28th April 2006
AT A TIME OF DISCOURAGEMENT
Because of the needs in YFC I have decided that I will not work on my Deuteronomy book for about one year. This was a hard decision to make. I am finding it so hard to squeeze a few minutes at a time to study, and I think of the authors in the west whose organizations ensure that they have 30 to 40 hours a week and also give them the services of research assistants.
A few weeks ago I received the new printing of my Acts commentary with the new commendation by Kent Hughes stating that this is the best preaching commentary on Acts in the English language and that people will be reading it a hundred years from now not only to learn about Acts but also to learn how to preach.
I was thrilled! I remembered that just when I was beginning the writing of the Acts commentary I had to take on the Principalship of CTS. I still feel like crying as I think of that sabbatical. The responsibility of leading a new school is not what I had thought was good for a sabbatical. And this would not have been thrust on me if I had gone abroad for the sabbatical. But I had decided not to go abroad because of our children’s ages. They would have found it difficult to adjust back to Sri Lanka. But by God’s grace I was able to finish the commentary, and it has now come with this good endorsement. This gives me the confidence to believe that even though the Deuteronomy commentary has got delayed so much by service oriented demands, God will help me to complete it some day (it was due March 2005).
I decided that I will share the news of the endorsement with a few people—some close friends abroad, my family members and our leadership team. Many responded saying how thrilled they are. Son Asiri was so thrilled that he was showing it to my relatives etc. But from the leadership team I think only Haran and Chandran responded. I don’t even think the others bothered to read it. This hurt me a lot because all the money from my preaching and writing goes for staff education and for their ministry programmes. This was the family I had laboured with for so long. Now at a time of victory they seemed to be too busy to share the joy with me.
As I have faced so many problems in YFC this past year the strain has been really severe. Plans made carefully over several years had to be trashed because of the sins of our leaders. One leader left angrily. Bala died, and we are still without an accountant almost a year later. Two audits have not been done. I am terrified thinking that we will be exposed in the press, especially because we received millions for tsunami relief. Despite the backlog our accounts staff workers have been taking study leave to prepare for their exams. I guess there wasn’t anyone around to challenge them to delay those exams. I have been hearing news of kinds of behaviour of other staff that does not go with the high calling to be God’s representatives on earth. Soon I will have finished thirty years in YFC. But I feel like a total failure.
But God has been speaking to me.
- I am reminded that I too have failed him so often—though my failures are not so public and therefore not known by those who are not close to me. Shouldn’t I be patient with my colleagues in the same way that God is patient with me?
- Son Asiri is gung ho on going to Kandy to reach lost youth. Ted Rubesh is excited about this prospect. This is such an encouragement.
- Despite the shortcomings of our staff, hundreds of young people are coming to Christ at our camps which have been truly wonderful. The English and Drug rehab works which I supervise are thriving.
- God has called us to reach people from dysfunctional backgrounds. These are the ones who end up as our leaders. While working on correcting their immature behaviour I should also rejoice over the marvellous ways that God is using them.
- Nelun and I have always longed for money we can get in order to give to the poor. These past four months we have been able to give an amazing amount of money to people in YFC and church. And I am amazed at the amount of gifts of money God has sent our way from unexpected sources, so that we can help more people and spend a little extra on ourselves too. How many personal dreams I fulfilled this year! Our roof is repaired and does not leak. I have a good treadmill for exercise etc. etc.
- Each Christian organisation and church has huge weaknesses, but so that all the glory goes to God, he chooses to use weak people—that is who we are in YFC.
Yesterday I was relatively more discouraged than other days. I got an e-mail that justly chides Sinhala Christian leaders for silence about atrocities committed against Tamils. I am rebuked, but I wonder, What can I say? How? Where? I am spending a huge amount of time with YFC’s ministry of trying to reach the lost and nurture those who have been reached. Personal ministry is really draining and time-consuming. Then we have the hundreds of students affected by the tsunami whom the Lord has given us to minister to. This is a wonderful opportunity to serve the needy, but again it is draining work. Do I have time to do sufficient research to be able to speak of the crisis in an informed manner? Yet I am a Sinhala Christian. Tamils are having a tough time, and someone must be speaking.
Once, when I wrote about something, I had not got my facts straight and the result was very humiliating to me because the personal e-mail sent to friends got into the hands of a group I had mentioned in it. I had to end up apologising to that group. We speak about these things a lot at staff meetings and to our youth. But if I am going to say something for a wider audience, I must spend a lot of time to make sure that I have got the real picture. I don’t even have time to do what I know God has called me to do (Bible teaching and writing) because of the pressure of work. Should I try to be doing this now? I really don’t know.
I have always felt that my role was to encourage others to go into society and to be salt and light for God in the structures where Christians usually do not go. I thought that I will do my work of teaching people the Bible, and encouraging and supporting those who are truly in the thick of the battles of society. I think over the years I have done that. Just two days ago I spent about an hour with a person who was involved in this way. Earlier this week I wrote encouraging another who is involved in studying the social issues, in order to help bring a solution to the problems in Sri Lanka.
This is what John Wesley did. The last letter he wrote was to William Wilberforce, the Evangelical emancipator of slaves. Personally and in YFC and church a lot of energy and time is spent working with the poor and helping them overcome poverty. I have felt that this duel ministry of meeting spiritual and physical need is about all we can handle. But with Sinhala Christian leaders so silent about these issues, should I speak? May the Lord lead me!
I was feeling really down when I began to read the manuscript of Pastor Colton Wickramaratne’s autobiography in order to write an endorsement. He mentions all the pain that came from the rejection of people from his own denomination—which he led with such distinction later on. He said that he needed this loneliness in order to depend on God and learn lessons which could only be learned that way. God has spoken to me. I must not be angry with YFC for all the pain that has come to me from it during the past year. I must learn the lessons God has planned for me to learn. And most of all, I must concentrate on the battle to live a holy life.
Pastor Colton also described how God lifted him up by giving him people to encourage at a time when he himself was very discouraged. I have been trying to do this during the past few hours.