Sri Lanka: Hit Me With Your Best Shot

View of the lake at Kotamale, Sri Lanka

Today I’m getting on a plane for Sri Lanka. (Actually, I’m getting on a bus and three planes but who’s counting?) I’ll try to keep the SFL Facebook page and Twitter feed updated whenever possible on the trip to let you all know that we’re all still alive.

In the meantime, I’d like to invite you to ask whatever questions you might have about Sri Lanka, World Vision, and the Child Sponsorship program. People from our shared background tend to be as suspicious as we are generous because we’ve all seen organizations that say one thing and do another. The great news is that I’m headed to Sri Lanka as SFL’s ambassador to get the facts and see what’s really going on.

So ask me the tough questions, voice your concerns, and generally engage in the kinds of shenanigans for which we are famous. I love you all and I’m excited to bring you with me on this trip. I’m praying that it opens all of our hearts to a world of outreach that we never experienced in fundamentalism and that we’ll all be better for it.

74 thoughts on “Sri Lanka: Hit Me With Your Best Shot”

  1. My grandmother worked for World Vision for a while. She loved it. She was an ifb but not like the ones featured here. She was grace-filled and peaceful, and one of the best women I’ve known.

    Have a wonderful trip, Darrell, and be safe. Looking forward to updates and pictures. πŸ™‚

    1. I’ve heard a lot of good reviews of World Vision’s work around the Third World. A Christian charity/missionary society that seems to have its head on straight.

      Regarding Sri Lanka, I first heard of it under the name “Ceylon”, and still tend to use that name first. Other than that, not much — I know its a rather-large island off the southern tip of India, the native origin of Cinnamon, and that author Arthur C Clarke lived there.

  2. Darrell!!!

    Oh My Goodness! I had no idea and then again I really don’t know much about this site yet so excuse me… but I am excited for you and your vision!

    I will do some reading on the very efforts that you are involved in so that I can ask tons of questions! It’s a great undertaking and I’m sure it is quite exciting also!

    I wish you all the best! Make sure to take care of yourself by watching what you eat and drink for sure! But enjoy all the new exciting surroundings and share your kind spirit!

    Make sure to tell us all the details as you go! I’m sure it will be very interesting!

    Stay safe! Sending you great vibes as you explore and yeah… I wish I really was with you, so do your best to post pics and let us know how things are there! Blessings!

    ~~~Heart 😎

  3. OK – here’s kind of a weird thought:

    I am actually a little bit uncomfortable about having people in a third-world nation know my name, like maybe they’ll try to hit me up for MORE money. While part of me really does like the way World Vision personalizes one’s charitable giving by sending you the name and picture of a real child, sometimes I wish I could just stay anonymous. I’m not sure that I WANT to get letters or notifications from an actual person.

    I feel a little stupid making this comment, but you DID ask for our concerns.

    1. I totally understand. I’m a very private person, and honestly, I’d often prefer to contribute to things anonymously. I could be all noble and say it’s out of humility, but when it comes down to it, it’s really just because I’m private. I just don’t like people knowing who I am.

    2. I sponsored a child through World Vision in March, and I resolved I was not going to communicate with my sponsored child for some of the same reasons. Also, I felt kind of colonialist, this fat, educated, single woman far away sending money and letters requiring a response from a kid whose life is vastly different from mine.

      Then I got the first letter from my child, and on the back my sponsored child had drawn me a picture.

      Oh! Pictures! I can do that! I drew my child a picture of my work commute view and sent it on its long journey to my child’s home.

      (In my opinion, the World Vision literature on communicating with your sponsored child really needs to be revised. It seems to presume you’re partnered with children of your own and pretty much only presents you with “Tell your child about your family!” as an opening gambit.)

    3. I looked around the World Vision website for a while and you can donate anonymously. They also have a lot of other things you can help with, like buying a goat for a family or making a donation to the microloan program.

  4. Just prayed Philippians 1:9-11 for you, Darrell. Hope this trip exceeds your wildest expectations.

    And BTW, thank you for providing this forum for our group therapy. It has helped me greatly.

  5. Pastor’s wife, I can tell you that in my experience sponsoring a family these last seven years, that World Vision acts as a go-between and is pretty protective of both parties. When my husband was going to be in our family’s country, the process to meet the family would have been pretty extensive (the travel to their area ended up being too far out of his way anyway.) They don’t have our address, and to find us on the internet would be hard because they don’t have a computer or reliable electricity. Our letters go to the World Vision office in their country.

