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William (Bill) Taylor-Passion for Mission

3rd November 2010

To William Taylor

Dear Bill,

I hear you are turning 70 in a few days time. How young 70 has become in our present era with the medical and other advances that has raised our life expectancy!

 

I was encouraged by what you said about being a mentor to younger Christians. Let me tell you why. One of the biggest concerns I have for the evangelical movement is that the thinkers of the movement, the theologians and missiologists, whose writings influence the direction which the church will take are lacking in passion for the gospel. When the evangelical movement gained a measure of respectability the desire to maintain and enhance that respectability became one of the unwritten agendas of the evangelical academy. Many of those reacting to this maintained their orthodoxy but did so with an insensitivity and disrespect for opponents which brought dishonour to the gospel.

 

Sadly, most of us evangelical leaders in the church today are found close to these two extremes—the quest for respectability and the insensitive disrespect for opponents—with few adorning our radical gospel adequately. The radicalism of the gospel lies in its combination of loving and humble servanthood and the urgent proclamation of exclusive absoluteness.

 

True gospel values have never been popular with the establishment. The hold of sin in the world is so great that it will always be uneasy with the proclamation and demonstration of God’s righteousness. Those who made a difference in this world were almost always viewed as fools and extremists when they launched into what later became recognised as their heroic work. A passion for the gospel, with its terribly hard-to-bear severe side, was one of the things that gave those people the motivation to launch into and persevere in these heroic ventures.

 

We need such heroes in the church today. You are a man of passion. May the next decade of your life, be used by God to encourage younger Christians to dare to be different, Christians whose passion for God and the gospel drives them to difficult avenues of service.

 

Have a happy birthday,

 

Ajith

Wang Mingdao

Wang, Stephen Wang. The Long Road to Freedom: The Story of Wang Mingdao. Translated by Ma Ming. Ellel, Lancaster, UK: Sovereign World, 2002.

 

The author of this inspiring biography of the Chinese Christian leader Wang Mingdao was converted through Wang Mingdao’s ministry. The biography is a frank account showing even the weaknesses of this hero of the church who bravely gave leadership to the house church movement and had a powerful scripture-based ministry that influenced the church all over China. Twice he was imprisoned because of his faith for a total of twenty-five years. The first time, under severe pressure, he decided to confess things that were not true so that his sentence would be reduced. He was released, but he was miserable and had lost all his joy, for he was a man who had preached and believed in absolute truthfulness.

He was imprisoned again as he did not comply with the demands of the authorities. This time he decided to be absolutely truthful and, after eight miserable years, the joy of the Lord and spiritual freedom returned to him. But it meant life imprisonment which ended only when he was in his eighties after China adopted a more open policy. When he was released he refused to leave the prison! He said he was imprisoned wrongly and wanted to be exonerated before his release. He left only after the prison authorities craftily worked out a situation which left him with no choice but to leave. His godly wife also spent a long time in prison and in a labour camp. She was released shortly after her husband’s release. She exercised an important moderating influence in the life of her sometimes fiery husband.

Among their most painful experiences were having to face the accusation that they had been dishonest with money and used the ministry for personal economic gain and the accusation that he had collaborated with the Japanese during their repressive rule of China. Both these accusations were very untrue. He was accused of being a stooge of the west even though his movement was remarkably indigenous and independent of foreign funding and ties. His boldness is evidenced by his criticism of the way the positive contributions made by Communist political leaders were ignored after they fell out of favour with the group in power.

An incurable writer, he kept writing sermons, reflections of current religious and political trends and personal reflections until the end. Several English translations of his books are in print.

Here was a man who was mightily used by God, but who also failed God seriously for an eight-year period in his ninety-one year long life (he died in 1991). He never seems to have been totally freed from some of his personality weaknesses such as stubbornness and a quick temper. After his release he felt he needed to be exonerated and that the government should admit that injustice was done to him. His wife and most of his friends tried to persuade him not to follow this course, but after initially agreeing with them, he would persist in this course. This process was never completed because of diminishing strength and ability with the advance of age.

