2010 Newsletters
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DECEMBER 2010

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Thanksgiving day is past for another year but our thanks for you and to you continues. We are so blessed to have so many who pray for us and faithfully give of finances so that the ministry here can continue. We continue to see God at work in providing all that we need to carry on. We truly thank God for you and all that you do for us! We know and pray that God is blessing you for the blessing you are to this ministry.

Christmas time here is a great time for evangelism in many different ways. People are interested in the holiday we celebrate as Christians and this is the perfect time for us to show the love of Jesus and the message of His love for them. While they may not accept or agree, it does give us more opportunities to openly share with people.

As busy as it will be we are looking forward to the Christmas season and hope that you are too. There are so many things happening around all of us, but we pray that none of these will distract us from the real reason we celebrate, the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus. For too many people it is just another holiday and for some just another day on the calendar. We pray that it will be an extra special day for you filled with joy, love, and peace that only our Lord can give. We pray that you will enjoy God’s blessings this Christmas season and in the new year to come!

Wishing you all a joyous Christmas!

Steve and Shanthi

TEACHING AT THE BIBLE COLLEGE

We spent the first week of November teaching at the Bible College in Valai Chenai.

It was a great time for us and feel it was well worth the effort.

I finished teaching the parables of Jesus which I had started last time we were there, and we began teaching the Life of Christ. We were using a “tree” which showed all of Jesus’ life, teaching, sacrifice, resurrection and second coming. We began with looking at scripture concerning the eternal existence of Jesus and also some of the prophecies concerning the coming of the promised Messiah. It has been a long time since I studied Old Testament prophets so even a brief study was good for me as well.

Our teaching day started at 8:30 and went until 12 with a 20 minute tea break in the middle. Then in the afternoons from 3 to 5:30 with a 15 minute break for tea again, I’m no fan of hot tea with milk and sugar so I always got coffee, but Shanthi had tea which is an “essential” for this culture. Even during the breaks there were discussions and questions being asked and answered, so unless we left the room it wasn’t much of a break for us.

At the end of the week we were worn out but it was a very good tired! I would have to say that for me personally I enjoy teaching more than preaching because I can involve the people more in teaching than during a sermon. In any case the students were very appreciative of our coming and all expressed that they wanted us to come again next year, so hopefully we can work that into our schedule.

NEW PREACHER AND WIFE TO JOIN US

We had mentioned also that a young couple might come here to work along with us.

We met with them again and discussed this possibility. At the end of the discussion we liked what we heard and saw in them, and they committed to come here and work.

Selvakumar and Vasanthithevi, along with their four small children, will move here the middle of December. They couldn’t come sooner as two of the children are in school and they didn’t want to leave so close to the end of the school year, which we fully understand.

We’re looking forward to their arrival in a couple of weeks and beginning to work with them.

Selvakumar has had some Bible college and training for ministry, but there was no ministry opportunity for him, so he’s been working a job to support his family and praying God would open a door for them to work full time in ministry.

We have decided to place them in Periya Kallar even though we also need a preacher in Onthachimadam. The ministry there has struggled for the last couple of years for many reasons. Rather than close this ministry we want them to try to revive and build the church.

Pushpalogini who has been working there will come back to Onthachimadam and work along with us in that ministry.

We really would like a single young man to join us who could marry her which would “kill two birds with one stone”! Anyone there interested in moving to a new culture, learning a new language, taking a wife and working in ministry give us a call!

PLANS FOR NEXT YEAR

At the first of every year we and our co-workers plan out goals for the year and ways they can work to achieve them. This is always a struggle as this culture is too “live life as it comes,” they just don’t plan well even in ministry. We have already begun praying for them in this matter and would appreciate your prayers in this as well. For us, we see so many ways and things they could or should do but we try to lead and guide, not force and push so it’s difficult for us as well.

JUST SO YOU KNOW

We plan to return to the States the last of May or first week of June. My visa expires June 5th so I have to be out of the country before that date. No more definite plans than that at the moment.

