June to Oct 2011
The Taylor family, Bro Russell, Sis Margueritia, and their four children, Mac, Asha, India and Sahara, and Sis Margueritia’s father, Bro Fran Ryan, have been in Sri Lanka since December 2009.
The Negombo Ecclesia is the only ecclesia in Sri Lanka. It has 26 Sri Lankan members and there are another six Sri Lankan brothers and sisters who live in remote areas of Sri Lanka or who are currently working abroad. Most of the ecclesia’s members have been baptised within the past five years and half of the members within the past two years. In August, Bro K and his family moved to Sri Lanka from another Asian country to escape persecution. Because of security concerns his identity cannot be published. Bro K is a very experienced and capable brother, who with his family have been a great blessing for the ecclesia and the mission work in Sri Lanka.
The ecclesia meets in the mission house at Negombo, a bustling coastal town about an hours drive north of Colombo, the capital. The Sunday programme starts with Sunday School at 9:30 AM. The memorial meeting is held at 11:00 AM, with the presiding, reading and exhorting duties shared between the baptised brothers. After the meeting we have a communal lunch which is prepared by the sisters and some lady friends. Lunch is followed by a Bible class, which is usually led by Bro Fran, Bro K. or Bro Russell. Every third Sunday we have youth group after Bible class.
Exhortation by Bro Sununda, Bro Malik translating
Preaching in Sri Lanka
As in all developing countries life for many people is difficult, with people working long hours for low pay, food prices rising steeply and proper medical treatment being un-affordable for most people. The situation in Sri Lanka has been complicated by a thirty year war, between Tamil separatists and the Sri Lankan government, and a separate terror campaign waged during much of this time by Marxist insurgents. Although the war ended two years ago, it has left many people emotionally and psychologically scarred. But these very troubles have caused many people to seek religious answers to the big questions of life. And for at least some people the answers provided by Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and orthodox Christianity are neither satisfying nor convincing. This creates a real opportunity for the Truth to be heard.
Currently, we have 17 people taking weekly (and in some cases twice-weekly) baptism classes. About half of them are from Buddhist backgrounds and the other half from Catholic and Pentecostal churches. Several of them are hoping to be baptised in the next few of months. Last Sunday, Nalaka De Silva asked to be baptised. Nalaka is a 25 year old man, from a Buddhist family and trained as a lawyer. Despite opposition from some family members and friends, Nalaka has for the past twelve months been taking a two hour journey (each way) by bus to the mission house twice a week for baptism lessons and the Sunday meetings. God willing, Nalaka will be baptised on Sunday, 23 October.
Nalaka De Silva
Back in May, we had been planning to start a series of seminars south of Colombo, where we have some long term contacts. That same month we had an unexpected visit from a pastor from Kekirawa, a town about 4 hours drive north-east of Colombo. Pastor Fernando is a member of a non-denominational church in Kekirawa. He had been referred to us by an elderly member of his congregation, who had completed a correspondence course with the Christadelphians three years ago. After our first meeting, Fernando had several Bible studies with Bro. K and Bro Russell,and he then asked us to lead some studies for his congregation in Kekirawa. Since then we have conducted a series of seminars in Kekirawa, which have been attended by between 20 and 30 adults. About 40 of the people introduced to us by Pastor Fernando have completed the ACBM Bible postal course. The next seminar is to be held on 15 October, God willing. For the moment the Colombo seminars have been put on hold while the work in Kekirawa continues.
Bible Truth Camp
On 11 to 13 July we held a Bible Truth Camp. The camp was held at a Christian conference centre about an hour north of Negombo. The aim of the camp was to provide intensive first principle instruction with the theme of the studies being the life and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Thirty six adults and 15 children, including members and friends from Negombo, and church members from Kekirawa attended. The friends were delighted with the studies and enjoyed meeting with the brothers and sisters from Negombo. On the Saturday evening, there were several discussions that went late into night about various issues, including Holy Spirit gifts, miracles and baptism.
