Rev Eira Clapton recently visited Sri Lanka with UnitingWorld staff, to see the work of the Methodist Church of Sri Lanka which is supported by the partnership of the Uniting Church in Australia Synod of Western Australia
I start a new notebook for this Sri Lanka trip, because a pen and paper are quickly accessible when you want to make notes in a foreign country. On the title page I write these words: “What if we were standing on holy ground“?
Holy ground is difficult to get to. For us it involves a very early start. At 3.51am I climb into a small bus and we set off on crowed roads out of Colombo to the more remote north and east of the country. These are the areas which have been devastated by the double disaster of civil war and tsunami. There are fewer people to do the work in these areas – many of the young were killed in the war, or the disaster, or left disabled by them. The roads are poor so the villages are hard to get to, isolated from each other and from government services. The bus rollicks over dry creeks beds and picks its way at a snail pace around deep potholes.
I visit a Church hall in Muthur, where some tiny children have gathered to greet us with their mothers and preschool teacher. They place garlands of flowers around our necks as we enter. This is a Church run school for those who can’t afford to send their children to government run preschools. One mother explains that she sells goods to provide for her family. Sometimes there is money for education, sometimes none. In this place everyone is welcome to come – it is a multi-faith school. The preschool turns no-one away, even though the Church has no funding to support it. The teacher has not been paid for months, and the only food provided to the children comes from what the parents can bring.
The children sing us a song, which sounds like ‘Heads and shoulders, knees and toes’, and we all smile at each other.
Eira’s Law of Spiritual Economics says “you know you are getting close to the kingdom of God when there is not enough money to do the work”. I conclude that we are very close today.
In the next district we visit more preschools in which teachers work for next to nothing and the churches provide emergency aid type nutrition packs for children, as the whole population is under-nourished. We are treated as special guests each place we go.
If you feel jaded about the church, visiting the projects that your church supports with funds, and meeting the passionate workers at the other end, will make you feel better.
In my notebook I write that I am thinking of all the faithful donors to appeals, and wishing they could have been with us. We are thanked over and over by each preschool community, but of course they don’t mean to thank us personally -we just represent the Australian churches.
Anyone seen the kingdom of God? Maybe they could start looking around here.
Rev Eira Clapton
If you want to be part of sharing the work of the Kingdom of God in this place, you can support the preschool project by donating to:
BSB 036-001 Account 92-1834 Uniting Church in Australia
Reference Sri Lanka Preschools
Cheque – made payable to Uniting Church in Australia
Send to: Social Justice Unit, Uniting Church Synod of WA, GPO Box M952, Perth WA 6843
or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Please note that donations to this appeal are not tax deductible.