Experiencing Spring in Sri Lanka

Greeting to all from Jaffna, Sri Lanka! I am pleased to share news of the enormous spring of growth I was blessed to witness and participate in here in Jaffna.

Greeting to all from Jaffna, Sri Lanka! I am pleased to share news of the enormous spring of growth I was blessed to witness and participate in here in Jaffna.

For those who may not know, for many years, the northern region of Sri Lanka has been sealed off by the government in attempts to control and stop the renegade group Liberation Tamil Tigers of Elam (LTTE). Ferry services to the area had ceased, air travel was eliminated except for a flight between Jaffna and the capitol city of Colombo, and after suspending the train services to the area, they even dug up the rail ties from the land. A series of military check points emerged along the roadways, and along with containing the LTTE fighters, these measures also cut off the innocent people of the Jaffna and Vanni regions.

Many scholarly people have written much about this conflict, and instead of narrating it here, I encourage you to seek out this information elsewhere. The war is over, and I wish to share the growth I am seeing here in the region.

Now that the winter of war has ceased and only one military check point remains, travel to and from the region is much easier. People come and go frequently and trade with Colombo is more possible. Many local men have been hired by contractors to begin building new houses for all those who have been displaced by the war, and an equal number of labors have been methodically working across the region repaving the severely deteriorated roadways and restoring the power lines. Electricity towers are popping up along in tandem with all the blossoming flowers.

One man told me excitedly that this is the beginning of development, modernization, and globalization for the area. He continued, telling me of the rumored Pizza Hut that might be coming to Jaffna in the next year. (Jaffna currently has no chain stores/restaurants/hotels but a sprinkling of privately owned such businesses.) But other Jaffnaese agree that the projected succession of restored electricity and roadways followed by new businesses and hotels and finally tourism is a long awaited gift. And the excitement for the future of Jaffna can be matched with our own as we continue to partner with and pray for the region.

I also see a second kind of growth within our two church partners here- both the Jaffna Diocese of the Church of Southern India (JD-CSI) as well as in the newly formed Church of the American Ceylon Mission (CACM). The two churches are continually shaping themselves; defining their identities within the community and region. While this growth doesn't appear physically like the construction of new roadways and buildings, it's an internal transformation and a growth all the same.

Within the CACM, I have been able to take part in an outreach program for preschool teachers from the Vanni region. Together with another instructor, we train the teachers in English as well as new ways to enrich their own teaching in the classroom using songs, poetry, dance, and art.

I have also been working within two K-12 schools, teaching Western music in the form of vocal training, band instrument lessons, and in reading and writing music. Running two separate music departments keeps me more than busy, but the educational growth I witness within each of my students is more than enough feedback to keep me going. While the job title of 'Western Music teacher' may not seem as harrowing as other missionaries' job descriptions, it is things like music, dance and art that have really suffered from the war.

I think Jim Moos, Co-Executive for Global Ministries has said it best, 'Sri Lanka may be post war, but they are not post conflict.' The people have much to talk about and work through in the coming months and years, but there is no telling when it will begin or how long it will take.

The flowers bloomed, fruits ripened, roadways have been built, and the old railway lands have been cleared. But these talks may not be part of the Spring but instead maybe the Summer or Autumn. Please continue to pray for reconciliation, healing, and hope for all who have been affected by this war.

'There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven' Ecclesiastes 3:1

Julianna Nitz
Sri Lanka

Julianna is a Global Mission Intern who serves with the Jaffna Diocese (Sri Lanka) of the Church of South India.  Her ministry is possible because of funds provided by Week of Compassion of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).  She serves as a music teacher at the Uduvil Girls’ College, Christian Theological Seminary, and Jaffna College.

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