Thursday, January 9, 2014

A New Welcome / A New New Year / A New Perspective / Sri Lanka

The last time I saw Susiri, was at an International Board meeting in Gudalar, India in 2005.  I was serving on the Board of Medic International and had joined him and the rest of the board for a meeting in Southern India.  Susiri is the director of Medic Lanka.  It was at that time that I felt a kindred spirit with Susiri and his love for the Lord.  He asked me to come and visit Sri Lanka on many occasions.  I stepped down from my board responsibilities a year later and stayed in sparatic contact with Susiri -- still he would say -- Come to Sri Lanka.  But it was just not the time -- my hearts desire has been to always go.  Well, God in his wisdom chose that this year would be the year I would get to come.  When I emailed him and told him I was going to be in India and in Thailand -- I knew it was in the region -- he prayed about it and said, yes please come.  He had heard the ministry I was involved with and knew that it was something that Sri Lanka needed to focus on -- even though -- no church had every publicly addressed the issue of Homosexuality.  So he was paving new ground and being very courageous.  Sri Lanka has gone through much turmoil over the years and only recently has been walking in a measure of freedom from the civil war that has taken place and where much blood has been shed.

I arrived on Dec. 30th and was blessed by him to stay for a couple days at the beach at a really nice hotel.  He knew I had been traveling extensively and was probably tired, so he felt I should just relax


for a couple days -- I certainly did -- and the place was wonderful.  My view out the back was of some trees and beyond that the ocean -- when you walked outside you would go through those trees and step out onto the sand that would lead directly to the ocean.  A gift from God for sure.




I slept in the next morning and took a walk on the beach and did some reading -- a welcome retreat after 6 weeks of being on the move.  The next evening was the new years eve service and I was going to bring the word at Smyrna Christian Church in Watalla, Sri Lanka.  Watalla is about 15 minutes south of Columbo.  Susiri told me that I would be with them from 9:00pm when it started until 1:30 or 2:00am when it was finished.  So we headed down to the church and got prepared and then the official meeting started at 10:00pm with praise and worship.  I was told that we would continue to worship and hear testimonies up until 11:45pm at which time I would start my message.  I was to speak for 14 minutes and that just before midnight -- I would stop and then we would worship until about 12:15am when the fireworks stopped -- then I would pick up where I left off and continue the message -- a new approach -- but there you go!  So that is just what I did -- and then we ended with a time of communion.

I will say it was a bit of a trip trying to worship with big fireworks going off in the background -- and because it was hot- - the back doors of the church were opened -- so the sound was really coming in -- for me -- also, there was intermittent explosions -- throughout the rest of my sermon -- a new level of concentration efforts!
John Speaking at Smyrna Christian Church in Watalla



I am not exactly sure if there was as much power in my sermon as there was in the explosions -- but I gave it my best.  I spoke out of Luke 24 and we took a look at walking in faith and not getting caught up in the major life events in our lives.



After a trip to the roof for refreshments and a time of fellowship -- we slowly wrapped up and headed for home -- for me, back to the hotel, where I would sleep and catch up the following day before we started for the conference center where the workshop was to take place.  The next few days would be very full days -- so I was grateful to take some time to be with the Lord, to get refreshed and to get ready for the Homosexuality, The Church & You workshop -- the first ever in Sri Lanka!  

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Hyderabad/Secunderabad - Positive Friends - Making Room For Jesus

Trevain R. Kumar - NeoLifeMission Kids Home
Dec. 20th -- After arriving at the airport and being greeted by the brother who first welcomed into Hyderabad, Trevain Raj Kumar, we drove to the kids home where I got a chance to see the progress of the kids and also to see the new location.  Trevain, who heads up NeoLifeMission http://www.neolifemissiontrust.org/index.html, has been so faithful with the work the Lord has given him, including adding a small store that sells books and school supplies.  I had the privilege of spending time with his wife Preeti their son Bobby who now towers over his parents (smile) and their new little daughter who is adorable!  After a great dinner and a good night sleep at their place, I was driven to Secunderabad where I would meet Saji Mathei to spend the next few days.

Saji & Me

We met Saji in Secunderabad and then proceeded to drive to his home.  This would be the place I would stay for the next few days and where we would conduct the Homosexuality, The Church & You program as well on Dec. 23rd.

In the meantime -- today we would have a Positive Friends meeting in the afternoon and then we would go into their 1st annual Christmas Party for Jeevanan Trust Ministries.

We began with about 25 or so individuals who are living with HIV/AIDS and had a time where I was able to share my testimony of living with AIDS and how the Lord has helped me through this process.

Positive Friends - Dec. 21st, 2013

John Sharing with Positive Friends (Christopher translating to my left)

We got into some lively discussions as they were explaining to me some of the challenges they face.  I was trying to encourage them to be a part of the change and that they could initiate that by their attitudes and that the Lord could use them to help break stigma by being courageous -- it was a really good time.  I gained more insight into some of the never ending complexities that these individuals face in this country.

After a good couple hours together -- it was time to head up to the roof -- where the preparations for the Christmas program had been put in place.

Deva and his wife Preshanti -- opened things up for us with a warm greeting and some Christmas songs.  I just love Deva's heart and he and Preshanti have such a fun way about them -- their two boys are a joy to be around!

Deva (right) and Preshanti (purple) and another sister lead Christmas Carols.

There were songs, drama, testimonies and I had a chance to share a short word on making room for Jesus in our hearts.  At the end I had a time of prayer for the group and invited those that did not know Jesus to receive them into their hearts for the first time to start their relationship with him!

John Sharing with Joseph translating!


It was pretty magical on the roof -- with all the lights surrounding the edge and being able to see the rooftops of other buildings and the stars above that --
John with joseph translating.  Skyline
Then it was time for Silent Night -- we were all led to take candles and light them and then to sing Silent Night together -- that was a very beautiful time -- there were bags with sand all around the end of the roof with candles in them along with the lights on the tree and the candles people held -- very beautiful . .. here are a couple shots of that . . .

Silent Night





The kids had a great time -- and when it came time to blow out the candles -- they were not wanting to end the magic that had been created. 











Deva (L) Saji (R)


Deva asked Saji to come up in the end to thank everyone for coming and to give a Christmas Greeting -- we ended the night with a prayer.  Then it was time for dinner and there was a really nice meal prepared for everyone -- some who had traveled a long distance to be with us -- Jeevanan is growing as a ministry -- keep them within your prayers!






On December 23rd we had the Homosexuality, The Church & You workshop with about 12 Pastors/Leaders -- and the leaders of Jeevanan Trust Ministry-- we had some good discussion and it was a full day.  There were a couple days of rest and then a great visit with Sumanth & Beena and the members of the church in Secunderabad -- such a big family God has adopted me into!