A Letter from Gary and Marlene Van Brocklin, serving as Regional Liaisons for South Asia, based in Sri Lanka
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Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
and strengthens the powerless.
Even youths will faint and be weary,
and the young will fall exhausted;
but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40
What a grand vision of the everlasting God who generously imparts everlasting strength! Gary was moved to preach on this grand vision of God for the February communion service at Saint Andrew’s Scots Kirk of Colombo, and we would like to highlight some of the Sri Lankans who demonstrate this strength in a country still weary from 26 years of civil war.
At the end of the worship service, Gary was greeted by the infectious smile of Bhuddika. Bhuddika was touched by the grace of our Everlasting God about ten years ago when he simply walked into St. Andrew’s Scots Kirk with some questions about how to hear God’s voice through the Scriptures. He is a creative videographer and has used that creativity to engage a group of women at a mental health ward in some church-sponsored games and activities. Bhuddika has come to know the Creator of the ends of the earth and God’s Spirit is enabling him to run and not grow weary.
Reverend Devadasan is another Sri Lankan who is running and not growing weary. He is a Methodist pastor who grew up on a tea plantation and now senses God’s call to work amongst the tea plantation workers. We met Reverend Devadasan while hosting a group of PC(USA) visitors charged with the task of exploring Sri Lanka’s commercial supply chains, and he shared his vision of bringing renewed strength and hope to the historically marginalized tea workers who in many ways are people without a country. The original workers were brought from Southern India to work for the British plantation owners and have never been granted citizenship in Sri Lanka even after their families have been picking tea there for over 100 years. We visited a workers’ housing settlement just a few kilometers from the Methodist church and were all well received due to the effective pastoral work of a man with a vital vision of our Everlasting God.
Similar to the plantation workers in Sri Lanka, Santal people were brought from India to Bangladesh to build the railroads and have been a marginalized people in Bangladesh ever since. We were honored to join with Santal believers in the village of Koelhat in northwest Bangladesh. We met for worship under a colorful cloth awning on a piece of property right next to a rice paddy. This plot of land has been donated for the new church building that is being built with funds from the PC(USA). Gary preached in the communion service and Dr. Cynthia Morgan interpreted.
Several people were in attendance from a nearby village who had heard of the Koelhat villagers’ faith in the Everlasting God and were interested in hearing more about this One who renews the strength of these folks who work from dawn to dusk in the rice paddies. The Christians of Koelhat wanted to make sure that we would send their thanks for the contributions of Presbyterians for their church building. Presbyterian World Mission co-workers Doctors Les and Cynthia Morgan continue to visit the many villages of the Rajshahi region, training church leaders in the ministry of healing, visiting and advocating for the care of the sick. In this way, God is giving power to the faint and strengthening the powerless people in this remote area.
A notable change in our ministry is that we will continue our work as regional liaisons for South Asia; however, we will be based in Clovis, California. Some health concerns arose, and our dermatologist suggested that it would be wiser not to live in a tropical climate. Because we have already visited so many of the historically-connected schools, churches, clinics, and seminaries in South Asia, and have developed relationships with the folks involved and are now familiar with the ministries, it will be easier to do our work through Skype, email and regular trips throughout South Asia. Leaving Sri Lanka was not easy since we treasure the relationships we developed during our four years in Colombo. We are hoping that the P—ni refugee families for whom we have cared will soon follow us to the United States of America. We have encouraged them to wait upon the Lord, since they sometimes grow weary of waiting these four long years for relocation despite having refugee status.
Whether in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh or California, we thank the Creator of the ends of the earth for being amongst God’s people who are guided by God’s promises and moved by God’s Spirit to offer divine strength and renewed hope to beleaguered people. Your love, prayers and financial gifts are touching lives and healing hearts. We would appreciate your continued generosity. Bhuddika, Reverend Devadasan and the Santal believers in Koelhat want to assure you that the Lord is indeed the Everlasting God who imparts everlasting life. Thanks be to God for the Church of Jesus Christ worldwide.
Gary and Marlene
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Tags: Gary and Marlene Van Brocklin
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