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.