Though the government supported Three-self Church must surely have changed during his many years in prison he viewed it from the perspective of his early bitter experiences with it when it was clearly a tool of the Communist regime’s attempts to stamp out other forms of Christianity. He held his hostile attitudes towards it to the end and refused to accept that there were true believers in it. The author thinks that his imprisonment was providential in keeping him out of the limelight during the severe years of the Cultural Revolution. He would surely have spoken out and been killed had he been free.

On the other hand this book gives a detailed descriptions of the severe way in which the Chinese government reacted to dissent or non-compliance in the mid-1990s when they used patriotic slogans to achieve their goal of crushing resistance to it. As we see similar strategies being adopted by governments in Asia today we are warned afresh of the powerful effects and the dangers of using nationalist slogans to push a party line.

Those of us who struggle with severe weaknesses and marvel at the fact that God can use us in spite of them are encouraged by the life of this great servant of God to persevere without giving up and trust God to keep us faithful to the end.

 

Ajith Fernando, Youth for Christ, Sri Lanka

Victor Manogarom

September 2009

 VICTOR MANOGAROM

Guileless Evangelist  

By

Ajith Fernando

Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” John 1:47 (ESV).

 

The first job I had was when I became National Director of Youth for Christ in Sri Lanka in 1976. I still hold this job thirty-three years later. I had worked as a Summer intern while in Seminary, but this was my first job proper. How fortunate I was to have Victor Manogarom, whom we affectionately called Victor Annan, as my first boss. He gently taught this naïve leader many things that a leader ought to know. He was very humble in the way he suggested changes in my ministry and leadership practices and in my personal behaviour. So I was very happy to learn from him.

 

There are two things about Victor Annan that stand out in my mind. First, was the fact that this was a person who could be characterised by two words: NO SHOW. This is rare among top leaders in Asia. Our shame-oriented culture causes many people to maintain some sort dignity that is supposed to befit leadership. This causes the leaders to keep some distance from the people they lead. Not Victor Annan! Even though he was much older than me, we became good friends. I am particularly grateful that he was not ashamed to talk about his weaknesses. I learned many important lessons from the things he shared with me about the challenges he has faced! I still tell our younger staff some of the things he told me in my early days in ministry.

 

This “no show” quality also resulted in people being comfortable in his presence. It made his home a delightful place to be in. I have spent many happy days in the Manogarom home. His wonderful wife Chella greatly enhanced his ministry of encouragement. He was another person who represented the refreshing “no show” quality—we felt so at home in her presence. If she fussed about her hospitality and paid too much attention to it—we would have felt uneasy in her presence. But she exuded informality. Their home became a haven not only to me, but also to many people who went to Chennai from Sri Lanka (especially YFC staff and students), and to Sri Lankan refugees who fled to India because of the troubles here. I will never forget the sorrow response of some of our YFC volunteers in the Northern city of Mannar when they heard of Mrs Mano’s death.

 

 

For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! (1 Cor. 9:16 ESV).

 

The second feature that stands out is Victor Annan’s passion for evangelism. I think that it is in this area of ministry that I learned most from him. He was always dreaming about ways to reach people, especially youth, with the gospel. We had so many, many long chats about the theology and practice of evangelism. He told me so many stories about the great evangelists of India. I have always maintained, as C. S. Lewis says in his book The Four Loves, that one of the greatest joys in life is when Christians sit together and chat about all sorts of topics, but from a Christian perspective. This is something I enjoyed with Victor Annan.

 

He did not only talk about evangelism, he was also a great evangelist. I should know. My wife came to the Lord through his preaching!

 

I really miss this dear man of God. But I am so grateful that I came under his tutelage in the formative years of my ministry.

Verlyn Verbrugge

Verlyn was more than what a writer could hope for. Brilliantly knowledgeable, graciously caring to ensure that the author’s intentions were honoured and persevering in preserving the authors style of writing. He worked on two of my books and I am so grateful that he devoted his gifts to the calling of enhancing the work of authors to publish products that effectively served the cause of God. I look forward to reading his book on PAUL AND MONEY. Even as I write I have his DEVOTIONS ON THE GREEK NEW TESTAMENT is beside me. I use it frequently when I want a change from my usual devotional routine. I am so sad that this friend is no more on earth. I pray for God’s comfort and strength for his beloved wife.

Suri Williams-my Friend

November 1999

SURI WILLIAMS

A PERSONAL REFLECTION ON A FRIENDSHIP OF 35 YEARS

Ajith Fernando

Suri Williams completes 25 years of ministry in YFC this year. I have decided to use this occasion to reflect on the blessedness of friendship.