Bible Truth Camp
The Negombo Ecclesia does not yet have a constitution or an ecclesial arranging committee. Over the last few months we have started to have regular meetings of the brothers to organise activities and discuss various issues. The brothers are currently working on a draft constitution, with the aim of having the draft ready for consideration by the ecclesia in December. Most of the brothers have not had any experience in meetings and decision-making of this sort. The meetings have been an important learning experience and the brothers have acquired a better understanding of how to conduct meetings, discuss issues and make decisions, in a brotherly and biblical way.
In addition to the baptism classes, we also conduct five Bible classes each week in the homes of brothers and sisters. One of the classes is held in the home of Bro Anton Ponnambulum. The class is attended by Bro Anton, Bro Steve Ponnambulum (who was baptised in February), Bro Naleen Fernando and Bro Malik Chamara. Bro Anton is one of the senior brothers in the ecclesia nad has been baptised for about 5 years. Steve, Naleen and Malik are between 19 and 25 years old and represent the future of the Negombo Ecclesia. All three are keenly interested in the Bible and eager to be involved in the work of the ecclesia. We are halfway through a study of 1 Timothy and have worked through the Apostle’s instructions about such issues as the importance of sound doctrine, the role of brothers and sisters in ecclesial meetings, and the qualifications of overseers and deacons. As we study 1 Timothy, we are also trying to develop Bible study skills such as paragraphing, word studies, cross-referencing, etc.
There are two Sunday School classes. The junior class has about 15 students, some of whom are the children of brothers and sisters and others from families in the local area. This class is taught by Sis Margueritia and Sis Chathushika Prabushini. The senior class is taught by Bro Malik and has five students. On Monday nights Chathushika and Malik meet with Margueritia and Russell to review the previous classes and make preparations for the next lesson. Sunday School Prize-giving last year was a huge highlight for the children and plans are now being made for this year’s event which will be held in December.
Buntu at Sunday School
The Sri Lankan brothers and sisters and the friends face many challenges. The ecclesia is small and isolated. Most of the brothers and sisters have been baptised for only a few years and have much to learn. Some of the brothers and sisters are quite poor, others have very difficult family situations or are struggling with addiction issues. They live in a society where religion is very much focused on the observance of rituals rather than living a godly life, where the clergy, christian and non-christian, is a privileged elite who are to be deferred to by the laity, where many people are raised with deep fear of demons and black magic, and uncritically accept claims of signs and wonders, and where there is strong sense of ecumenism amongst the churches and little attention to doctrine. Inevitably, some brothers and sisters find these attitudes and beliefs difficult to dislodge, and this affects the way they live and relate to other brothers and sisters and conduct themselves in the ecclesia. So there is an ongoing need to counsel and encourage the brothers and sisters and friends.
Right now we are working with the young people to prepare for the second Sri Lankan Christadelphian Youth Conference, to be held from 11 to 15 November, God willing. Last years conference was a great experience for the Sri Lankan young people, with other young people attending from India, Pakistan and Australia and with studies were led by Bro Jamin Ryan from Newcastle, New South Wales. This year we are expecting some more young people from Australia, and hopefully, from India, to make the trip. The studies will be led by Bro Jared Schipper, from Perth, on lessons from the life of Samson. We are also preparing for the Bible School, which is to be held from 23 to 25 December. The Bible School is organised jointly by brothers and sisters in Australia, local brothers and sisters and the fieldworkers. More details about the plans for the Bible School will follow shortly.
Since July this year we have been supported by Whitefields. We are very grateful to the WCF and the generosity of the brothers and sisters who have donated the funds which have supported us, without which we would not have been able to continue the work in Sri Lanka. And to our Heavenly Father who has blessed us with this support and with the privilege of living and working with His family here in Sri Lanka.
The Taylor Family
Bro Russell Taylor
12 October 2011