A New Partnership

This first team is quite international in flavor. 11 from the United States joined 2 from Trinidad who met 1 from the Netherlands for a week of building a playground for the Children's Home and good relationships for the future.

If our last trip was to re-establish ties to Sri Lanka, this project was to deepen and broaden those ties and lay a foundation for years of future service.

After 23 hours of flying to Colombo, via Los Angeles, Tokyo, and Singapore the team arrived in Sri Lanka where a bus took us the final 4 hours into the highlands. Our long-time friend Harry vanBurik met us for a week of service to orphaned kids in Meepitiya, near Nawalapitiya in south central Sri Lanka.

Nawalapitiya is our home-away-from-home and is a busy place virtually fizzing with activity. Three-wheeler taxis, cars, trucks, oxcarts, and thousands of pedestrians fill the streets every day.

It is a city of nearly 14,000 people about 30 kilometers from Kandy and is populated by a wide variety of faiths. Within a 10 minute walk of the Children's Home one can see Catholic churches, Hindu temples, Muslim mosques, Buddhist temples and an evangelical church.

Our primary function this week is to complete the construction of a playground at the Cherith International Children's Home. The ground was prepared and our job was to paint the play tower (on the left), put its roof on then set the play equipment in place when it arrived from the fabricators.

Fighting jetlag, rainy season downpours and fluctuating power current proved challenging, but everything worked out.

Ayubowan is a typical Sri Lankan greeting one receives that literally means, "may you live long."

The asian elephant is a long-lived beast and one of the important resources from Sri Lanka's past. It's only natural for them to welcome us too.

The closest neighbor to the Children's Home is a local monk who is more than happy to have an orphanage in his back yard (He says it's much better than the farmer and his 200 goats!)

We're still trying to find the words to describe the very unique evening we spent with him when he showed us his temple complex, offered us tea, and answered our questions about his faith.

He will be a strong supporter of our work and an interesting person to get to know.

Yikes! It's amazing how one can so quickly become used to the most unusual stuff.

Sri Lanka, especially during the rainy season, is home to all sorts of bugs, moths, birds, lizards, monkeys, leeches (!) and millipedes who make themselves comfortable near our home.

They like to say "ayubowan" too, and we make the best of it (and get extra points with the grandkids by getting the perfect picture).

Having to share the power cords and waiting for the rain to stop makes the schedule hard to keep, but the team rises to all of the challenges and gets the work done..and still enjoys one another!

Our secondary function was to help Cherith establish itself as a community resource by hosting a basketball clinic for kids from local schools.

Bruce, Stephanie and Mark are teachers in Oshkosh, Wisconsin and did a great job connecting with the kids, teaching basic basketball skills, and laying a foundation with teachers and administrators in the area.

The smiles were big and the competition furious!

In spite of the language barriers, meaningful connections could be made by showing interest and just being with the kids of Meepitiya.

One-on-one interaction created special bonds and really demonstrated the love of Jesus we hoped to share.

Could it be that "ministry" doesn't need big programs and big budgets? Is it as simple as building relationships with "ordinary people"?


One of the greatest benefits for our teammates during these projects is the relationships that get built and the blending of stories that create the lasting souvenirs we take home.

This project brought together five nations. Jeff, Pastor Chandrasena, Demitrio, Mervin and Jaghram represent The USA, Sri Lanka, Italy, Holland and Trinidad on this project that will have impact for years to come.

We came to Sri Lanka for the first time in 2000 to make another playground for a school in Dekinda. The principal of the school, Mr. Senaratne, got to know us a bit, but we had not been in contact since that project ended, until today...

Of all the thousands of people walking through Nawalapitiya, who do I almost bump into? None other than Mr. Senaratne!

How amazing, humbling and energizing to do this sort of work that creates lasting impressions...and relationships half a world away.

After dedicating the play park with a few prayers, raising the flags of the USA, Sri Lanka, Holland and Trinidad, and the singing of our national anthems, the park is officially opened.

There is a public park a few miles from the Children's Home, but nothing as shiny and new as this one. This park holds promise for something beyond just fun and games as Cherith is working hard to be more than a Children's Home, but a resource for the whole community.

Happy faces and good times are the same all over the world. Our team was delighted to participate in the building the play park and had a great time at the dedication ceremony that officially opened it.

Lots of bright colors, smiling children, happy parents and swing dancing (yes, SWING dancing) set a happy tone for the years to come.

A fellow named Erwin McManus wrote, "The invisible Spirit of God is at work around us all the time and when people stand up to participate with that Spirit, it becomes visible to the rest of the world."

Six months ago this park didn't exist. Six months ago it was mostly a dream, yet now it stands as a lasting monument that Jesus came to Nawalapitiya and cares for the people there.

How much more will the good people of Sri Lanka see when more and more people give their time and efforts during our next projects?

Paul writes in his letter to the Ephesians, "... you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household..."

There is always a sense of bittersweet ending when a project concludes. The building that once looked cold and uninviting is now our happy home. The city that was once unfamiliar now holds special friends and those who were once strangers are now family.

We take comfort that Sri Lanka will always welcome us back, and feel it quite appropriate that an orphanage is where we adopted lasting friendships that will become even stronger during our next projects.

We hope you will join us.

Sri Lanka

Building and Basketball

Sri Lanka '07 is the official start of a new partnership with Cherith International, an organization started by our good friends Harry and Jenny vanBurik who are hard at work to establish the "House of Hope" Children's Home in Central Sri Lanka.

This project is for building a playground at the home for the kids living there. We are also hosting a basketball camp for kids in the wider community.

MissionGuides is now the official short-term missions service for Cherith and has projects planned for the next five years with them. We are looking forward to what will happen!

MissionGuides is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization registered in the state of Wisconsin• MissionGuides@new.rr.com