Report on Jaffna Seminar – Oct 31st and Nov 1st 2006
Sri Lanka is always a delight after the pollution and chaos of India, and is home of the Buddha and Tamil Tigers. We arrived at 2pm and had a 3hr drive from the airport through villages, hills to our hosts at Lanka Bible College (LBC) in Kandy. The first thing they gave us was our book published in Tamil! It looks good. We are delighted and so are they. Then at 9pm, the overnight drive for Jaffna began. LBC had organized a 2-day seminar there. At 01.30am we stopped to sleep at an AOG church to be ready to cross early morning through the Government Army security check points and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elaam (LTTE) controlled areas to enter the war torn province of Jaffna. It took us 2 tedious hours to get through the Border security posts; unloading and loading our van 3 times and then a 4-hour drive to Jaffna city.
Signs of war are all around. Burnt out tanks and armored cars, endless signs of “DANGER MINES, don’t leave the road”, shell marked homes, others totally destroyed. It truly is the home of the AK7 (assault weapon) – the red Tamil Tiger flag emblazoned with a tiger and an AK7. Government troops are similarly armed.
We were tired when we got to Jaffna at 5pm, after 3 days of traveling or waiting to travel. Jaffna is a pleasant beach side city with army check posts at every major crossroads, outside our hotel and others all along the beach front. On Sunday after preaching at a Pentecostal church, we had a lazy afternoon at the beach, swimming and walking, it was great.
The Jaffna seminar, translated into Tamil, went well beyond our expectations. First on Monday 31st with an overwhelming 275 present our book was launched in Tamil! Caleb, the manager for LBC Publishing who was with us in Jaffna, was very pleased. Teaching on Monday focussed on understanding sexual problems and addictions and also involved group discussion (which they love) on how to respond to sexual strugglers.
Tuesday 1st, 225 attended, with teaching on healing and counseling of sexual strugglers and group discussion on pastoral care of strugglers. There was a lively question time and several people spoke to Peter privately afterwards. That evening we had dinner with a pastor and his family who back in 1995 had been forced to leave their Jaffna homes after being given a few hours notice to pack and get out. Along with thousands of other Tamils they were marched out of Jaffna and en route, as they crossed a narrow bridge were shelled by the waiting Government army. Mercifully God kept them safe and their testimony was Ebenezer – Thus far the Lord has helped us. (I Samuel 7:12).
Wednesday Pete was on the road at 04.30am in the dark running past army patrols, check points where at one place he was challenged by a sentry, then on past refugee camps, a site where they clear the soil of mines, Catholic churches, shrines, fishing villages, just amazing. At 8am, 35km later he is back and by 8.30am he is cleaned up and ready for breakfast then back to the Church for counseling appointments between 10-11 am.
From 11am – 3.30pm we visited 3 Pastors meetings (about 60 pastors and pastoral workers in total) and spoke about Exodus, had feedback on the seminar and were asked for advice on various pastoral issues to do with sexuality. It was a great PR exercise and we received an overwhelming invitation to return. At 5pm we were back in our motel, pretty tired after another very intense day. Thursday we made the 14-hour return trip back through all the checkposts and arrived in Kandy to monsoon rains. Being in Sri Lanka, especially Jaffna, was a humbling experience of seeing how God’s people kept faith through the horrors of war. Jesus give us their faithfulness!