The cross is still standing: Reflections from Sri Lanka

May 1, 2019 by Ryan Hamm in Asia

Open Doors is on the ground in Sri Lanka, visiting those affected by the Easter Sunday bombings. Here is the most recent report from an Open Doors’ field worker, who we cannot name for security reasons:

I’m currently in Sri Lanka because of the Easter Sunday bombings. It is a crisis for the church in Sri Lanka, no doubt, but God has also allowed me to pause and reflect on a big question: What opportunity might God be opening for the Church?

Last April 28, Sunday, exactly one week after the attacks that cost the lives of over 250 people, I attended a church service held in Sri Lanka. Initially, Sunil*, an Open Doors field worker, mentioned that there wouldn’t be as many attendees as normal. His estimate was that only 10 would attend. But, when the service started, there were about 20 to 25, with several new believers too! I was touched by the courageous faith of this small congregation. After the service, we celebrated a little with the completed building of an offering box, courtesy of a new church member who owned a furniture shop.

The pastor who preached was from another local church; his church cancelled services that Sunday, so he was disappointed and had to attend somewhere else. Sunil’s daughter led the worship and we prayed for the country, the government, the church and the victims of the Easter attacks.

St. Sebastian’s in Colombo, Sri Lanka

I visited the Colombo and Negombo areas, two of the places where bombings occurred. While in Colombo, we were not allowed to pass the street leading to St. Anthony’s Church. As we drove around, I took special notice of the white flags put up by Sri Lankans as a symbol of solidarity with the victims. While in Negombo, we were able to drive the perimeter of St. Sebastian church, but it caught the attention of the military guarding the church. We had to leave, but was nonetheless inspiring to see the cross still standing on the roof of the church.

As we drove around Negombo, I shed a few, quiet tears because I saw a poster of a family that died in the blast; Sunil also mentioned a father who committed suicide because his entire family was killed in the bomb blasts.

While on the road, a local believer called Sunil’s daughter and asked if we could make a side trip to her place. The woman had gotten inside St. Sebastian Church a few hours after the blast and saw all the destruction that the bomb left. She couldn’t sleep for a few nights since.

Her family began sharing with us what they had seen and heard. There is a lot of pain, and also anger. Please continue to pray for God’s peace and comfort to be at work in Sri Lanka, to bring hope to the grieving and to bring forgiveness and His calm to angry hearts.

If there is one opportunity that God is showing me while here in Sri Lanka, it’s the opportunity to see for myself His precious, devoted remnant. The bombings, though horrific, has shown how many Christians here continue to persevere. It’s also showing me that Open Doors is on the right track in prioritizing the strengthening of the Christian family in Sri Lanka.

After grieving with and ministering to the victims’ communities, Open Doors has discerned the most important way we can help is by helping with trauma and counseling, and through sustaining presence and encouragement to local church leaders around the country. Please continue to lift up your Sri Lankan brothers and sisters by leaving a prayer on our prayer wall.