For our supporting churches we want to come and share with you what God has been doing personally, so even though there’s lots going on right now it would be good to start making some plans if you want us to come for a visit.

At this time we plan to be in the States through Christmas 2011 (but who knows how that will go).

A SPECIAL THANKS

Many of you have sent special gifts for the Christmas gifts and programs for the Sunday school children and we want to express our thanks for your generosity!

This is always a big boost for the churches each year as many of the parents of the children come for the Christmas programs and they do hear the Gospel! And the kids love getting a gift at Christmas time too.

All the programs will be held the week before Christmas. By the time you read this we will have purchased the gifts of clothes and towels. We’ve actually already purchased the towels but we’re waiting for the company to complete the manufacture the clothes.

God bless you for your help in this project. Please pray that Christ will be exalted through these programs and people will respond to the Gospel!

PRAYER CONCERNS

1. Praise for Selvakumar and family who will come this month to work in ministry here.
2. The Christmas programs to glorify Christ and to be a tool for evangelism.
3. Completion of the Periyaneelavanai building before their program on the 22nd.
4. In December the Bible College students will return home for three months of internship.
5. Goals of our preachers for 2011.

NOVEMBER 2010

Fall has always been my favorite time of year (probably from being raised on the farm in Illinois). Fall is harvest time and we would now finally get to see the results of our spring and summer work.

The work of ministry is the same. We put in lots of work preparing the soil of people’s hearts, planting the seed of God‘s word, cultivating and caring for them spiritually and sometimes physically and then we can only pray and wait for the resulting harvest. Sometimes this process can take years before we see the resulting harvest, but it’s worth the effort to see people accept Christ and be immersed into Him!

This past month we had two in Onthachimadam whom we baptized into Christ. Rathi and her sister Sarah have been coming to church more or less faithfully for four to five years. Rathi had been baptized by sprinkling in another church, and it took this long for the teaching of the New Testament about the proper form of baptism to finally sink in. Regardless of how long it took we rejoice over two new sisters in Christ!

You were a part of this taking place. By your faithful prayers and support for this ministry we are able to continue preparing, planting and caring for the souls of people here in Sri Lanka and in Trinidad.

With Thanksgiving Day just around the corner we are reminded to thank God for how He has blessed us. We truly thank God for you and we know God will bless you for what you are doing to make it possible for us to continue in the ministry here.

WIENER ROAST A BIG HIT

Every month when the full moon day arrives (known as Poya day here), we have our church youth get together for a special day. Usually this involves games, food, as well as special prayer and study time. We try to do something different or go somewhere nearby (like to the ocean) for either the morning or evening.

This month we stayed at the church and had a wiener roast. We had done this several years ago with the youth from all the churches, but now there are so many kids (and we foot the bill for most of the food) so we decided just the youth from Onthachimadam would come. We had a really good crowd, a few new kids came and had a good time, and they all especially love roasting marshmallows! The only real difference is here no one sits around the fire wearing jackets and hats, but still everyone enjoys the time.

Pray that the new youth who came will see the real joy we have as Christians and will want to continue attending our youth services.

TEACHING AT THE BIBLE COLLEGE

The first week of November Shanthi and I will be teaching for a week at the Bible college where we have four young ladies enrolled. We really enjoyed this the last time we taught, and have been looking forward to going again.

Hopefully we’ll have enough time to finish the parables and miracles of Jesus. We didn’t get half way through last time. We hope to be able to start on the life of Christ, which of course would require more than one week. We would then be able to continue teaching this to future classes.


CONSTRUCTION OF PERIYANEELAVANAI BUILDING

We have the building “in the dry” now (roofed and protected from the monsoons). Workers have started electrical wiring, and then we’re ready for the floor and plastering inside and out.

We actually enlarged the building by another ten feet as the congregation continues to grow. We felt that even with the added expense now this will save us from needing an addition in a couple of years as God blesses the work there.

