.
We then had an interesting half an hour chatting about hobbies, things that he wants to do, travelling, Buddhism, Christianity, forgiveness, the difference between believing and following someone (God) who is perfect and someone who was only a human who must have made mistakes just like every human makes (Buddha) etc…He said he was a Buddhist and came across open to hearing about Christianity and asked whether we were interested in learning more about Buddhism, we said that we have been learning a lot already which has been great. We talked about the value in pursuing peace and similarities in terms of how we meditate on God’s word, we also talked about how different religions talk about God differently and not all of them can be true, just like when many people talk about the same person completely differently, only one of them will be true about that person and that we had complete faith in Jesus.
After these 2 weeks, we feel more closer to God than before and more certain of our faith. We feel His presence and we see him at work in us and through us.
In our next blog, we will discuss other things that we have learnt about faith in Sri Lanka.