 

People ask me how I have I managed to survive in the same job in YFC for so long? Considering my severe weaknesses that would have disqualified me from doing this job for even a year, that is a good question to ask after I’ve been at it for 23 years. I can give you a lot of reasons for this survival despite incompetence. But among the most important has been the colleagues that God has given me on staff and on the Board. Foremost among these has been Suri Williams.

 

Suri and I were friends from our teenage years. We learned the thrill of ministry under our common mentor Sam Sherrard. We learned what it is to pray and share our lives together from those early days. I soon learned that he has a wisdom that I know nothing of. I learned to go to him before making any important decision. When I began to direct the YFC work, I learned to lean on his wisdom a great deal. An unwise leader could be a huge liability, unless he has wise counsellors. Suri was God’s provision to me in this area. How many, many mistakes I have avoided by just asking him what I should do in certain tough situations.

 

How I can thank God for his listening ear that enabled me to air my problems and thus avoid bitterness that often accompanies the blows we receive in ministry. Bitterness is one of the occupational hazards of the ministry. And friends are among God’s greatest agents of healing from bitterness.

 

Suri is two years senior to me in YFC. Was he ever a threat to my leadership? NEVER. In fact when I would go on leave, one of the toughest jobs I had was to persuade him to take on the leadership in an acting capacity. Suri knew what his primary gifts were and he chose to excel in those. One of these gifts is preaching/teaching. Recently both of us spoke at an international youth conference. Suri was doing the morning Bible studies, I gave two other talks. What a thrill it was for me to hear some of my close YFC friends say, half jokingly, “Suri has surpassed his boss.”

 

After Suri’s distinguished career in the North when he pioneered the now thriving YFC work there, the Williams family came to Colombo in 199?? and had an opportunity to use the two great gifts he had—preaching/teaching and wisdom. He is a much sought-after speaker and his wisdom is being used in a growing counselling ministry.

 

Many hundreds of people will rise up in heaven to thank God for the part Suri played in helping them along the path to eternal life. I will thank God that he gave me a friend who has ministered to me in innumerable ways over 35 years. I will thank God that this ministry to my life and to Sri Lanka’s youth was enhanced and not hindered by his wonderful wife Shanthi and his bright children Miriam and Premjit.

John Stott: Mentor and Model to Emerging Leaders  

This is an unedited version of chapter 17 of John Stott: A Portrait by his Friends, edited by Chris Wright (Nottingham: Inter-Varsity Press, 2011).

Ajith Fernando

My initial contact with John Stott was primarily through his books. I had a sense that I was going to be a minister from the time I was about 14 years old. I was influenced towards thoughts about ministry and preaching after coming under the influence, in my early teens, of Irish Methodist missionary George Good, who was my pastor, and a godly man and brilliant expository preacher. After him we had ministers who were not friendly to the evangelical approach to Christianity, but the influence of Rev. Good and of my parents helped me to remain firmly committed to the evangelical distinctives.

 

My father was an evangelical lay leader who had a large library. Among his books were the compendia of talks given at the Urbana Student Missionary Conferences in the USA. These introduced me to the Bible expositions of John Stott. These and the Keswick Convention compendia, that my father had, gave me a passion for Bible exposition during my teenage years. While I was a university student, I read Stott’s book, The Preacher’s Portrait. I regard this as one of the most influential books in my life because it helped me to develop convictions and ambitions about Christian ministry that still shape my life.

 

The above mentioned writings of Stott helped me develop the conviction that expository preaching that expounded a Bible passage should be the primary method of Christian preaching. Later, after reading Stott’s I Believe in Preaching, I began to view topical preaching, where the points came directly from the Scriptures, also as coming under the category of expository preaching. My style of preaching was subsequently also influenced by Methodist preachers like W. E. Sangster and E. Stanley Jones and by the Indian evangelist Sadhu Sundar Singh—especially by their use of illustrations and their styles of application. But the primary influence remained the expository preaching of John Stott. Stott taught me that all preaching is the result of Biblical exegesis. You can imagine the personal thrill with which I responded to an invitation to be the Bible expositor at the Urbana Missionary conference in 1987 (and three other occasions). Though I have never felt that I should aspire to any such ministry opportunities, it was a joy to do what my mentor had done many times before. I had a similar thrill when I followed his three expositions on Romans 1-5 with two expositions on Romans 6-8 at the Lausanne II Congress in Manila in 1989.

