When I was in theological college in the USA and I told my friends and teachers that I was hoping to go back to serve in Youth for Christ, there was an almost unanimous response that this would be a mistake. They said that I should go back and serve in a seminary or a church. This caused a lot of turmoil inside of me. I shared this with my parents, and they shared it with our former minister, the Rev. George Good who had had a strong influence on my life. Rev. Good said, “Let him serve in YFC, because in that way he can send a lot of young people from YFC to the church.”
Sending the youth we reach to the church is among our primary objects. That has not been an easy task. These young people have met Christ in YFC, and during their first few years as Christians their primary allegiance will be to YFC. They might find it difficult to be committed to the church which has what seems to them like a strange culture. Our methods also differ sometimes and that produces some clashes. For example, disciplining our young volunteers in order that they may overcome their weaknesses is a common practice in YFC. When these youth refuse to take part in a church programme because they are under discipline in YFC, naturally there can be confusion in the church leadership. Sometimes the problems are aggravated because our young staff and volunteers also act with immaturity in their relationships with the church.
Despite all these problems, over the years hundreds of youth reached in YFC have found a happy home in their churches and are serving there faithfully. Recently I started to count how many people who were YFC youth are now pastors in churches. The list keeps growing, and now it stands at 72! There is also a long list of pastors’ wives, a longer list of people working in other Christian organisations and an even longer list of lay church leaders. It is also great joy to me that many of our present staff, volunteers and alumni serve as the youth leaders or advisors in their churches. Several YFC people have earned a reputation of being good biblical preachers and teachers and they too are contributing to the churches through the use of their gifts.
Realising the value of having examples of YFC people being involved in churches, the YFC board permitted me to get very involved in helping restart the church at which we worship. YFC paid for all the travel and other expenses I incurred in those early years. Now the grassroots ministry of my wife and me is primarily in that church. Since stepping down as National Director I give over 50% of my time to the churches, mentoring and counselling pastors and doing retreats and seminars for leaders usually in places far away from Colombo. I also preach and teach abroad and write books which I hope have blessed the church.
I do all this as a missionary of YFC to the churches in Sri Lanka and abroad. YFC handles all my income and expenditure for this wider ministry. Itinerant ministry has many traps that can ruin our lives and ministries. Being under the YFC discipline has served as a source of security to me. I am especially grateful for my accountability group, all YFC alumni, most of whom I have known for over forty years. They monitor my life and ministry and give me much needed advice and rebuke.
So I think we have been able to fulfil to some extent what my former pastor hoped for and what my friends and teachers in seminary told that I should be doing!
I am so grateful that YFC has found a place for me even after I stepped down from National Directorship. Leonard Fernando is a wonderful boss to work for. I remain as excited about and committed to the YFC ministry as I was when I started full-time in YFC thirty-nine years ago.