In the photo you can see the preacher’s quarters in the back on the right hand side. Vijay and Ananthy with their two girls have been living there since completion of that phase.


CHRISTMAS IS COMING

We briefly mentioned Christmas last month but want to tell of the impact this has on the communities. The children prepare and present a program which always includes acting out the Christmas story, and we give a short message on the meaning of Christmas. Everyone celebrates Christmas but most don’t know the real reason behind it, so it’s a great opportunity for us to share the message of Jesus with many people who don’t come to church.

Every year we help purchase clothes and other gifts for all the Sunday school children in our churches. The kids who have come for all (or most) Sundays get a set of clothes, shirt and shorts for the boys, or blouse and skirt for the girls. This year those that have begun attending only recently will get a towel. Why give a towel? Most of the families are in such poverty that they cannot afford to have a towel for their children, which then means they do not bathe often! We are not only giving them something to “own” but are also encouraging personal hygiene! We have had parents many times who have come to us and personally thanked us for doing this for their children.

Everyone always enjoys the programs and food and many non-Christians hear the message of Christ, sometimes for the very first time. We have several in the churches whose children came for Sunday school, and then the family came for the Christmas program, and they are now saved and in the church. So it’s an excellent evangelistic tool for us.

Last year we had a wonderful response from you to fund these programs. We realize that financially times are very difficult for everyone now, but if you would like to send a special gift please do so immediately as we have already begun purchasing gifts and need to finish this by the end of November.


INTERVIEW WITH POTENTIAL WORKER

This past week we spoke with a young native couple who may come to work with us in the ministry here. Please pray for God’s will if they are to come and join with us in our work here. We desperately need someone in Onthachimadam before we leave the country next June.


PRAYER REQUESTS

1. Workers to join with us.

2. Christmas programs to honor God, and souls might be won through this effort.

3. More people to accept Christ.

4. Completion of the Periyaneelavanai Building before Christmas.

5. Our teaching at the Bible college during the first week of November.

OCTOBER 2010

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

We’re praising God as we are finally getting some much needed rain and slightly cooler temps the past couple of weeks, and it won’t be long before the monsoon rains begin in our area. When that happens we’ll be wishing for clear skies and warm temps so we can dry clothes--guess we’re never happy when it comes to weather!

We had our family camp this last month which was a real success in many ways (more about that later). But due to the camp our construction was slowed down some, and now we’ll have to race to get things closed in before monsoons begin.

We continue to watch some of the news in the States by internet, especially the economy. We know this affects everyone in one way or another and mostly not for the good.

The economy here according to the government is growing and getting better. How much is actual growth is up for grabs I guess. But I do know that some of our expenses are continuing to grow as well. We do our best to use the funds properly as we will answer to God himself for misuse of funds

We do especially want you to know how much we appreciate your faithfulness to our ministry through prayer and finances. We realize that you give to us, many times sacrificially, so that this ministry can continue. We know God will bless you for your gifts to us.

CHRISTMAS JUST AROUND THE CORNER

This year as in the past we will be giving gifts to all the Sunday school kids from all our churches here. Last years response from you was great!

We hope that you will prayerfully consider how you might be able to help with this again this year. Anything you do will be greatly appreciated by us and especially by the kids and their families.

VBS REPORT

All the churches reported good attendance for the VBS programs, and we thank God for the seeds planted in these young lives. Mahiloor had three different VBS programs as they have more Sunday school programs in the surrounding area. The combined average attendance was 422 kids not counting youth and adults.

Periyaneelavanai averaged 70, and Koddai Kallar had 65 children.

