They come to seek peace

By Kumudini Hettiarachchi, Pix by Sanka Vidanagama

Peace, tranquillity and serenity engulf all those who step into this haven off the Seeduwa junction on the Kotugoda Road, like a protective mantle shielding them from the buffetings of a cruel world. Men, women and children come into its sheltering folds not to spend a few minutes or an hour but practically the whole day.

Supuwath Arana draws crowds with the well-known words, “Come to me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest” and not just the Christians but those of all religions. They come with their sorrows and tears and their joys and laughter.

“I have a personal problem,” says a mother who has been on her knees, with hands outstretched in earnest prayer for a long time. “My son is in an unsuitable friendship.” She was one among many men, women and children who had come that rainy day, without a thought for worldly comfort, from far and near with their petitions and their vows.

Couples who have no children seek divine help here and after a few years come back with a baby in their arms, says 65-year-old Bonnie nicknamed “Thaththa” as he walks around attending to this or that. Spread across six acres of marshy land with a canal running alongside and many a water body with olu and manel dotting them, Supuwath Arana is scattered with many a nook and corner where people can pray, meditate or take stock of their lives.

Currently a Gospel Village is taking shape in the form of a tree with spreading branches depicting the life of Christ from birth to crucifixion – His birth at Bethlehem, His baptism by John the Baptist, the first miracle at Caana where He turned water into wine at a wedding feast on His mother’s request…..the list goes on and finally His passion and agony at Calvary to save all humankind

The very heart of Supuwath Arana is a big boat with a cadjan roof gently swaying on the water, with the stillness of the surroundings being enhanced by the sound of numerous insects. On board the boat, is the Blessed Sacrament (what Christians believe is the body of Christ), venerated each hour by groups of four devotees each.

This has nothing to do with human effort, it is what God wanted, says Fr. Darrel Coonghe, under whose direction falls Supuwath Arana or Good News Ashram with its 3,000 sq. ft. pavilion, a centrestage for open air services, counselling rooms, recording studio and landscape with ponds, mountains and floating cells, meditation hall and chapel.

Supuwath Arana coming under the guidance of the Archbishop of Colombo Dr. Oswald Gomis is a psycho-spiritual centre addressing the holistic development of the human being, the Sunday Times understands.

Not only sharing the word of God, the centre also deals with the numerous social issues people are facing in this day and age, says Fr. Darrel who is supported by voluntary groups who have formed themselves into committees. “Youth problems, family conflicts, marital disharmony are addressed and personal counselling provided where necessary.”

The mite of the people helped develop this centre to what it is today, explains Fr. Darrel who came here with a meagre Rs. 5,000 about six years ago. No foreign funds were available only the contributions of locals. The site was a small school which was later shifted elsewhere. As the land belonged to the Catholic Church, the first priest, Fr. Sunanda Wanasinghe, began giving lessons to children to supplement their school work, it is learnt.

As discussions got underway to set up a centre to engage in activity such as counselling and meditation which could not be carried out by churches, this site became the focus which gradually became what it is today – a vibrant centre not only of prayer but also of succour.

Recalling that first day, when some ladies of the Seeduwa parish made preparations to welcome Fr. Darrel and initiate the journey of Supuwath Arana by boiling milk, he says that by the time he came, the milk had boiled over and the fire had gone out.Suddenly, however, the milk began boiling again without any coaxing of the embers by the ladies and a cloud of colourful butterflies hovered above the spot.
For Fr. Darrel and those present that day, this was the sign that it was the chosen land, with a plan by God.

Why do people come in their numbers to Supuwath Arana? A sculpture, depicting a human being in the vice-like grip of life breaking free gradually, says it all. Yes, they come to break free and achieve that peace of mind that in these times of turmoil and stress seems just beyond our reach.

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