 

In those days, unlike now, evangelicals were a despised minority in my denomination. We were accused of having committed intellectual suicide, and numerous challenges were hurled at us about to our convictions, many of which we could not answer. But we knew that there were brilliantly intelligent evangelicals who had grappled with these questions and who could provide credible responses to them. We gobbled up their writings with delight. Some of these scholars, like J. I. Packer, Stott and Carl Henry, visited Sri Lanka and won the esteem of even people outside evangelical circles. Inspired by the examples of people like Packer and Stott, my two brothers and I remained within the Methodist Church. One became a minister and the other brother and I have been active laymen. We have lived to see a remarkable transformation within the denomination as it moved to a friendlier attitude toward the evangelical faith. Now it is a denomination which is growing and seeing new churches birthed in unreached areas through conversion.

 

I first met John Stott when I was a student at Fuller Theological Seminary in the mid-1970s, where he spent a day preaching and speaking with the students. After a question and answer session, he came up to me and asked, “Do I know you, brother?” I said, “No; but you know my parents.” He immediately knew who I was, and he gave me a hug. After that, I walked a few feet above ground level for a few days! Later he would send me complimentary copies of his books, and sign them with the words, “With esteem and affection, Uncle John.” What esteem could this giant have for an unknown young youth worker? And what qualifications do I have to have him call himself “Uncle John” when writing to me? These introduced me to another aspect of Stott’s great contribution to the church—his efforts to support and enable younger leaders to achieve their fullest potential.

 

I was included in the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelisation as a “younger member,” and my first meeting was in 1980 at the Lausanne Consultation in Pattaya, Thailand. There some of the representatives of the younger radical wing of the evangelical community raised their voices and pushed for a stronger emphasis on justice and social responsibility within the Lausanne movement. My experience and battles within a mainline denomination caused me to be alarmed at some of the things I was hearing. I even pointed out the need for caution in the way we respond to this challenge. But John Stott spoke up after I did and appealed to the committee to listen to these younger leaders. He pointed out that their concerns were genuine and highlighted some blind spots within the evangelical movement. This was a great help to me as I faced these challenges in my ministry. I learned to do all I can to help give expression to these voices while, at the same time, attempting to act as a watchdog for evangelism which could be easily neglected as we open ourselves to other aspects of the mission of the church. Like Barnabas, Stott had used his moral authority and esteem as an acknowledged leader to sponsor and encourage younger creative thinkers.

 

In 1978 I was at the Lausanne-sponsored ALCOE Conference in Singapore where Stott was the Bible expositor. It was two years after I had returned to Sri Lanka, after my theological studies in USA, to serve with Youth for Christ. When he saw me, after his customary hug, he proceeded to ask me if I was giving time to study. This was, and is, one of the biggest challenges that I have had and the fact that this was the first thing he asked me showed me how important it was. Such things have helped me to persevere in squeezing in time for study in the three decades that followed. The idea of “squeezing in time” also came to me from Stott when he visited Fuller Seminary during my student days. Someone asked him, “How do you find time to study?” He answered that, in an earlier era, ministers could spend weekday mornings studying, but that this was not practical into today’s world. So we must always be ready to study and use every possible opportunity to do so. This resulted in my taking books everywhere I went and taking notes as I read, at bus stands, banks, government departments, trains, planes, airports and police stations, which I needed to visit often as our staff and volunteers were often arrested because of the unrest in Sri Lanka. Sometimes people, seeing me taking notes as I read, ask me whether I am studying for an exam!

 

One book I read by “squeezing in time” was what I regard as the most enriching doctrinal book I have ever read, Stott’s The Cross of Christ. I took it with me wherever I went for about four months—taking copious notes in the margins, composing a detailed Table of Contents at the front of the book, and compiling my own index at the back. Once I was travelling back by bus from a camp in the mountains. It was about a six-hour journey, and I had to stand as the bus was full. I read in the bus stand while I waited for the bus and then in the bus when it stopped to drop and pick up passengers. When the bus was moving I kept it on a rack above the seats. Suddenly someone said that a book had fallen out of the bus through the window. I knew it was my book and I took my bag and got out of the bus to go in search of the book. Someone in a bus coming in the opposite direction had seen the book fall, stopped the bus, collected it and continued his journey. People on the road informed me of that.

