Sri Lankan Churches

A Circuit of Churches…

Today we visited three churches in the morning and a children’s program in the evening. The first church was another of Pastor Christie’s churches. What they do here when they have multiple churches is have different start times. Usually the pastor is discipling people in the church to raise them up as leaders. So usually someone starts the service, then the pastor comes in to teach the people and when he leaves to go to the next church the others take over again. So the first church started at 7, then the next one starts an hour or two later and so on. In this way they can raise up people to eventually pastor the church and can go on to plant more churches.

This first church seemed to be another one in which there was much pain and sorrow…the Lord is close to the broken-hearted. This town, Kilinochi, is the place where most of the fighting and killing occurred; it was once called “the danger zone.”

The second church was the one we had gone to the night before only this time it was a regular Sunday service. In each of the churches Brenda shared and encouragement and Pastor Ted shared a message from John 16:1-11, that Jesus is with all of us, all of the time and that we need to be praying for the Holy Spirit to do His work of convicting the world of sin, righteousness and judgement as we go out and share the gospel. After each message we all prayed for renewed anointing and renewed passion to reach the lost. (Note: Tony got really sick and stayed back today to recuperate…please pray for him.)

The third church we visited was shepherded by Pastor Jeben who travels two hours to come minister to the people. We also met his wife. They have been married six years and have not been able to have children. She desperately wants children and also has a desire to adopt as there are many orphans from the war. We also talked and prayed about the possibility of them starting a Christian orphanage.

Despite their trials and difficulties so far all of the believers have been filled with the joy of the Lord and they are growing in the Lord. Pastor Ted, who was here with a team two years ago has been especially encouraged as he has seen so much growth in the church here…there are both more churches and more believers.

The pastor’s tried to organize an evening outreach but it wasn’t able to come together so instead we did s children’s outreach. We had a fun time ministering to the children and encouraging them to walk with the Lord and study His word. This church was on Pastor Christie’s property. His wife’s family live with them. After the meeting Pr. Christie’s mother-in-law brought in her son who was partially paralyzed due to a bullet wound in his neck, so we prayed for him and continue to pray the Lord to work a miracle in his body.

Tonight at dinner we met a man who was once a rebel fighter in the war but who is now in the Lord’s army. He has many outward scars snd deformities from the fighting but he does not let that hinder him. He is a bold man in his faith. He is attending the extension classes and desires to do the work of an evangelist and church planter… please pray for him, he wants to serve the Lord with his whole life.

First Day of Ministry in Sri Lanka

Visiting orphans and widows in their distress…

We thought we would begin teaching at the Bible college today, but as we said yesterday, everything had to change because of the elections and uncertainties. So we are open to whatever the Lord has for us and the people here.

In the morning we went to one of Pastor Christie’s three churches here in Kilinochi.

Upon arrival Pastor Roy shared with us that the entire church was made up of women and children who had been widowed and left fatherless because of the war. This not only broke our hearts but it also set the tone for what was shared with the sweet women and children.

We shared words of encouragement and messages of comfort with them. God is so good to his people; His Word is full of comfort for those who hurt no matter what the cause is. I believe they were truly strengthened and encouraged. And we too were so encouraged to see their love, faith and joy. Also most of the children and the younger women had bibles in front of them, they were following along and one little girl in particular was even taking notes. She was maybe twelve years old. It was a joy to see her truly following along with the word of God and receiving the comforting message from Him.

Most of the homes in the villages here are spread apart and they live on larger pieces of land. They have much more space here than in India, so they don’t struggle with the need to buy land for a church building. Usually what happens is that one of the believers will usually give part of their land to build a simple structure for the church to meet in.

This particular church was built from a pre-existing house which was added onto. When they did that, it left part of the roof very unstable and dangerous. Tony noticed this so we spent the next half hour or so hoisting up the roof. We used old wood, used nails, an ax, a knife and a hammer to get the job done. When it was done it looked like the old rugged cross…how appropriate. The family then shared refreshments with us and we spent a few minutes in fellowship with the women. They work very hard to make ends meet but they still are very giving and loving. What a joy to be with them. Please pray that the Lord would continue to heal their hearts and to be their perfect provider.

Notes about Kilinochi…

As we drove through the village and town I had mentioned to Pastor Christie about how sparse and spread out everything was. It’s such a stark contrast to India and Chennai where people are everywhere. It is true that it’s much more sparse than India but unfortunately it is even more so because of all of the war-related deaths. It was also remarkable that within the last two years they have covered up all evidence of the war other than a couple of memorials reminding the people not to repeat the destruction. There is also a heavy military presence here compared to the southern part of the country. The people know that to even speak out against the government could mean prison and death. However, now that the president has changed there does seem to be hope that there will be more peace and maybe even less of a military presence. I would say their main struggle now is the extreme poverty. Unfortunately when various countries and organizations sent money to rebuild after the war, most of it was kept in the south, where there was no war, to build it up. So the south is much more modern while the people of the north still struggle. Again, we pray the government change will help the people of the north…it is currently a very split country and there seems to be a lot of misconceptions about the northern people in the south. It is just another form of racism that the enemy uses to cause destruction and pain. Only in Christ do we become one family…one people despite our language, nationality or skin color.