 

Pictures from the Onthachimadam VBS program

FAMILY CAMP

This was the first year that we had a family camp, and it was really good. We had a youth camp a couple of years ago and decided to try something different this time. At first there was some resistance from people saying they had to work, had no money etc. So we didn’t know how well it would go over. But eventually we had 135 registered to go. Then at the last minute (and I do mean last minute) several more decided to come after all. We ended up with 180 people for the camp! This really threw a wrench into the budget, but through your giving God provided! Many who came truly did not have the money so we subsidized their expenses, but every family paid something even if it was a small amount.

The camp itself was held in the central mountain area which is about a mile above sea level, so it was quite cool for everyone, and on the first day we had rain. Along with the teaching and preaching sessions we also had some sight seeing and lots of fun and games. I can honestly say I haven’t heard anything really negative about the camp, even though the buses were very crowded and sleeping arrangements all went out the window with the extras that came at the last minute.

Shanthi’s brother-in-law Rajendram from Colombo, Greysan, a minister from the mountain area, and I were the speakers, and after all was said and done, the families were challenged, encouraged, and blessed by all the sessions we had each day. Several youth and adults came forward on the last night there and recommitted themselves to Christ and to greater service. We also had a few non Christians who also came to the camp, and a few of these are now coming to their respective local churches, for which we praise God.

We all had a good time and it was even very refreshing for us as well to get away from the regular routine and spend lots of time looking into God’s word together.

VERY SAD FUNERAL FOR US

We have had ,a young mother and her children coming to the Onthachimadam church for the last couple of months. She had actually opposed us openly earlier and had chased the kids away from coming to Sunday school.

One of our believers, Vava, had befriended her and slowly she began to open up to the Gospel but her father did not like this at all. He is one of the men in the area who does charms and puts spells on people. Now some of you are saying, “come on get real there isn’t anything like that.” All I can say is come live here for awhile and see for yourself!

This man confronted Vava one day and was scolding her for getting his daughter and her family to come to church. Then he ended it by saying, “starting tomorrow for three days you won’t be able to get out of bed or do anything but lay flat on your back.” She responded with, “My God will protect me from your evil and anything you try to do to me will come back on yourself.” For the next three days this man could not lift his head from his pillow!

He then told his daughter “I’m afraid of Vava and her God, because he is more powerful than anything I can do.” He even went so far as to say he would begin coming to church soon. But Satan was at work also and wasn’t going to let this man go. Three days ago before ever coming to truly know the love of Jesus he hanged himself.

In my “human” mind I thought how influential this man could have been for Christ, but God knows what is best! We are confident that even through what we see as missed opportunity God will use to his glory!

 

PRAYER REQUESTS

1. Continued growth and enthusiasm begun from the family camp.
2. Workers to take on the Onthachimadam church ministry.
3. Construction finances and actual building process to go smoothly.
4. More people to come to Christ.

SEPTEMBER 2010

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

We, along with you, are in the “dog days” of summer. Usually by now it has cooled off some, but it has not so far this year. We did finally get a few days of very welcome rain which helped for a couple of days and gave us a break from having to water the plants and flowers in our yard.

This past month all the churches held their VBS programs, and one is ongoing so we don’t have a full report to make on it just yet. In general the programs went well, had good attendance, and several new children came—so in that sense they were successful, although nothing is ever without problems!

We have also had lots of “extra” bodies here at home because of the school break, and family coming to visit for short stays. Our kids are on a one month break from school and busy driving us crazy at home! We do find plenty to keep them occupied with all that needs to be done around the house, and our older kids helped in VBS programs as well.

With all that is going on we do think of you and pray for you each day, thanking God for your faithfulness in prayer and finances. We pray that God will bless you for your partnership with us in this ministry.

Yours in Christ,
Steve and Shanthi

VBS in Onthachimadam

This is the first year that we held VBS at the church building itself. In previous years we would have it at open lots in hopes of attracting new kids whose parents would not allow them to come to “church.” We decided that now was the time to hold the program in the church building itself. This worked well for us as many of the kids who come to our satellite Sunday school programs came for the first time to the church! In order to get them to the building we provided transportation in the van. Maybe you have seen pictures of “how many people can you stuff into a Volkswagon”?? It was much the same with our van! Kind of nerve wracking to say the least, but the kids didn’t seem to mind as they would always start singing as soon as the van began to move.