 

As I was talking with the people, a police jeep came along. They asked what had happened and, when I explained the situation, they let me get into the jeep and we gave chase after the bus! We finally caught up with it as it had stopped in the next town. I gratefully took possession of the book and proceeded on my journey. This was a book I could not afford to lose and replace with a new copy, because I had already made so many notes in it.

 

Stott’s The Cross of Christ is an example of another thing that made him a mentor to many of us younger Christian workers. From his pen came the definitive treatments of many key issues facing the church. They were biblically astute, theologically informed and aware of the context in society in which we live. In this category I would also include his Christian Mission in the Modern World, I Believe in Preaching, and Issues Facing Christians Today. These books were the result of what Stott called “double listening”—devoting ones energy to understanding both God’s Word and God’s world. During a question and answer time at the ALCOE Conference in 1978, someone asked Stott what the key requirements for effective contextualisation were. Stott answered saying that the first requirement is that we must know the Bible. Then he proceeded to talk about other requirements. I determined that everything we do in our ministry with youth will spring from a biblical theology. These “definitive treatments” on issues by Stott, not only gave us vital information on key issues but also gave us a model of how we should approach all issues in ministry.

 

I have tried to this adopt Stott’s biblical approach to all the topical books I have written. I did so even when I disagreed with him. I completed my book Crucial Questions about Hell shortly after Stott had stated that he was open to the possibility of the annihilation of the finally unrepentant as opposed to eternal conscious torment. This was published in Essentials: a Liberal-Evangelical Dialog, the book he co-authored with liberal theologian David Edwards. I came to the painful realisation that I was going to have to oppose my hero! I mentioned his name only in the end-notes, but I sought to respond to the points he made in that book. After completing the chapter and before sending the book to the publisher, I sent it to Stott. He wrote back saying that both he and I need to do more careful study of the Bible.

 

Another huge impact that John Stott had on me was through his lifestyle. It is quite discouraging to go for international Christian conferences and find that many delegates looked to these conferences as opportunities for personal advancement in the ecclesiastical ladder rather than as an opportunity for spiritual and vocational enrichment. I believe the most important blessing I received from my involvement in the Lausanne movement as a “younger member” was seeing people like John Stott, Leighton Ford, John Reid, Jack Dain and Robert Coleman whose primary reason for involvement was the progress of the work of God in the world.

 

I was on the planning team for the Lausanne Younger Leaders Conference, Singapore 87. There was no doubt that the hero of this conference was John Stott, who distinguished himself by not speaking at it. He gave a short message, but he was there for the whole conference, that is, for over a week, just so that he can be an encouragement to the younger leaders. He used every spare moment to have personal appointments with the delegates. It was clear that behind the greatness of this man as a communicator of Christian truth, was a love for people and a commitment to personal ministry.

 

The life of concern for younger leaders is well represented by the correspondence he continued to have with younger leaders. My friend Dr Peter Kuzmic, from Croatia, says of how he once went to an airport chapel to pray. In the front of the chapel he could see the head of an older man and scores of papers which he seemed to be arranging according to different categories. Upon closer observation he discovered that it was John Stott arranging a huge pile of letters. I used to be amazed that he had time to write to me. Later I realised that if one is to have an international ministry, one must also have a ministry of international intercession and correspondence. You influence people in your travels, and you need to pray for them and encourage them through correspondence.

 

I had one unforgettable opportunity to visit John Stott in his little flat. I was thrilled to note the simplicity of the place and to see the kneeler where he prayed. But what thrilled me most was a question he asked me: “How is Jeyaraj?” Jeyaraj was a colleague who had been arrested on suspicion of being a terrorist and who spent fifteen months in prison before he was released without any charges being made against him. I had asked for prayer for him in my semi-annual prayer letter. And I found that not only did Stott remember Jeyaraj’s name, he also remembered to pray for him.

