Suri Williams My Friend

November 1999




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.