When tourists’ visit a new exotic destination, they try to cover as many places as they can – beaches, museums, galleries, ancient ruins… Bishop Immanuel had a similar plan when he visited Sri Lanka. Together with District Elder Samuel Ponraj, he traveled across four regions in four weeks and met approximately 1000 church members. Who said marathons were only for runners?
The New Apostolic Church in Sri Lanka spreads across four regions; Avissavella, the central province, which is made of hills and rubber estates; Upcot, upcountry, another hilly area but filled with rolling tea estates; Colombo, the capital, the most populous region in Sri Lanka and Viswamadu, Jaffna, a region that is only just coming out of a long and devastating civil war.
The Bishop had just four weeks to visit all the church members across the four regions, so he decided to spend one week in every region. His schedule was simple: On weekdays he made house visits to church members and on Sundays, he conducted a Divine Service and got to meet the congregation.
Colombo’s Thanksgiving Service
“Our Heavenly Father watches everything,” Bishop Immanuel told the congregation. “Not to judge but to protect. So let us always be thankful.” He based the message on Job 29:24, If I mocked at them, they did not believe it,
And the light of my countenance they did not cast down. He reminded them that God was not just the Creator but the Sustainer as well. Whatever God created was always good, but man’s falling into sin was the beginning of a life full of misery. God wanted to set right the wrong man brought upon himself and He did that by sending His Son who sacrificed His own life so that mankind could be reconciled with God. Through rebirth with water (Holy Baptism) and the Holy Spirit (Holy Sealing), God has made us a new creation. In conclusion the Bishop urged them. “Let us always be thankful for the physical and spiritual creation of God and protect it.”
Warm welcomes and heartfelt hospitality
The Bishop’s house visits were very special moments for most members – they could not contain their joy to have their Bishop in their home. Children showcased their drawings, crafts and sweetly sung Sunday school songs. The adults also had time with the Bishop where they shared their concerns. The youth, too, got their one-on-one time with Bishop Immanuel and gave their inputs on the future of serving. Everybody also got time to share with the Bishop their challenges with regard to the church work. The goal of this tour was personal fellowship, so the Bishop always ensured he was available and accessible to those who wanted to talk privately or those who wanted to just enjoy fellowship with him.
The local ministers from each region accompanied the Bishop everywhere he went. Undisturbed time was slotted out for discussing problems, analyzing them and working out practical solutions.
Many members who had stayed away from church for a while started coming again. Those who were on the fence about church also made a commitment to be regular.
Strategic Planning for Future Success
Youth and children’s programs were planned and changes were made in the music program and youth activities to make them more effective.
As the Bishop’s trip came to an end, he was delighted to see that he had accomplished all he set out to do; know the congregation members personally, have a deeper understanding of the work in Sri Lanka and to work on new strategies to make every ministry more effective.
The Bishop shares with pride and joy, “It was a humbling experience to see the great faith in our brothers and sisters. It was a confidence building exercise for every member, every congregation and the entire country.”