 

Another time Stott had a huge impact on me through his godliness was at the Lausanne II conference in Manila in 1989. At the last moment, Stott was given the assignment of writing the preliminary draft of the conference statement of the Lausanne II Congress in Manila in 1989. Known as the Manila Manifesto, this was to be based on the talks given at the conference and to serve as a clarification of the Lausanne Covenant. It also included applications of some of the principles stated in the Covenant. In the short time available, Stott stayed up many nights and completed this draft at great personal cost. Towards the end of the conference, some felt that the whole statement should be dropped and some short affirmations should be given instead.

 

After grappling over this with God in the night, Stott announced to the committee the next morning that he was willing to discard the document, which he had worked so hard to produce, and replace it with some affirmations. I was part of the drafting committee and to me this was a prime example of surrendering personal plans and ministries for the overall good of the kingdom. Interestingly, most (or all) of the members of the drafting committee from the Global South supported the longer version while many from the West supported the shorter version. Finally, a compromise was reached and the short affirmations were printed just before the longer document.

 

Today’s Christian leaders are presented with a huge challenge from an alternative leadership lifestyle to what Stott exemplified. It seems that today’s model of the lifestyle of the successful Christian leader has taken in many features from a model prevalent in society. In Asia this is further enhanced by the model of the religions Gurus who live on a different plane to the people and are venerated with an adoration one would give a god-man. These leaders usually travel with a large entourage, stay in luxury hotels, have other trappings of earthly success such as big cars and houses, and have a strong public-relations machinery which helps push forward their reputation. Unconsciously, we too could begin to desire such things as some people view these as indicators of a significant ministry. The influence of such thinking is subtle and it is easy for us to succumb without realising that we are doing so.

 

Certainly, performing a significant service for God is the desire of all vocational Christian workers. John Stott showed us that it is possible to have a huge influence without these trappings of earthly success. So when Time magazine included Stott in a list of the hundred most influential people in the world and when the New York Times wrote of his huge impact upon the Christian church, we felt that it was an affirmation of some of the vocational and lifestyle decisions we had made. This recognition showed that one could do a significant work without the earthly trappings of success.

 

As for me, his example has helped me to remain in Sri Lanka serving Youth for Christ for the past thirty-four years. And now, as I approach the prospect of stepping down from leadership, his example of remaining under the umbrella of All Souls, Langham Place, spurs me to seek a way I can remain accountable to Youth for Christ even after stepping down from the National Directorship. His example also helped me decide to live on a Sri Lankan salary and to divert my royalties and honoraria to Youth for Christ for literature and education projects. I have felt that doing this has given me freedom to minister worldwide without any sense of guilt or secrecy knowing that everything I do in ministry is done as a worker of Youth for Christ.

 

What influenced me more: his model lifestyle and godliness or his model preaching, teaching and writing? That is a difficult question to answer. I would say Stott has had an equally powerful impact on me in both these areas.

Sathya Perimpanayagam: Gentle Faith 

“Only one life it will soon be Past; only what’s done for Jesus will last.”

What are the things in life that are eternal?

1 Cor 13: Paul says: Love is eternal

Sathya demonstrated this.

 

E.g 13:5:

Love is not Rude

There is an epidemic of rudeness today.

People are annoyed: you see this on the roads.

People have been bad, hypocrites

—people live with wounds inflicted by such.

God’s love can heal such wounds.

 

Sathya often struggled with discouragement

over her recent Struggles with illhealth etc

She questioned God about why she is going through such

This is healthy. We do not need to play act!

God understands our struggles.

 

But she was never rude.

In fact she was always polite; always had her pleasant smile.

When you see some suffering people, you say,

“she’s disappointed with life”

“He’s an angry person”

Not Sathya. She was always her gentle, polite self.

 

Love is Kind (13:4)

She expressed kindness in her desire to serve God.

Her family gave YFC a house free of rent in Jaffna for 15 years.

I have stayed in that house many years.

It was a haven of rest for God’s servants

in a very difficult time

 

I was surprised when her niece Pritheeva

came all the way from Canada to see her.

At an inconvenient time.

She talked to me about her kindness.

Paul: For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die (Rom 5:7 ESV).

There is a quality of goodness that invites costly commitment.

Sathya seems to have had that quality.

She loved people and people loved her in return.

 

This is how I heard her speak about her husband.