We averaged 94 kids each day of the three day program, the lowest attendance was 91. We even had some adults who attended as well! This is higher than our average Sunday school attendance, so we know that there were several new faces coming to the church. We did stories on creation with pictures to color and activities in a small booklet we made and gave to the children (no Standard Publishing here!) All the churches used the same lessons and basic format. Rani, the wife of our Koddai Kallar preacher, wrote the lessons and taught most of the teachers beforehand.

The VBS program did create some problems when some of the village adults began to accuse us of “forcing” the children to become Christians (which is not true—every child that attended did so with parental knowledge and permission).

Three Days of Meetings

There was a mother and son who came from India doing preaching and teaching, and we had heard from some of Shanthi’s family in another town that they were very good, so we invited them to our area. They were indeed a real blessing to our churches in Onthachimadam, Mahiloor, and Koddai Kallar. We did not take them to Periyaneelavanai due to the construction “mess” and lack of space.

 

The Lights Are ON

Last week we finally got electricity at the Onthachimadam church building. This has taken over two months to get done (things don’t happen as quickly as in the States!). But we are rejoicing that we have “juice.” We have been using a long extension cord from a gracious neighbor’s house to run our fan, but we no longer need it! We can now also use our overhead projector for our song service (since we do not have enough hymnals for everyone to use). All we need to do now is finish putting the songs on transparencies!

 

Our Niece Going to University

Our niece Sona who has been with us for the last few years will be going to university this next term. This may not sound like major news, but it is another example of how God works in the lives of His people.

Sona has had multiple surgeries over the last few years attempting to reconnect bone that had never healed from an injury when she was only 3 years old. Consequently she missed lots of school and didn’t do well enough on the final exams to qualify for university. The government has a program for handicapped people to be able to enter university, so Sona applied. We had to take her to Colombo for the interview during the second week of August. When she entered the office, the interviewer told her “you look healthy, you don’t have any problems.” This devastated Sona, especially since this man would determine whether she would enter university or not, and it was obvious that he did not think she fit into the program. We told her to trust God and leave her hopes in His hands.

Two weeks later a letter came saying she was accepted to the university to study biology (here you do not get to choose what to study—the government dictates your studies). Sona was of course ecstatic about her opportunity! All we can say is that God is good, and give Him the honor and praise!

Prayer Concerns

1. Spiritual growth and renewal for those attending the family camp in September.

2. Ministers to accept the work at Onthachimadam.

3. A location for the church to meet in Periya Kallar (we will lose our present location at the end of September).

4. Bible college students returning to school the first of September.

5. Completion of the Periyaneelavanai building.

 

2nd Quarter Financial Report


INCOME: $22173.22


EXPENSES:

OFFICE:

POSTAGE: 88.00

TELEPHONE: 277.63

TONER/INK/PRINTING: 468.61

AUTO EXPENSE: 440.66


CHURCH PROPERTY: $15,000.00


PAYROLL:

NATIONAL EVANGELISTS: $ 2100.00

STEPHEN BYCROFT: $ 7500.00


TOTAL EXPENSES: $25874.90

AUGUST 2010 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

We have started getting a little rain occasionally which has cooled it down somewhat (especially in the nights now so it’s easier to sleep). The added benefit is the water level in our well has stopped dropping. This is always a concern as some family wells go dry during the hot months. By God’s grace ours stayed constant.

We did have to dig the new well at the Onthachimadam church deeper though (which was not unexpected) as we had dug it while we were still getting regular rain. Now that the rain has slowed the well would not be able to maintain water levels, so we dug deeper!

We are at the end of the second school term so our kids are taking their term exams this week and then will have most of the month of August off (which they love-- and what kid doesn’t)! The three older ones have already begun their exams and so far the results have been a little better than last term so we’re happy that the extra time they have studied is paying off.