    I know it’s a possibility to be asked for money, but I would just have to tell them what I tell my own kids–we don’t have any!

    Safe travels, Darrel!

  6. Thanks for taking us along to Sri Lanka! I really look forward to hearing about your trip, and learning a bit more about a country I know so little about. I’m actually a bit excited! πŸ™‚

    As for questions: If I remember correctly Sri Lanka was hit pretty hard by the big tsunami in 2004. Do you have any idea how the rebuilding has gone?

    1. It’s over 20 hours of flying for me but with layovers it will take us the better part of 2 days to get there. And the time zone shift means we leave here Thursday and get there sometime on Saturday.

      And no, we’re not flying Air France. πŸ™‚

  7. OK, here are a couple of questions for you:

    Are the children your organization is helping already, or are they encouraged to become, Christian, or is aid (I hope) independent of religion?

    Are there “unsponsored” children in a community your organization is helping, or are “sponsored” children just a way for donors to connect with what is being done in a community? Do some children not participate for lack of a sponsor?

    Have a safe, enlightening, encouraging trip, Darrell. I hope you have a fantastic time.

    1. The World Vision website says that they go where they are invited, regardless of religion and they do not push Christianity on the people they serve, but they are also very clear that they are a “Christian humanitarian organization” and that their mission is to share the love of God with everyone. According to the site, when they go somewhere that is receptive, they include Bibles in the children’s supplies and they partner with churches, but when they go places that don’t allow them to share the gospel, they don’t. They just make sure to reiterate their identity and mission.

    2. Jean, I didn’t read your second question before my first response. Their website also says that they do things to benefit the whole community, not just the sponsored children. (I was curious about that, too.) Their goal seems to be to make major improvements for the entire community and then, when the project is finished (in around 15 years) move on to another community.

      I’m sure Darrell can correct me if I got that wrong.

      1. It’s good to know that they’re trying to be obvious but not pushy about religion, and helping whole communities. I’d be interested to find out how that works in practice.

        1. Yes, me too. Thanks for asking those questions. I was curious if they’d struck what Darrell would believe to be the proper course–not forcing Christianity down anyone’s throat in exchange for food or medicine. And, as was mentioned, showing kindness and mercy to all irregardless of their “potential” to become Christians.

          But I also care that they are clear about the Gospel and God’s truth to everyone, whenever and wherever they can be. So I will also be very glad to know more details about that whole dynamic.

    3. This is a good questions, and I enjoyed reading the answers.

      I used to be in a very strict IFB church, and my brother is still there. Partly because of our natures, and partly due to our upbringing, neither one of us liked the emphasis on “soul-winning” (by which the church meant going cold-calling from door to door)…we were STRONGLY discouraged from going door-to-door for ANYTHING: UNICEF, March of Dimes, School Sales – my parents said that if people gave to us, they would expect my parents to give, and they didn’t have the money.

      Anyway, I’ve escaped, but he is still there and under intense pressure to “get right with God and go out soul-winning”. Recent speakers have said things like he should question his salvation if he hasn’t seen anyone saved recently. He’s not sure he wants to leave, but the emphasis on cold-calling is getting him down.

      Anyway, I understand the reluctance to “cram Christianity” down someone’s throat. On the other hand, some explanation of Who Jesus is and why a person is there would seem to be in order. Just putting a Bible in with the other supplies doesn’t seem to be enough. Maybe they have services at which the gospel is presented?! Anyway, I’m looking forward to hearing more about this.

      I appreciate World Vision going where they have been invited, and not arrogantly assuming that the “Great Commission” (so-called) gives them the right to demand entrance anyplace they want to go. I wish more door-to-door going Christians would be as considerate.

      Still working with my brother; we talk frankly, but there is still enough he likes to keep him there.

      Sorry that this is so long.

      1. Dear Guilt Ridden:

        What a perfectly disgusting and shameful approach to serving Jesus! Get some meat in the seat or we’ll rob you of your Biblical assurance of salvation.

        Yeppers — that’s Biblical for sure!

        I would absolutely love to engage your brother in a series of email exchanges. Of course, I’d love to engage your brother’s pastor in a series of email exchanges — not that he would cooperate. And I can’t blame him.