And how her husband spoke about her.

 

Perhaps it was partly her personality

That is how I remember her mother—as a kind Christian woman

 

But it also because of a relationship with the God who is Love

 

SATHYA LOVED GOD.

We love because he first loved us. (1Jo 4:19 ESV).

When you love God;

God’s love comes into you and you want to love people.

 

Sathya was eager to know about God more

and also to know God more.

Beside her bed were a Bible

and several books about the things of God.

Reading has gone out of fashion today.

But it is one of the best ways to grow in God’s love.

She would read

and when we visited her,

She would ask things about which she had read.

 

 

WHEN YOU LOVE GOD, YOU LONG TO SEE HIM

Death is the great ambition of the Christian.

Paul: 21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell.

23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.

24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. (Phi 1:21-24 ESV)

 

He stayed because he wanted to serve.

But his great desire was to depart and be with Christ.

 

For us, this is the real beginning of Life:

Bonhoeffer when taken to be killed: This is the end; but for me this is the beginning of Life.

 

When you are in love with God; you long to see him.

We visited Sathya when Perimps was abroad or out of town.

You could see the longing for him to return—and he did,

 

The joy is even more when we see the face of Jesus

 

Fanny Crosby: hymn writer—e.g. Blessed Assurance.

A minister told her: It is a pity that you are blind.

She said: If I had a choice; this is how I would have wanted it. Because the first face I will see is the face of the one who died for me.

 

This longing has been fulfilled!

 

Now there are those who mourn.

But may they too be consumed with this longing.

The most wonderful experience one could ever hope for is the experience of seeing the face of the one who died for us!

Sam and Grace Wolgemuth

10th September 2001

Today, when I asked my wife what comes to her mind when she thinks of Sam and Grace Wolgemuth, she said, “Humility.” She had hit upon a key to their greatest legacy. I think of Dr. Sam as the father of the internationalisation movement within Youth for Christ. And to truly internationalise one must be humble enough to treat the poor with respect and listen to their aspirations. This Dr. Sam was eminently successful in doing.

 

Today there is a lot of talk about globalisation and internationalisation, but the violent protests against it that we are seeing show that many people in the Third World are not happy with this trend. They feel that the affluent west is thrusting economic and development policies upon them that they do not like but must accept if they are to get development aid. Many in poorer nations feel that we have entered a new era of colonialism where we are being subjected to economic domination by the affluent nations.

 

Sam Wolgemuth was accustomed to listening to people of other nations and cultures. So he wanted an international structure that ensured that each entity could make an equally powerful contribution. The “experts” have found this structure difficult to fathom, for their models of “effective” multinational organisations are very different. This was a structure that allowed for equal participation; that ensured ownership by all sides. Those who are more accustomed to the paternalistic type of relationship between the rich and the poor have found had difficulty in understanding and working within this structure.

 

But for many from the developing nations of the world, YFC has been an organisation that they were proud to associate with. We feel an ownership in this movement. We want to contribute to it. We feel it gives due place to our aspirations.

 

When I started my tenure as Director of the Sri Lankan YFC program 1976, there was a general antipathy towards YFC International among our staff. Some YFCI representatives who had visited Sri Lanka did not exemplify the principles the staff valued. A few years later, Dr Sam and Auntie Grace (as we call her) came to Sri Lanka. Our people loved them! They had found two leaders about whom they could be proud. Gradually the attitude to the international movement also changed!

 

Auntie Grace has always lived up to her name. Grace must make us gracious, and this is what it did to her. I have spent many wonderful times in the Wolgemuth home, relishing the love and hospitality that she provided and recovering from the strenuous round of ministry that had usually preceded the visit to their home.

 

Sri Lanka YFC salutes the parents of our international movement and ethos.

Sam Sherrard: Thirty-three Years of Commitment to Youth

April 1999

 

Ajith Fernando

After 31 years of ministry with Youth for Christ, the founder of YFC in Sri Lanka, Dr. Sam Sherrard, has left YFC in order to give himself full-time to pastoral ministry. For the last several years Sam worked with YFC while at the same time serving as Senior Pastor of Leeward Community Church in Honolulu, Hawaii. He will continue in this position at the church full-time while also doing a radio ministry which is aired over several stations.

