(SRI LANKA) "Those Who Hope in the Lord Will Renew Their Strength": A Report on The Journey Team Visit to Sri Lanka from Nov. 1-3, 2023
by Barnabas B.
Those Who Hope in the Lord Will Renew Their Strength.
Thank God for sending P. Ron Ward and his journey team to Sri Lanka from November 1st to 3rd, providing comfort and encouragement, and making significant progress in the history of the Sri Lanka campus ministry. On the first day, M. Barnabas (myself) & Aroma B., M. Luke, and Sarah J. studied Isaiah chapter 40 led by M. David K. The gospel work in Sri Lanka was prolonged due to 2,300 years of deep-rooted Buddhist culture and colonialism. In addition, the country faced bankruptcy due to the coronavirus pandemic over the past three years. We used to feel discouraged when we saw the difficult spiritual and economic environment. Making disciples here seemed like a distant task. However, God is the Creator who created the ends of the earth and the God of history who rules over the nations according to His will. Who would have imagined that Babylon, the world's most powerful nation, surrounded by walls that could accommodate six carriages at the same time, would fall? However, God liberated the captive Israelites in a way they could not even imagine and brought them back to the land of Zion. This God is strong, and he is a shepherd who holds his chosen people in his arms and guides them. God told us to look at this God through His Word. When we lift our eyes from our reality and put our hope in God, we gain new strength like an eagle soaring with wings.
On the second day, the missionaries took the Journey Team shepherds and visited Kandy, the capital of the ancient kingdom. We had a fun boat ride on the lake next to the Buddhist Temple, which is like the heart of Buddhism, where the Buddha's molars are enshrined. M. Aroma was in his 29th year as a missionary in Sri Lanka, but this was her first time going on a boat trip. Thanks to the guests, we were able to enjoy it. We also went to the Royal Peradeniya Park and enjoyed some rest while looking at the beautiful natural world created by God. God is conveying his message without a word through nature. As we stood in front of the palm trees lined up on both sides of the road, we had a vision that when we completed the race of faith and arrived in the kingdom of God, countless angels would greet us. As I looked at the tree, which was as straight as marble and could not be reached even when four people spread out their hands and surrounded it, I prayed that the Lord might raise these pillar-like servants of God. Another tree spread out branches, took root along the way, and expanded its branches again to cover a huge area. When the headquarters and each branch united in Christ and firmly established the roots of self-support, I saw a vision that we could cover the vast world. When I saw a tree bearing gourd-like fruits, I hoped it would bear the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Above all, thinking of Samson's last prayer between the two trees that stood like a huge wall on either side, we joined hands and pushed the two trees, shouting that the world's great wall of unbelief and idols would collapse. Thank God for giving us comfort and rest by having fellowship with precious missionaries in nature.
On the third day, we studied the book of Philippians with eight local leaders in the afternoon led by P. Ron Ward. Apostle Paul had many human conditions to be proud of to the world then, but after knowing Jesus, he regarded all of those boasts as excrement. That was because there is a tremendous heavenly treasure in Jesus. The true purpose of life is to know Jesus, the treasure, experientially and to let the world know Jesus. In particular, suffering is the best material and privilege to experience Jesus. P. Ron Ward passionately shared the beautiful life of missionary Mother Barry, who regarded the boast of the world as trash in order to gain Jesus. Apostle Paul's testimony of faith and missionary Mother Barry's beautiful life resonated greatly in this country where the caste system remains. After Bible study, we celebrated the Holy Communion of Baptism led by P. Ron Ward. I thought it was important to confess my faith through studying the Word and testimonials, so I tended not to place much importance on baptism and the Holy Communion. However, our invisible faith is confirmed through visible ceremonies. In particular, in this place where religions are clearly distinguished, baptism and the Holy Communion are considered very important because they represent a public declaration of faith. Above all, the Lord commanded us to baptize and to take the Holy Communion. At our request, P. Ron Ward performed the ceremony. At first, there were four candidates, but on the day, eight brothers and sisters wanted to be baptized. Baptism candidates each prepared and presented a one-page testimony before being baptized. After the adult baptism, there was a baby dedication ceremony for Joshua, a son born 14 days ago between Gideon and Pauline; and Rema, a daughter born one month ago between Chanaker and Ruth. Through the baptism ceremony, there was a great work of the Holy Spirit in Gideon's family. Pauline, missionary Sarah's niece, was baptized at a local church with a simple desire to be blessed shortly after coming to Sri Lanka 7 years ago. And through studying the Bible with Missionary Sarah, she accepted Jesus as Lord. She also accepted the UBF missionary call and completed the headquarters missionary training course online. She wanted to live as a UBF missionary, however, after her husband, Gideon completed the church theology courses, his calling as a UBF shepherd wavered, and she ended up in the same situation. Pauline wanted to be baptized by faith this time, but Gideon opposed that, so she fasted for a day and prayed earnestly. At this time, Gideon went to register the birth of his son Joshua the day before the baptism, but for unknown reasons, it was rejected. He accepted this as the sign of the Holy Spirit for his co-worker to be baptized and allowed Pauline to be baptized. Pauline's identity as a UBF missionary, which had been shaken, was clearly established through baptism. Gideon also had the opportunity to restore his calling to the UBF mission through his wife's baptism and the baby dedication ceremony of his dearly loved son.
This visit by P. Ron Ward and the journey team brought significant progress in the history of the Sri Lankan campus ministry. Four missionaries received comfort and encouragement through the Word of God and fellowship. As eight people were baptized and took Holy Communion, there was a triumphant work of proclaiming faith in this land where the majority were non-believers. Abraham P., who had only sent his wife and four children to the service, and would not attend the service, came and listened to the words of life from the Philippians. These words from the book of Philippians were very appropriate for him, who was a Sinhalese among Sinhalese and a medical doctor and university lecturer. Gideon's family, whose calling to UBF had been shaken, received much help restoring their calling. Above all, there was great work as missionary Barnabas' family and missionary Luke J's family became one in heart to work together to serve God's servants. Missionary Luke J. was moved by the powerful work of the Holy Spirit and sent a message to Missionary Barnabas B., confessing that he had hurt him through his weaknesses and faults. Because the guests left early in the morning, we ate the hotel breakfast on their behalf and had some time to catch up with each other. It was the first time in 14 years since M. Luke's family had joined Sri Lanka ministry. We specifically got a direction to hold a conference together in unity. P. Ron Ward and the journey team were like the three angels who visited Abraham. I received a lot of grace from seeing Pastor Ron Ward and his wife Dervila's humble and down-to-earth appearance. Pastor Ron Ward served the group Bible study, communion, and baptisms from 4 to 7:30 p.m., shedding his sweat. On the second day, the van that took the guests broke down, so I had to stay in Kandyalone, and the other seven returned to Colombo. P. Ron fasted that evening, saying he could not eat if his co-workers suffered. Through P. Ron Ward, we saw that spiritual authority does not come from human knowledge or ability but from obedience. Also, I was able to smell the scent of Missionary Samuel L., who, with faith, endured the hardships of childbirth for the proud Americans and left behind a disciple who inherited his spirit. We are grateful for the love and hard work of missionaries David and Joy K., who served in prayer so that the work of the Holy Spirit would proceed smoothly. Through visits from precious servants, I praise God for giving me the strength to soar with wings like an eagle.