Each day we are reminded of how God has blessed us with your partnership in this ministry! As we see new people come to church, and Sunday school children being taught by our church members, and as we build buildings and make improvements on others we thank God for you. Without your faithful prayers and financial support we could not do what we do here. Therefore we once again thank you and we give thanks to God for you as well.

There is still so much we want to accomplish here and we feel that the time is so short, both for our personal time here and in that we expect the return of our Lord at any moment. Please continue to support us through your prayers for more workers to labor here in the fields with us!

Your fellow laborers in Christ,

Steve and Shanthi

FAITHFUL MEMBER DIES DURING SERVICE

Ever since we built the small temporary church building at Onthachimadam there was one new “member” who was always there for every service. Without fail whenever we would open the church this one was always present.

A couple of weeks ago in the middle of the service the electricity came on and this member began to spin around faster and faster until he died.

It was a shock to everyone who saw this event (but not everyone did see it, as tree frogs are not very big). That Sunday the frog had perched on the blade of the fan unseen until the force of the spinning blade threw him off, which of course killed him.

I included this just to let you know I’ve not lost all my sense of humor, as demented as it is.

Of late we’ve encountered so many obstacles, but Jesus is faithful and brought us through them all. The news many times is depressing and discouraging but prayers from faithful people have kept us going.

We all face trials and temptations and it is great to know we have a Savior who cares deeply about everything that concerns us, and gives us strength and give us a refuge!

 

SOME NEW FACES AT ONTHACHIMADAM CHURCH

We’ve had a few new people come to services this last month which is always good to see. One lady in particular has been coming faithfully (this is not another tree frog story—HA).

Vijiya comes along with her children to Sunday worship and also mid week prayer meeting. It is a testimony to how God works through people and in people.

Earlier she was the one who had opposed our Sunday school program and forced it to move from different locations. She is beginning to see now how Jesus Christ can help her with the struggles she is facing in her own family. She was befriended by one of the other ladies in the church who testified to her about how Jesus had made the difference in her life. At first Vijiya came with a scowl on her face and would hardly speak. Now she sings the songs enthusiastically even though she doesn’t know them, smiles at everyone and we can hardly keep her quiet.

What a difference Christ can make in a person’s life! Please pray for Vijiya as she comes from an extremely strong Hindu family.


CONTINUED WORK ON CHURCH PROPERTY

We continue to make more improvements on the Onthachimadam property. This month we have put the drainage culvert in the front of the property and hope this next week we will have the permanent electricity hookup, and put what they call gravel here on the lane leading to the church building. Nothing goes as quickly as we would like, but by God’s grace we continue on.


PERIYANEELAVANAI CHURCH THRILLED

We have seen and spoken to a few of the church members at Periyaneelavanai and they are very happy, along with Vijay and Ananthy, with the new building. Even though they are cramped for space they see progress and that has truly lifted their spirits.

The average attendance there has increased even during construction and we praise God for this.

We hope to demolish the old building and begin construction on the worship hall within the next two weeks.


YOUTH SHARE THEIR FAITH

Last Saturday the youth in the churches all went out for witnessing in their respective villages. This is the first time we have had an “official day” for this and we were very happy with the turn out. Pray that God will help them to continue to do this, and that there will be a harvest come from this effort.

 

VBS PLANNED FOR AUGUST

Each year during August, our school term break, we have VBS programs in the churches. We do things similar to what we do in the States but with a few twists for this culture. Everyone is gearing up for this and we are looking forward to seeing new children come for this program and then get involved in Sunday school. Through the Sunday school we then can come and share with the parents about Christ. It doesn’t always work out that way, but it gives us opportunity to share with them and the family.


