Window Into Sri Lanka
By Hans Olson
Popularly known as “the Pearl of the Indian Ocean,” Sri Lanka’s 1,340-km. (832-mile) coastline is rimmed with white sandy beaches and coastal tourist resorts. The December 2004 tsunami caused some $1.5 billion of damage to the island.
Sri Lanka’s lush mountainous inland boasts some of the world’s most arable land. This region is best known for the seemingly endless tea estates, which produce the world-renowned Ceylon tea. However, Sri Lanka’s economy also depends on a variety of agricultural exports including rice, sugarcane, rubber, coconut, and fruit.
Today Sri Lanka has strong ethnic and religious divides. Various skirmishes between the majority Sinhalese (mostly Buddhist) and minority Tamils (mostly Hindu) have caused years of social and political unrest. The island also has a growing Muslim population and an established Christian community.
Adventists in Sri Lanka
In 1893 Abram La Rue, an Adventist lay missionary, visited and distributed literature in Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo. In 1904 Harry Anderson and another missionary arrived in Sri Lanka to establish an Adventist church. The first two Sinhalese converts were baptized in 1922. They became pioneer missionaries and established four more churches.
It’s been more than 100 years since the first Adventist missionary landed in Sri Lanka; yet only slightly more than 3,500 Adventists live in this nation of some 20 million. Public and personal witness continue to be difficult. Many people live in the countryside, often on tea estates, far from any Adventist church. People are often skeptical about Christianity. The memory of European colonialists who often “forced” people to become Christians is still etched in people’s minds.
Because of this, frontline mission work in Sri Lanka means reaching out one-on-one to people in their homes. There are no large halls to host evangelistic crusades. Most people don’t own a car; they travel by bus, public minivan, or three-wheeled taxi. It can take hours to get places. The Adventist Church has made a concerted effort throughout the past 10 years to send Global Mission pioneers into communities to engage people where they live. Since 1997 the number of congregations has grown from 28 to nearly 50, a growth rate of nearly two-thirds.
In 1964 Lakeside Adventist Hospital opened its doors in Kandy. More than 4,000 students are enrolled at five different Adventist schools. The schools have students from all of the island’s major language and religious groups.
To learn more about frontline mission work in Sri Lanka and other parts of the world, visit www.Global-Mission.org. Global Mission is one of the frontline mission arms of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. More than 3,000 Global Mission pioneers serve around the world each day reaching the unreached with the gospel of hope.