Evening Ministry

In the evening we visited another church that Pastor Christie started but that is now pastored by his brother. This is the church where the GHBC extension program meets and where we will be teaching during the week. They were having a meeting of those who serve in the church, so we just brought greetings and some words of encouragement for them. Again it was very encouraging for us to see the growth that has taken place in this church since the team visited two years ago. Not only has the building been added onto but the believers have truly grown in the Lord.

Pray that the believers would continue to be that city on a hill and draw others to salvation in Jesus.

The Lord’s Sabbath Rest

What the enemy meant for evil, God meant for good…

On Thursday night the team separated to various places around the world. I think of the Ephesians who wept bitterly at Paul’s departure. Encouraging each other, laboring together, sharing hardships and felowshipping together are some of the things that draw us so close to our brothers and sisters around the world and when it comes time to say goodbye it makes our hearts heavy. But we also rejoice that we will see each other again, if not on this earth, then in heaven. We also rejoice greatly that some new souls were added to the kingdom this past week!

Some team members headed back home to the U.S. and have all arrived safely, some to Sri Lanka and others to Andhra Pradesh. Team Sri Lanka (Pastor Ted, Tony, and Brenda) left first to catch our midnight flight. We were to arrive around 2 a.m., meet a driver and head north on a 7 hour journey to the Great Harvest Bible College extension campus in Kilinochi to do Bible teaching, encourage believers and do outreaches.

Pastors Christie and Roy had left before us to prepare the way and set everything up. While they were here they found out that there were rumors of dissension arising again. Sri Lanka had recently (about five years ago) ended a 30 year civil war, but the minorities are still not in agreement with the government. Because of this information, they told us we had to get special permission from the government to travel to the north. The permission was granted and we were headed for the airport. On the way, Pastor Sunny called to tell us that the driver who was to pick us up in Colombo, Sri Lanka would most likely not be able to meet us because he could not get down from the north because of blocked roads due to protests. We all had peace about still coming and we continued on to the airport.

God’s sovereign hand…

We arrived in the middle of the night, got through immigration and headed out…no driver. We called Pastor Christie and he said the driver could not make it because of blocked roads. In the meantime we had met a Sri Lankan man who offered to help us with a ride and to find an inexpensive hotel. Little did we know he was a fellow believer (Mr. Fernando) the Lord had sent to take care of us!

The hotels were all full but Mr. Fernando did not give up and found us a place where we were able to get a few hours of sleep and then plan on how to get north. In the meantime we heard many fireworks going off and thought maybe it was the time of their festival to their monkey god. But it turned out there had been an election the night before and there had been a change in government…some were happy about the change and others were not…it was very close and very divided. In the north (we found out later) there had been some protests and the pastors were praying hard for the situation to work out.

During our devotion time and while waiting on decisions to be made about travel options, Pastor Ted had mentioned how this was the midway point of our entire trip. We had worked hard for six straight days and although we were willing to continue working that day as well, the Lord had given us rest on the seventh day…He is so good to us.

We ended up working a deal with Mr. Fernando to drive us north. This would save us the time of waiting for the driver from the north to come down. He told us everyone was on holiday because of the elections so no one was driving anywhere, especially not to the north because of the possibility of conflict. Before leaving we planned to invite him for breakfast to share the Lord with him, however on the way we found out that he is a fellow believer. While eating he also called a friend to join us. They both shared their testimonies of how the Lord had delivered them from drugs and attempted suicide.

We had a beautiful time of fellowship and rest as we travelled north stopping here and there to put our feet in the Indian Ocean, have some chai in a roadside stall, and feed some monkeys on the sidewalk.

We met up with the pastors in Vavuniya and met some strong Sri Lankan pastors (Jehu and another Christie). Both of these pastors endured much during the war…

Here is a very short summary to a very long war…the Tamil minorities wanted to be free and independent from the rest of Sri Lanka. Their rebels fought against the government to achieve this goal but the Sri Lankan army was much larger and continually killed many, many people (about 80,000 which is a lot for a small country). Everyone here in the north has been affected by this war and it still affects them to this day.

The rebels captured Pastor Christie three times to force him to fight even though he told them he didn’t want to because he was a Christian. But by God’s grace he was able to escape all three times. On the other side the army threatened both pastors about not going into the area but they continued to go anyway to minister and preach the gospel. Now Pastor Christie has three churches.

On the way up we had to pass through a government checkpoint to be able to continue further onto the north. We wouldn’t have been able to continue without the letter of permission, so it was by God’s grace that the pastors had come early from Chennai. It has been very restrictive as of late regarding foreigners coming into the north, even for the Indians from GHOI to come and minister here has been difficult. Many of the teachers from GHBC also come here to teach at the extension campus. However, the classes have been very inconsistent because of all the struggles here. We got through the checkpoint, had some dinner and rested for the night.

We are not sure what the next few days will bring as many have scattered because of the tensions and are fearful of gathering. In fact we are more limited this time in what we are allowed to do now. We are not allowed to have open air meetings as has been done in the past, but we know the Lord has sent us here for a reason and we will do anything the pastors here are able to organize.