Thursday February 28, 2019

Romans 12:11 Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord

Be strong, serve.  It seems a rather redundant reading considering the fact that we are on this trip with that sole purpose in mind.  But I find myself thinking about this notion as we wrap up our last day of turtle tank cleaning.  This has been by no means my favorite task since we set out in July last year.  I have not been particularly fond of getting covered in green algal goo, turtle excrement, and leftover frozen fish bits.  But as we conclude our service time here in Sri Lanka I am also acutely aware of how fun I truly have had.  I will carry with me the memory of a sea turtle who in only a few days has recognized me and my family and will surface in order that she might get her daily dose of shell scratches.  I will always remember the feeling of turtle hatchlings wrapping their tiny flippers around my fingers as I picked them up out of their temporary home to set them free on an sandy beach as they headed out into the world.  I will never forget my hope that each and every one would defy nature and grow old and come back again to make new nests.  As I scrub away at the algal growth and try to avert my senses from the overpowering waft of turtle, sea, and fish, I am reminded of that zeal.

It is hard to serve to be sure but it is harder I think to sit by and do nothing.  When you see a need and do nothing I think you realize that you have missed an opportunity and your heart aches to get that chance back.  Deep down I wonder if that is why so many people are disheartened, depressed, or feel so much less worth than they deserve.  The solution is not a life changing hiatus from work and a year abroad, though that has done me a world of good.  It is simply recognizing that the opportunity to serve is always there and that working in the service of God is the most fulfilling task you can do.  The worries of tomorrow are for tomorrow; for today, put your faith, your love, and your work in the hands of the Lord.



Monday February 25, 2019

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.

The Lord is patient…but I am not.  I am trying to be better about this but I really get frustrated when the kids are not contributing.  And so it was that this morning I made it abundantly clear that during turtle tank cleaning time I was not going to be patient if they started slacking.  After the previous week having to deal with a steady stream of being asked what they could do next, hearing they were bored (that one still gets me), or simply just up and walking off and not doing any work whatsoever I was ready to bring the house down if it started up again today.  I reiterated my point after breakfast, while we were digging nests, and right before cleaning time started.

Now I am not sure if it was my sternness or if my prayers, aka pleading for God’s help, had been answered but the kids did phenomenal.  They were cooperative, helpful, and hard working.  When they encountered a task beyond their capacity they found something else that they could do.  Lucia was her old chipper self again bounding from tank to tank and feeding.  Anjali took the lead on cleaning out the hatchling tanks and the small Olive Ridley tank.  And David scrubbed algae and brought buckets of water on demand.  I had approached the day concerned that with Lorna’s absence the tank cleaning would take much longer and on top of cleaning out old nests we would be working well into the afternoon.  Instead, with the contributions of a small army of hard working kids, we got all the turtles fed, cleaned, and returned before lunch.

I see the repentance to some extent here as the kids redeemed themselves from the previous week.  Their effort was greatly improved and we had no tantrums.  They made the day enjoyable rather than just tolerable and Sara and I were sure to praise them for their efforts.  I hope that I find the lesson in this to also focus on my patience.  The kids needed me to be stern and to know that there are consequences for bad behavior, but they also needed for me to give them the chance to redeem themselves from the previous week.  I was happy to give them that chance and even happier that they took advantage of it.  I cannot speak for God of course but I imagine that God would have the same feeling I did that afternoon – a smile in my heart because my children had done well.  I hope I can make God smile more often than not too.


Monday February 18, 2019

Hebrews 13:5-6 Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?”

Today was our first day working with these beautiful turtles. Here at the Kosgoda Sea Turtle Conservation Project there are 2 main types of turtles that are brought into the hatchery, Green Turtles and Olive Ridley Turtles. I learned a lot about these animals today, as well as how this conservation project works, though I suspect I will learn more over the next two weeks. We have talked with the kids and their schoolwork during our time here is to learn as much as they can about the turtles and the project as a whole. Part of our volunteer assignment is to lead tours and teach English to some of the local kids, in addition to the daily operations and upkeep of the project. Today was both a tank cleaning day and a day for us to teach English to the kids.

