As I write, we are happily reunited as a family, with son Asiri back after completing his studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in USA. Daughter Nirmali is also here to help us, as Nelun had a fall at home resulting in a shoulder fracture/dislocation. The doctor is hopeful that it will heal without surgery, but we will know for sure only a few weeks later. Her arm is in a sling, and she cannot do much work. PS She is doing much better now.
This year was very eventful for me. I gave up my office at the YFC headquarters, and I operate from home now. This is a wonderful provision because Nelun’s activities are restricted and she needs some special care. I still have the National Director title, but the entire ministry (except my small division) is supervised now by Leonard Fernando and Prashan de Mel. I supervise them. I am so grateful for these two leaders, more than anything else, because, in addition to being capable, they have emerged as people with crucified personal ambition who are willing to give up their plans and privileges for the sake of the larger body: just the kind of leaders we were looking for!
I handed over the leaders whom I have been supervising and caring for with some sorrow. But it was like the sorrow of a parent who hands over responsibility for a child at marriage. Prayer and concern will continue without the spiritual authority. This has been my experience these thirty-four years in ministry with YFC. It is such a joy to see the children discipled over the years, thriving in God’s vineyard. Now with no young Christians to disciple, I am doing much of my personal work in our church. The Lord has graciously brought young Christians for me to disciple and mentor. My administrative load is greatly reduced, and I give my time now for counselling, visiting, e-mail, study, preaching, teaching and writing. I will continue my regular visits to the YFC centres, when I usually give two to four days for ministry with YFC staff and volunteers and a day for ministry with the Christian leaders in the area. Of course, caring for Prashan and Leonard is a primary responsibility.
This past year we completed a long process that resulted in our ministries being divided according to region rather than language. It has been a challenging but exciting journey as bringing change and dividing closely knit groups is not easy. Our ministry is heavily volunteer-driven and they give a lot of time sacrificially to this work. They needed to be happy with the changes. I have been stretched to the fullest responding to queries from volunteers. Many changes were made as a result of those conversations. During this first year, we will keep reviewing how the details are working out and will make changes as we go along. This process demonstrated the challenge of bringing change in a large organisation where volunteers also have ownership. It is an exercise worth expending oneself in.
My three-and-a-half month sabbatical last year was spent primarily teaching and preaching because our staff education fund was very low. That is the fund that takes in my “earnings” from speaking and writing. Therefore the YFC Board gave me a little over six weeks’ leave, beginning in July, to try and finish my two Deuteronomy books. I decided that I will also go on a speaking “fast” during this time. I have been preaching for over forty years and during the past 34 years I’ve been speaking an average of about 4-5 times a week. This will be my first long break from what I love to do. My hope is that this will be a time of spiritual retreat for me. I will also be giving time during these days to work on finishing touches on our new IBS Sinhala Bible.
Nelun continues to give most of her ministry time to church. We recently celebrated her mother’s 90th birthday and were delighted to have Nelun’s sister Dilkush and husband Roy with us from Australia. Nelun’s mother lives with us. Her steadfast faith and devotion to God is a real encouragement to us. Nelun continues to lead our Sunday School and disciple some women at church. She has also been having an evangelistic Bible study with two young women inquiring about the Christian faith. It looks like that number will grow to four from next week. At the moment, because of her injury, she is catching up on sleep lost after a hectic trip with me to Canada and the USA.
Nirmali works half-time in the YFC office as Partner Relations Officer. She helps out as a volunteer in her husband Refuge’s YFC ministry, which is reaching out to irreligious westernised youth. Her coming on has taken a huge load off me, as she is the one who now corresponds with donors, writes project proposals and answers donors’ queries etc. She also teaches in Sunday School at church. Refuge is undergoing some specialised training in adventure outreach. We are developing adventure outreach as a means of making contact with irreligious westernised youth. This training requires two or three trips to India.
Asiri was reunited with his fiancée Cheryl after spending almost three years in the USA without a visit home. They are to be married on 6th November this year. Cheryl has been a key volunteer in YFC for many years, and we are thrilled about our “new daughter.” Asiri will soon move to Kandy, which is where he lived before leaving for the USA. He will work for the up-country (mountain) region of YFC seeking primarily to reach irreligious, highly westernised youth. He was really happy with his studies in Seminary, and his father is extremely grateful for his dual passion for evangelism and the Word. He has also developed into a good song writer, and we wonder how the Lord will use that gift for his glory.
YFC’s financial needs continue to be acute, and we would be grateful for whatever you may be able to send our way. But more importantly we cherish your prayers.
Please also pray that the government would use the window of opportunity that opened after the war and landslide election victories to negotiate a just solution to the ethnic problem that triggered the war.
Your fellow servant of Jesus Christ,
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