By Emily

This summer we fasted and prayed for 40 days, asking God: a) if He wanted the Lulu Tree to continue, and b) if so, where He would have us go. He said: a) yes, and b) to go “to the other side.” And then we felt Him specifically direct us to Sri Lanka, an impression He confirmed as we learned about the economic crisis there. He also led us, through the Scripture reference of Matthew 24:19, to partner directly with the single mothers, giving us a particular burden for those who are pregnant and nursing. 

And as we waited on Him to raise up someone to partner with in Sri Lanka, He gave me this vision:

I saw a candle. And then I saw a gentle Asian woman holding the candle, and she softly took my hand, and guided me down this narrow, bumpy path in the dark, and as we walked, other Asian women who were holding candles joined us. They were humming softly, this beautiful song. Then we came to a clearing, in the dark, and there was a throng of women, a sea of candles, and all the women were singing.

In the meantime, I’d been connected with a godly man doing evangelistic work in South Asia. I asked him if he knew of anyone working in Sri Lanka that we could talk to. He said his wife, Saroja, was from Sri Lanka and had connections with rural pastors. I asked if I could talk with Saroja, and he said yes.

From the moment I met this soft-spoken, beautiful woman, she never stopped smiling. She just couldn’t stop exclaiming how much she loved Jesus. While we talked, her little daughter kept poking her head in and saying, “Hi!”

Saroja grew up in a Hindu home in Sri Lanka, with five brothers and four sisters. Her older sister became a believer first. She tried to convince the family, but they wouldn’t listen. At 16, Saroja was invited to a youth camp, and there, she prayed that if God was truly the One Living God, that she would feel His Living Love inside of her. She said she felt it so strongly – this heat, moving inside of her, and from that moment on she knew He was the only true God.

She went home and told her family that she loved Jesus, and soon her mom and her other sisters became believers too. As she continued her high school studies, she also studied the Bible non-stop. By the end of high school, she told her parents she wanted to pursue ministry for Jesus, full-time. They said no, and that if she did that, she would be cut off financially. 

She pursued ministry anyway, sometimes walking up to two and a half hours “without slippers” to spread the good news. Eventually she did a Discipleship Training School with YWAM and then joined their staff.

I was happy to do anything, like washing the floors to cooking for people – whatever Jesus wanted me to do, I was happy to do it.

She said there were many struggles and persecutions during that time, but she resolved to only tell Jesus about her troubles, and He always helped her.

When I asked her about the situation in Sri Lanka, Saroja said it’s very, very bad. She has a Zoom call weekly with her pastor and his wife from her old village of Rakwana, in the Raphnapura district. 

This pastor discipled her when she was a young Christian. He and his wife are “so, so faithful,”  having served their people for more than 20 years. But many church members have had to stop coming to services, because gas prices are so high and the government has limited people’s consumption of fuel to only 5 liters per week. Sadly, the pastors cannot afford to get together or to visit the church members. 

Saroja began to cry as she recounted her visit to Sri Lanka six months ago – how a mother came up to her weeping, saying she couldn’t afford to give her baby even a package of biscuits. Children are fainting in school because they’re only taking a little bit of coconut for lunch. In her old village there are about 300 people, and 15-20 families are really struggling, especially the single mothers. But even those with husbands are hurting. The husbands are only allowed to make 1,000 rupees daily, but bread costs 350 rupees and 1 kilo of flour is 450 rupees. The wives have started to look for work, too, but there are not many opportunities available.

For the past six months Saroja has been praying fervently about the crisis, again only taking it to the Lord, trusting Him to provide.

We asked her to prayerfully find 20 single mothers who needed help. So she began to work with Stephanie, her pastor’s wife, and together they selected 20 families in dire straits from two different churches, both overseen by Pastor Russell (Stephanie’s husband). All of the mothers are caring for their families by themselves; some have been abandoned by their husbands; some are widows, and others have husbands who are too sick to work, many of them battling cancer or heart disease. 

Because of the extreme nature of these women’s circumstances, we feel it’s not only important to help them to develop sustainable projects, but to provide emergency food packets for one year, to nourish them while they work towards sustainability. A monthly budget was provided by the pastor and his wife to cover the cost of basics, including rice, fish, flour, spices, milk powder, and biscuits. 

Saroja suggested she travel back to Sri Lanka to spend a month with her pastor and his wife, and we agreed. So we assisted with her ticket, and she is there now, connecting with each of these mothers individually, and helping Stephanie to package up the food and deliver it. 

Saroja and Stephanie will also be sitting with each woman and figuring out a sustainable project that would best serve their needs. A microfinance group is the best way of not only assisting these women, but making it possible for the program as a whole to be sustainable, since, when the loans are returned, they can then go towards helping others. Some women might use their loan to purchase a sewing machine; others might prefer livestock, like chickens and cows. Still others might desire a microfinance gift to help with their business of selling baked biscuits and other goodies. 

In addition to material needs, the mothers will be taught the Harvestime theological courses through their churches, in their own languages of Sinhala and Tamil. We want them to be nourished both in body and in spirit. 

We covet your prayers, dear body of Christ, as we venture into this new land, with the Spirit alone as our guide. Not only for us, but for Saroja and Stephanie, and for each of the precious mothers they work with – that all the enemy has stolen from them would be restored and the kingdom would come in great power to the villages of Sri Lanka. 

And we trust that one day we will gather with our Sri Lankan sisters in heaven, a huge throng of women, holding candles and singing together to the Father who sees and loves us all and invites us to share in His beautiful work of making all things new, one flicker of light at a time