I am sure there are people who are wondering about the turtles kept at the sanctuary. The project keeps 12 turtles in their care. They have 6 Hawksbill turtles, which are very endangered, 1 Loggerhead turtle, 1 Olive Ridley, and 4 Green Turtles. These turtles, with the exception of the Loggerhead, will all be released around 5 years of age. The project keeps these turtles for the purpose of education and research. The 4 year old Loggerhead turtle is the only permanent resident because she is blind (she is missing her left eye and is blind in her right eye-both due to a birth defect).

The volunteer schedule is pretty set, which is nice to have a routine for the day. We start our work at 8:30 am, usually with burying any new turtle eggs that are brought in from the local fisherman. (This project has been able to work out a relationship with the local fisherman to buy the eggs they collect each night, as these were previously sold in the markets for food.) We dig a hole in the hatchery sand about 65 cm deep with a bigger bottom (imagine a fish bowl), we drop in 50-100 eggs and then cover with sand, just as the mamma turtle does; the incubation period is about 45 days. In addition to burying the eggs, we also have to clean out nests that have hatched, which means we dig the hole again and remove all the hatched eggs shells, eggs that didn’t hatch, and watch any remaining turtle scamper out of their nest. This process can be quite smelly! By the time we finish with this, we are completely covered in sand from head to toe, not to mention drenched in sweat.

Since Monday is tank cleaning day, after taking care of the hatchery, we get to clean the tanks. The sanctuary doesn’t use any chemicals or additives to the water in the tanks; it is brought in directly from the ocean. This means that algae grows quick, which is why we have to drain and scrub them frequently. This proved to be very tiring work, even with 5 adult volunteers scrubbing away at the algae covered tanks, it took us all morning and some of the afternoon to clean the 9 tanks. But there is always a silver lining. In the wild the turtles take advantage of “cleaning stations” where other animals will clean the algae off their shells and fins, but we don’t have that here, so we have to do it. I imagine that every tank cleaning day we are going to have to moderate the “I want to clean the turtle” argument between our kids! We sprinkle the turtle with some sand and gently take the brush to his/her shell, then massage their flippers with sand until they are sparkling clean!

Since the tank cleaning took up all of the morning and part of the afternoon, we had a late lunch and then found out that we weren’t teaching today because of the holiday, Perahera Festival. Dudley arranged for all of us to take a bus to Colombo to see the parade and all of the festivities.

Sri Lanka is a beautiful country with friendly people, but holy cow it is humid and hot here, and this is the cool season! We rode the no a/c bus to Colombo and by the time we got there I was drenched. But even me, who doesn’t care for the heat, was enjoying myself. I was so excited to experience this festival and parade. The parade was long, but so fun. They had traditional dancers and performers in traditional garb, then the elephants came. While it was really cool to see these huge creatures walking through the streets of Colombo, it was so sad to see the marks on their legs where the chains to control and restrain them had rubbed them raw. The kids noticed the same thing and their excitement was quickly dissipated too. Our desire to see elephants was now a more specific desire to see elephants in the wild, when they weren’t chained at their feet. I completely understand why they had their feet restrained during this event. You have a street lined with people and performers in front and behind the elephants; there definitely needs to be an element of control. The thing that bothered me was these elephants showed that this was not a rare occasion to have chains on their legs, but rather a regular occurrence.

This scripture passage kind of made me laugh a bit. When we got here yesterday we were informed that there was no hot water, I thought that this was going to be a problem, specifically for our kids during shower time. I heard a little complaining before they started showering last night, but that quickly faded as they realized that the cold water actually felt really good in this stifling heat and humidity. I never heard another word out of the kids about the water being too cold, probably because they realized how good it felt to have a cold shower after a long day of being so hot. Yet again, God not only takes care of us, but He always provides us with enough.