 

Sam has held many positions in YFC over the years. From 1966 to 1974 he was National Director in Sri Lanka. Then he went to Hawaii where he took over a struggling YFC work and saw it grow into a dynamic work making a huge impact on thousands of young lives. In 1994 he was appointed Area Director of YFC for the Americas, and in 1996 he became YFC’s International President.

 

YFC has changed a lot over the years. But the foundational principles which Sam helped us develop continue to be our hallmarks. During the early years Sam kept telling us that we should focus our evangelistic ministry more on Sinhala and Tamil speaking youth and on non-Christians. It was left to master discipler Brian Blacker to get this off the ground during his two-year stint as Acting National Director between Sam’s leaving and my taking over. These ministries have grown so rapidly that they represent the bulk of YFC’s work today.

 

Yet the principles which Sam introduced still remain our hallmark. Let me mention some that mean a lot to me.

  1. The basis for all ministry is the Scriptures. The inerrant Word of God is the standard for all life and ministry. Sam not only taught us the Scriptures, he also led us to love it and believe in it from cover to cover.
  2. Youth work is such a glorious work that it is worth giving one’s whole life to it. The greatest thing we can do for a young person is to introduce them to the Saviour so that they will escape eternal damnation and receive eternal salvation. That continues to be the passion that propels us in all we do in YFC.
  3. It is not enough to lead people to Christ. We must also carefully nurture them. We began to refer to this process of nurturing believers as “discipling”. We learned that there is no substitute to deep and time-consuming commitment to young people. I suppose the legacy of this practice of discipling is the hundreds of YFC alumni who are now actively participating in the life of the church in Sri Lanka and abroad. What a joy it was for me to attend a conference of heads of churches and organisations recently and find that 12 of the 75 or so there had either met Christ or grown up in YFC.
  4. Fellowship takes time! This is a feature that is increasingly coming under fire in this busy world. But if we want to develop relationships that really help youth to grow within a caring community, it is going to take time—time to chat and pray. What memorable times of fellowship we had with Sam in our young days! Presently I am part of what might be called an accountability group that meets regularly. Of the five in this group four belonged to those of us who used to meet with Sam regularly in the late sixties and the fifth joined in the seventies.
  5. If we are to reach young people who are uninterested in religion, we will have to try out previously untried methods that may seem outlandish to some sincere people. While criticism hurts it must not stop us from using “all possible means to save some” unreached youth.
  6. Innovative youth ministry will include bold ventures of faith that involve taking big risks. But once we launch out on such a venture we must carry it through to a finish without giving up. And how often we wanted to give up, but Sam would not let us! We learned that faithfulness includes the refusal to give up when we encounter obstacles. And we mustn’t be afraid to dream big dreams for we have “a great, big, wonderful God”.

 

On behalf of the thousands of people who met Christ in YFC in their youth, I want to say, “Thank you, Sam, for 33 years of commitment to youth”. On behalf of the staff of Sri Lanka YFC, I want to say, “You make us proud of our vocation”.

Roger Hedlund-American South Asian

25th February 2010

Dear Roger,

I praise God and rejoice with many who join you in wishing you a happy seventy-fifth birthday. May the Lord continue to use you to further the cause of his kingdom, especially in South Asia.

 

God has used you to birth so many wonderful things in South Asia. Books, magazines, journals, institutes, fellowships, I guess the list goes on an on.

 

However, to me, Roger Hedland is remembered as the person who helped get my first book printed. I completed my ThM Thesis at the Fuller School of Theology in 1976. The thesis was much longer than what was required for a Masters degree, but I got permission to write an extra long thesis because I wanted it to be published. I sent if from place to place, and no one was interested. Then came a providential occurrence when Dr Arthur Glasser showed it to you. And you decided to help get it printed. A Universal Homecoming? was released by ELS in 1983—seven years after I had finished writing it.

 

I have now written 15 books. Almost no one remembers The Universal Homecoming? today. But to me it will always be my literary firstborn. This is what got me started as a writer. And it also became the base of another more popular book Crucial Questions about Hell that was released in 1991 and translated into five other languages.

 

So Roger, I could never forget you! I could never stop thanking God for you.

 

Have a blessed day,

 

Your fellow servant of Jesus and the church in Asia,

 

 

Ajith Fernando.