As we move into more than a year of serving communities in Sri Lanka, our staff has come to better understand the reasons we work through the local church.
There were times when our staff in Sri Lanka questioned this theory or saw it as restricting. But today there is clear understanding. Through the eyes of our Child Survival Program mothers and the communities we work in, we see why the local church is important and how it is affecting communities, which are now growing to love the church.
Chandrakanthi is a name that is constantly on the minds of our Sri Lanka staff. After being nearly bludgeoned to death by an axe in the hands of her husband, today Chandrakanthi is a smiling, bubbly young woman, who is a testament to God’s amazing answer to prayer.
Chandrakanthi is part of the Child Survival Program in Puwakpitiya. The Puwakpitiya Assembly of God Church, with the help of our ministry, provided her with a lot of assistance during her time of recovery.
Chandrakanthi’s mother works in Dubai. When she came to know of her daughter’s plight, she returned to Sri Lanka for a short stay to see her daughter.
As soon as she saw Chandrakanthi, she came to the church. Entering the Child Survival Program office in the church, she broke down.
“Thank you, and thank you to the church for saving my daughter. If not for you, if not for this program, if not for this church, my daughter would be dead.”
Chandrakanthi’s sister told us,
“No other organization or even a religious institution would have been able to help my sister. Your God must be special.”
Pastor Palitha, from the Kithusewana Church in Inigodawela, is very happy that such a program is being conducted through the local church.
“Today the church is a meeting place for everyone, no matter what religion they are from. People welcome us into their homes. Even though they are not a part of the Child Survival Program, they inquire about the program. They volunteer to help out at the program. People are not looking at us with suspicion anymore. People are welcoming the church.”
Malini is a mother enrolled in the Arunodayapura Child Survival Program.
She lives in a small wooden house with her husband and three children. Hindu by religion, Malini is very happy about the Child Survival Program.
“I learn so many things from the church. No one else came to teach us, or look after our children or us before. No one cared about us this much. There is something special about the church.
The staff tell us that Jesus loves us and has given us all this. I don’t know this person called Jesus, personally, but I think He is special. I have never felt as welcomed as I feel at the church.”
Malini also shared that yes, she is poor and yes, she doesn’t have a lot of things, but the church helps her see beyond that and the church is helping her to overcome poverty.
But the church doesn’t always receive a welcome from the community.
The newest Child Survival Program in Pundaluoya opened about four months ago and has had its share of attacks, sadly not from the non-Christian community but from believers within their own church.
Program Manager Premalatha shares,
“Three families dropped out of our church’s Sunday congregation because we didn’t choose them and chose non-Christians over them for the program. They not only dropped out of the church but are currently spreading stories that the church is unethically converting people.”
But this program is going strong and the mothers are enthusiastic about regularly going to the meetings. Slowly but surely the community will come to see the good work that is being done through the Child Survival Program and church.
Abishek is two years old and a beneficiary of the Rajagiriya Child Survival Program. His mother, Maheshwari has no problem coming to the program on time because it is Abishek who is more excited about going to the church than she is!
“Every day he asks me, are we going to the church today? Are we going to the church? He looks forward to the monthly programs. Even if we just pass that way, he wants to go into the church.”
Sudharashani is a mother of three enrolled in the Patana Child Survival Program. Although she is Hindu, Sudharshani has much respect for the church.
“The church is a good place. Everyone is kind to us. I am not afraid to say that I am a part of the Child Survival Program or that I go to the church. I respect the church. My son loves to go there.”
The local church has become a safe haven, a place of learning and fellowship. People are not afraid of the church anymore. There are still problems, but through our mothers and children we are learning ways to overcome them.
The local church in Sri Lanka has been through a lot of persecution in the past years. Most of these incidents have faded off into silence, but it is still prevalent, mainly among smaller, independent churches.
Yet we have witnessed that through the local church and the work of the Child Survival Program, the mothers are now the ones who are standing up for the church. They go into their communities with positive thoughts and love for the church.
The local church is now becoming a part of the community, intricately woven into the tight strands of community life.