By Emily Theresa
“So that the genuineness of your faith may be tested…” (1 Peter 1:7)
It’s a tiny island known as the teardrop of India.
And its government has fallen.
Fuel lines in Sri Lanka are five times the length they are in the United States. Women and children are crying for bread. Famine has spread across the land, and while an interim leader has been elected, he’s stepping into an $8.6 billion foreign deficit – the greatest deficit since 1948.
Food inflation soared to 80% in July. Street lights have been ordered off to save on power. According to the World Food Programme, over six million Sri Lankans are in a food crisis. Many children have not been to school in weeks, because the government shut down certain schools due to power cuts and fuel shortages. Schools that are still running aren’t allowed to conduct exams, to save on paper.
A number of factors are said to have led to this downfall – poor leadership, tax cuts, a nationwide policy to shift to organic farming, the 2019 Easter bombings, and COVID 19. The greatest factor is what is being called “a tale of two deficits” – that is, the island nation imports more than it exports, creating a budget deficit.
Brother David Senaratne lives in Colombo, Sri Lanka, and runs the Elijah Institute, a humble college for ministers of the Word. Over the years, using the Harvestime curriculum – the same curriculum we use in Africa – Senartne has trained thousands of men and women. He also helps to care for the country’s hundreds of thousands of widows who lost husbands, land, and livelihoods in Sri Lanka’s civil war that ended in 2010. During the bloody conflict between the government forces and the brutal “Tamil Tigers,” at least 60,000 young people went missing – taken, it is assumed, either to be killed or put in prison. Since then the mothers have been crying out to know what happened to their children.
God has heard these cries, and now we have, too. Over the past 40 days, as we’ve fasted and prayed, He’s been speaking to me through a number of passages, including Matthew 24:19. “How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers.”
The Lulu Tree’s original mission was “to prevent tomorrow’s orphans by equipping today’s mothers” (now expanded to “families”) through the local church.
Even as we’ve been seeking God’s face for the future of Lulu Tree, we sense a refining, a narrowing again of the vision, focusing not only on places where the soil is rich and deep, ready to receive the gospel, but also, on the most vulnerable – the mothers, and their little ones. As James 1:27 says, true religion is caring for widows and orphans.
We also hear a calling to the “other side.” In Mark 4:35, Jesus tells His disciples to get in a boat and go to the other side of a lake. To get there, they have to pass through storms of hurricane proportions, choosing faith over doubt and fear, to reach a land where great need awaited. Some might have believed the opposing forces meant God didn’t actually want them to pass over to the other side. But Jesus had purpose in their going and in the trials they faced getting there. In The Lulu Tree, we’ve also learned that often these storms are testings from the Lord – sent to train us and refine our faith. In these tests, we discover greater depths of our Savior’s love and power, and once the lesson is learned, like the disciples, we immediately reach the other side.
After Jesus healed the demon-possessed man in the gospel account, the man wanted to stay with Him, but he said, “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” Jesus had given him all he needed to be a witness in his own land.
Similarly, our leaders in Africa are largely able now to carry on the ministry without us. We’ve worked hard to set them up for sustainability, and now it’s time to let them take over, while we get in the boat with Jesus and go where He leads – this time to assist Brother David Senartne in the beautiful but daunting task before him.
We will remain in relationship with our African brothers and sisters, and will still be offering financial support as needed. And we will always be family. This November, in fact, I will be traveling once more to West Africa to check on our brothers in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea. But in the meantime, we are also releasing the work in East and West Africa to those whom God has equipped.
And we are going, in faith, to the other side – to Sri Lanka, where great need awaits. As you have so faithfully before, we hope you’ll get in the boat with us once again. There may be storms along the way, but one thing is certain. We’ll discover greater depths of our Savior’s love and power together. And that’s worth any price we’re asked to pay.