STRUGGLES FOR PERIYA KALLAR CHURCH

The attendance for the Periya Kallar Sunday school had risen a couple of months ago but now is lower than before. We finally heard through Pushpalogini (our fellow laborer there) what was going on. When she would go to visit the children they would see her and hide, but finally she was able to talk with a couple of the older boys to find out what was happening.

It seems that their school teachers discovered that they had been coming to Sunday school and told them not to come. This is not the first nor will it be the last time we struggle with this.

School teachers are highly respected in this culture, even though most don’t do their job well, and whatever the teacher says the children will do. So word got around quickly and now there are only a couple of kids coming each week.

Please pray for these children and the school teachers as Satan has blinded their eyes to the truth of the Gospel.


PRAYER CONCERNS

1. For workers to take on the Onthachimadam congregation.

2. Our Bible College students home for three months of hands on ministry training.

3. Continuation of construction at Periyaneelavanai.

4. Faithful witness of adults and youth to their communities.

5. People’s eyes to be opened and hearts changed by the Good News of Jesus.


(From Ron and Penny:  Stephen’s birthday is August 15 if any of you would like to send a card or greeting. His mailing address is—              E-mail address--

Stephen Bycroft                              lamplite@sltnet.lk
Kalmunthal
Koddai Kallar (EP)
Sri Lanka

We know he would deeply appreciate a word from home!)

JULY 2010 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As we begin a new month we wish you a happy July 4th! We have been blessed by God for years to live in the country we have. No it’s not perfect--it seems there are many things that are not going well and are “out of whack,” but we need to thank God for the rich blessing of the freedoms we have and enjoy.

I’m reminded of a song that states a very real truth, “freedom’s never free”. The freedoms we enjoy in the States came at a very high cost of lives. I hope that you pray for all the U.S. troops around the world. We may not agree with where they are serving but they are keeping the freedom we have secure. The rest of the song talks of our freedom in Christ, and how our freedom from sin and its curse also came at a high cost, the blood of Jesus Christ. Let’s spend some time thanking God again for the greatest freedom we could ever have!

We as always want to thank you for your prayers and financial gifts to this ministry. We continue to get cards and emails telling us of prayers being offered for us. You can never know how much this means to us. The past few months have had a lot of challenges and difficulties, but your prayers to our all powerful God have enabled us to press on!

So we again say thank you and pray God will bless you as well.

Because of Christ, Steve and Shanthi

(In order to be faithful stewards of what God has provided for us, please let us know if you would prefer an e-mail newsletter rather than a “hard copy” sent to you via USPS. Send us your current e-mail address, and we will add you to our e-mail newsletter list. Besides saving postage, you will get the added benefit of color photographs rather than the printed “black and white” photos!)

PHASE ONE ALMOST COMPLETE IN PERIYANEELAVANANI

Lord willing by the end of next week the first phase of construction will be done! The church will begin meeting in the large Sunday school room, and Vijay and his family will move into the home. We’ve had some delay as money wired from the States seems to be held up somewhere and we have had to wait to complete the project, but we are praising God that through your support and funding this much has been completed! As you can see from the pictures we are making progress!


New Living Quarters at the “Peri” Church


Kitchen in the New Living Quarters

BAPTISMS AT TWO CHURCHES

This past month there were five baptisms at the Periyaneelavanai church. These were people who had been coming to church for several months, and Vijay has been discipling them. We are praising God for how He is working to fill the future building we are constructing.

Subaneethan is a young man in the Periya Kallar congregation. He is married and has a baby daughter. This is one of the extremely rare occasions where the wife was able to influence the man for Christ. Suji was already a Christian and had been a member of the Mahiloor church. I’ve lost count of the number of young women from our churches who marry Hindu men and then fall away from the Lord. It was so refreshing to hear that he wanted to be baptized! They were really struggling financially as he couldn’t find a job. On one visit with them we asked his qualifications and we began to help him search as well. Through another church member, Jeeva, who is a lawyer, we were able to get him a job working at an electronics store in Kalmunai. He has done so well at the job they are now training him for a managerial position in another store in the area. We also helped them find a house to live in, as he and Suji had literally been thrown out of her parent’s home as a result of her faith in Christ. Because of these things (and a lot of teaching) he realized the truth of Christ and accepted Him. This was the first baptism in the Periya Kallar church. There is another young man who says he also wants to be baptized, but he is respectfully waiting for his parent’s permission.