        After all, if people base their assurance on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, how could you use that to motivate members to get more tithe-payers in the pews?

        Christian Socialist

      2. Dear Guilt Ridden:

        Another thought …

        Suggest to your brother that since Jesus saves all that are saved, that his pastor should preach a series on what it means for a congregation to be as the presence of Jesus Christ in the world.

        He could also ask the pastor what Jesus’ high priestly prayer [Jo 17] means when he says that by loving one another, all people know what we are Jesus’ disciples, and that the Father has sent the Son.

        Perhaps they should have shot me when I was still on the Bob Jones University campus and they had the chance.

        Christian Socialist

    4. TOJ,

      Not sure how they do it now but waaaay back when my family supported two WV kids (before my parents became IFB kool-air drinkers), they encouraged us to send gifts to the kids that could be shared by all the kids in their community (e.g., soccer ball, stickers, etc.). Stories in their magazine about visits to sponsored children usually revolved around the child’s community as a whole.

      Then, our sponsored girl in the Philippines wrote that she attended mass at the local Catholic church and my mother dropped her like a hot potato. Sickening! Not only was she a child in need, she was a sister in Christ! My parents withdrew all support from all “parachurch organizations” not long after that at the insistence of their pastor.

  8. Questions:

    * How many (Christian) churches did you find between the airport and your hotel. (By “Christian” I mean ANY Protestant denomination, Catholic or Orthodox.)

    * What is the decision-making structure at World-Vision-Sri Lanka? (What proportion of “natives” are on the board? How much weight does the local board have vrs. the American board?

    * Population comparisons. I am always floored by the fact that a “small” city in many countries happens to have several million inhabitants, Many times more than most cities in the states we live in. (Portland, the largest city in Maine, has 66k people, but Greater Portland has 500,000.)

    1. I doubt we’ll find very many, Ricardo. The population is majority Buddhist with only a very small Christian population.

      I’ll see what I can find out about the other things you asked.

  9. Dear Darrell:

    Anything you hear about the emerging military dictatorship in Northern Sir Lanka, the repression and mass imprisonment of Tamil-speaking people, and the seizure of their lands would be appreciated. That said, don’t lose your focus. Just keep your ears open.

    ‘Without God, do not cross the threshold;
    With God, across the seas!’

    A Russian proverb

    Christian Socialist

  10. Darrell, my family and I will be praying for you to have a safe trip. Jesus said, if you’ve done it unto the least of these, you’ve done it unto ME.

    I’ll bet it’s exciting to do something like this outside the realm of the IFB. Or in this case, you want to go instead of feeling like you have to.

    Make sure you start a bus ministry and go door to door soul winning while you’re there! πŸ˜›

  11. Am keeping you in my prayers Darrell! As a confirmed fly-o-phobic, I am especially praying for you while you travel there and back. Rationally, I know that is the safest part of the journey. So you are in my prayers throughout! I hope you brought along a few ties and at least two good Sunday suits to show them what a good Christian you are, as well as a shaving kit and some clippers to keep your hair at a Christian length. Stay away from rock music while you’re there. Oh well, you know the list. πŸ˜€

    God bless you and make His presence known to you in every circumstance.

  12. One day I hope to go also. My prayers are with you. I’m interested to see what kind of person you’ll be when you get back. Every time my husband leaves the country he comes back a slightly different (better) person.

  13. Prayers for a safe journey! I started sponsoring a child through Compassion recently (whoops, wrong organization. πŸ˜‰ ) and I’ve enjoyed the chance to contribute in a meaningful way to someone’s life. May God bless your travels and your time in Sri Lanka.

  14. I will have you on my prayer list while you are gone and will really pray for you.

    I am sponsering a little girl in Zimbabwe through World Vision. She is 8 and has the same name as I do. She drew me a picture of her home. I crocheted a doll and sent it to her. I love her with all my heart. I plan to surprise the family with some Christmas chickens. πŸ˜€

    1. I don’t think that is odd at all. I love the different smells that places have. The combination of the environment and the culture of the people usually produces specific smells. I am guessing Sri Lanka will smell yummy since they have so much cinnamon. πŸ™‚

    2. Smell is such a deep sense trigger. I can’t wait to hear Darrell’s answer to your question. One of my favorite lines in Sense and Sensibility is when Margaret asks what the East Indies is like. Sir John replies that it is hot. Col. Brandon, however, truly answers her when he says, “The air is filled with spices.” I adore that.

