This morning, going to Hendala Baptist Church to preach (an engagement organized at the last minute), we learned again the truth of the old Disney World song: “It’s a small, small world!” We thought we knew no one in Colombo, so it hardly mattered which church had invited us.
CTS had arranged a driver to take us to Hendala, but he did not know just where the Baptist Church was located, so as we got closer he stopped a few times to ask directions. Our first hint that this was a special visit came when we stopped the third time, and were just beginning to wonder if we were even in the right area of this big sprawling city. At that moment a car coming the other way down the narrow street pulled over, and despite some hooting from behind us the passenger jumped out, and hurried over to us. Then we spotted his pastoral collar, he was the pastor of Hendala on his way to a celebration elsewhere.
The church is in an area which was a separate village until the sprawl of Colombo arrived that far, but is now fairly built up. They have a new building, and a hall near by where they conduct various service and mission activities. The service was fairly “traditional” and formal, but the welcome and the speakers were warm. I preached on Psalm 22 – not an easy text, but one which did not involve too much modification to an existing sermon to adapt the stories and illustrations which are so often culture specific!
As a visiting speaker I always try to find some “link” to make at the start, in this case the only connection I could find was my parents’ friendship with Sydney and June Perera, and the way their daughter Chitra was like a sister in our home for several years. Since the Pereras left Ceylon in the 1960s this seemed a tenuous link.
However, after the service a distinguished gentleman greeted me delightedly, he was a life-long friend of Sydney’s and had visited them in London – we noted his name to pass on greetings and began to feel less strangers in a strange land. Over a Coke in the vestry we then discovered that another lady was his cousin, and as the conversation progressed we discovered too that a BMS missionary couple who retired to Budleigh Salterton (where my parents lived) had been pastors of the church a few years back.
Three personal links, three sets of greetings to carry to the UK, and a promise that we must return again and spend longer “next time” we are in Colombo!