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Rooted in God’s South Asian Field

A letter from Gary and Marlene Van Brocklin serving as Regional Liaisons for South Asia, based in Sri Lanka

June, 2017

Individuals:  Give online to E200365 for Gary and Marlene Van Brocklin’s sending and support

Congregations: Give to D507568 for Gary and Marlene Van Brocklin’s sending and support

Churches are asked to send donations through your congregation’s normal receiving site (this is usually your presbytery).

 


We each carried out our servant assignment. I planted the seed, Apollos watered the plants, but God made you grow. It’s not the one who plants or the one who waters who is at the center of this process but God, who makes things grow. Planting and watering are menial servant jobs at minimum wages. What makes them worth doing is the God we are serving. You happen to be God’s field in which we are working. (1 Corinthians 3: 5-9)

As we finish up four years as regional liaisons for South Asia, we find Paul’s metaphor of being a part of God’s field instructive. We are now sufficiently planted in the churches and ministries of South Asia so that we can more easily feel the joys and pains of our colleagues. Their hopes and dreams have taken root in our hearts and have been watered with mutual respect, prayer, trust and perseverance. Allow us to introduce you to some outstanding ministry partners we have met during these four years.

I (Gary) was first acquainted with Ameet Gabriel through a family I met while teaching at Montreat College. He had been an enthusiastic leader in a church youth group and took a big step of faith when he accepted the weighty position of principal at the Christian Technical Training Center (CTTC), which has over 1,000 students. Now, he is happily married and posts pictures of his newborn son on Facebook. The Training Center is quite popular with many Muslim and Christian youth from the neighboring district, and their annual exhibition of technical projects has been featured on several local television stations. Ameet represents a hopeful future for the Church of Jesus Christ in South Asia. CTTC’s most recent Technical Skills Exhibition featured a total of 491 students. The president of the local chamber of commerce was impressed with the quality of projects and has promised to facilitate the job placement of several students.

Bibhu Singh has worked for the United Mission for Nepal for 25 years. She impresses us with her enthusiasm and competent leadership skills. She inspires us as she seeks to meet the manifold needs of the people of Nepal, one of the poorest countries in the world, who have suffered so much. The United Mission to Nepal was started in 1954 by Presbyterians, Methodists and several other groups who had a desire to care for the people of Nepal and resolved to work together. The initial contact with the isolated kingdom was made in 1949 through a bird-watching visit that was followed up by medical work, which helped gain the trust of both government leaders and village elders. Today Nepal has one of the fastest growing Christian Churches in the world.

We both remember meeting Shourabh Pholia during one of our first visits to South Asia. He was then a trusted aide of the General Bishop of the Church of Bangladesh. Later, we met his talented wife, Suchitra, at a retreat of the Church of Bangladesh. You might remember our reporting on a joint project that we did with the Bible Society of Bangladesh through which we were able to fund an evangelism project using Gospel recordings in small village groups. We were able to accomplish that project because Shourabh was at that time the General Director of the Bible Society. Just a few months ago, Shourabh was appointed as the new Bishop of Barisal, and we are delighted that a gracious man of integrity has been chosen to serve the church in this capacity. 

Maurice and Malkanthi Perera have been the delightful hosts of our neighborhood Bible study of Saint Paul’s Milagariya Church. We have come to cherish our times of Bible engagement and joyful fellowship. Malkanthi is a coconut plantation owner with a compassionate heart for her marginalized compatriots and is always helping someone in need. Ninety-year-old Maurice, a retired high court judge, showed such enthusiasm for studying scripture—even (or especially) during our study of Leviticus! We have such fond memories through these four years of attending concerts together and being privileged to attend Christmas brunch at their house with longtime friends. Sadly, Maurice passed away on a recent Sunday after going to worship. We will miss his enthusiasm for his Lord and his recounting amazing stories of his life that provided fascinating windows into Sri Lankan culture.

When we told some of our friends that we would be in the U.S. for about four months, they readily expressed their concern that we would be away for so long. It is gratifying to be missed on two continents. So we feel planted in South Asia. As we worship with believers who are tiny minorities in the vast urban jungles, and as we share our own joys and sorrows with them, we sense that we all form a part of God’s South Asian field in which has been planted the inestimable gift of faith in Jesus Christ.

We are greatly encouraged by the hospitality we’ve enjoyed as we have met with many of you during our time in the States and by the partnership we have forged with you over the past four years. We have recently signed up for three more years and are so grateful for your support and prayers.

Gary and Marlene


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