  15. Remind your fellow travelers that the schools are not petting zoos and that the children are not animals. I wouldn’t touch the children on the head either…

  16. Ok.

    What is WV employment policy in Sri Lanka? I know in other countries they only employ Christians in direct positions, and as they’re comparatively well paid.. well… you get the picture. Is the idea the best person for the job, or the best profession Christian for the job? (because sadly, the two aren’t necessarily the same).

    I’d also echo Jame’s question; and be interested in a “real” answer. I’ve also read WV website (about what groups get helped etc) but that doesn’t match up to reported experiences in other countries (I spent a number of years in development in asia, so I’m not entirely talking out of my ass here πŸ™‚ ) Does it just happen that WV ends up in communities with Christians; a coincidence; church attendance (and more interestingly, church attendance when/if WV leaves).

    Not knocking – WV does lots of good. Just curious. Thanks and have a wonderful, wonderful time.

  17. Are you visiting Sinhalese areas, or Tamil? I assume Sinhalese, as you said that the people are mainly Buddhist. I wouldn’t suggest grilling people about politics, especially after a rather nasty civil war, but anything you do notice in this regard would be interesting.

    I am curious how these child sponsorship programmes really work. There are obvious problems with giving direct handouts to selected children in a village. I heard though that World Vision doesn’t do it that way, which is probably good, although it seems a little dishonest, given that the donors think they a sponsoring an individual. Anything you can find out about how this works in practice would be interesting.

    1. We’ve actually seen and visited Bhuddists, Hindus, Muslims, and Christians in the last day. More on that in a few hours when the new post goes up. πŸ™‚

      The child sponsorship isn’t really dishonest it’s just impractical to try to give cash to a specific family and much more effective to put the money into the community. So if you give your money to that child then that child will now get paper to write on in school or medicine for their clinic. My understanding is that you can also designate specific extra gifts for just your child and then the local folks will find out what they need and make that purchase just for them.

      What’s more, your sponsored child will communicate with you so you can find out exactly how your gifts are making things better for them. So that personal connection is really what its all about.

      I’ll try do a post a little later on the mechanics of sponsorship. Right now I’m just trying to cope with a dozen new experiences every few minutes and it’s honestly quite overwhelming. I could write about this country for months instead of just a few days and still not do it justice.

  18. Up for a couple more questions?

    Does World Vision hire non-Christian employees in the mostly-non-Christian countries they serve? If they do, in what capacities?

    I know they’re Evangelical, but that covers a lot of differences in belief and practice. Does World Vision part of a specific Christian denomination?

  19. Prayers for a wonderful safe trip. Thank you for the updates! I hope the children never hear the word fundy and they embrace Jesus!
    Wondering what different foods you’re eating??

  20. How does World Vision approach the need to transition from outside short-term gifts to self-sustaining, locally-sourced aid and stable social infrastructure? Is it working? What happens after they’ve left communities? Do they study the very long-term effects of their work?

    Enjoy your trip! Can’t wait to hear about it!

  21. I have a child labor question….I was just given a dress for my daughter made in Sri Lanka….In the midst of the Walmart child labor debacle, I was curious as to the state of the Sri Lanka labor force….are there normal/good working conditions to be found or are sweat shops pretty standard?? Also, as I wrestle over my Christian duty to buy or not to buy from places known for using people and paying them next to nothing for their work, does boycotting really help these people, or hurt them as they find themselves out of a job completely….I know this is a loaded question…any imput (except from the troll) would be greatly appreciated!!

  22. I was a little confused for sure. I was asking an honest question so the responses were odd to me, and still are. Are you replying to me, UW? Because I have been staring in the mirror all day and I still don’t know what I should do! ❓

    1. I was not replying to you, WIWK. There was a strange troll making comments to me, boymom, and Persnickety Polecat. Darrell removed the his (its?)foolishness, but left our answers/comments. So it looks like we are saying strange things.

      And I do think that is a loaded question, and believed it to be honest. I’m not above stirring a pot or throwing out the odd comment, but the mirror comment was an answer to the troll asking what a troll is. Certainly not aimed at you.

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