Suji and Subaneethan


NEW SIGN AT ONTHACHIMADAM CHURCH

We found out that the Army wanted us to put a sign up identifying the church (which we had planned to do), but their “suggestion” hurried us along a little bit. After bringing in the rest of the fill dirt we had the sign painted and it is now set in the ground close to the road.

When we purchased this property the owners were very reluctant to reduce their price, but we knew the cost of the required fill and we were able to negotiate a price that would allow us to do the necessary “dirt” work. God worked that out for us as well!

As I and a young man from the church were setting the poles in concrete I could hear the motorcycle riders going by reading the sign aloud as they passed, and many people slow down just so they can read it. I don’t know if any will come to our services just because of a sign, but at the very least it helps with identifying the location.



ALL OTHER GROUND IS SINKING SAND
(not the sign!)

About a week ago we were having a house prayer meeting outdoors at a church member’s home. We were sitting in plastic chairs on the sand. As Shanthi started to get up her chair suddenly sank in the sand and to catch herself she swung her arm around toward me. I was able to keep her from falling but she had hit her hand on the arm of my chair. She was having lots of pain and it swelled immediately. I wanted to take her to the hospital and have it checked but she refused to spend the money for what she thought was only a bruise!

A week later she finally consented to go and the x-ray showed that her hand was indeed fractured. All they could do at that point was tape two fingers together and bandage the whole hand to immobilize it. At least she isn’t having much pain, and it is her left hand so writing and eating are not too difficult, although getting dressed is another story. Please keep Shanthi in your prayers for quick healing and no lingering problems from this broken bone.

PRAYER CONCERNS

1. A preacher to take on the Onthachimadam church.

2. Continued and completion of construction at Periyaneelavanai.

3. For Shanthi’s broken hand to heal properly

4. Praise for the baptisms and for more people to come to know Christ.


JUNE 2010


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

We continue to praise God for how He is working “all things for our good”-- even the things we don’t understand at present are still working God’s ultimate plan so we must praise Him for this!

By the time you read this we will have spent our first of two years here. It just doesn’t seem possible that a year has gone by! And we are looking forward to how God will use us in the following year.

The other day Shanthi and I were discussing this and the question we both had was “what have we accomplished?” I think both of us were feeling the same thing; some of things we had hoped for and prayed for have not materialized. The biggest of these was for us to be able to work in a new village in our area to plant a new church. There has been a new church plant but not directly by us (more on that later). This has been frustrating to say the least, but again we are still praising God for what we have been able to do.

There are some positives, one of which is the much needed building of the new church in Periyaneelavanai. Although not complete yet, within a few months by God’s continued grace it will be a reality.

It seems to both of us that this year has been a real battle. To be honest both of us have had some low times, even wondering if we should continue the struggle. God’s grace has seen us through those times, and we realize that not everything we want to do will work out, and some things will simply fail. In all the fights we have gone through it has made us realize just how much we must depend on God for strength and wisdom to carry on this ministry.

Knowing we have supporters who care about us and the ministry we are doing makes all the difference. You have prayed for us and this ministry and you continue to support us so we can work here. So we say thank you, and we thank God for you as well.

Please continue to remember us and this ministry in your prayers each day!

 

CONSTRUCTION OF BUILDING IN PERIYANEELAVANAI

This month the roof has been built and the clay tiles installed. This is unlike construction in the States even though wood is used. It is more along the lines of the post and beam type construction used in barns a hundred years ago. When the lumber is all in place, it is “painted” with a coating similar to creosote to help deter termites and other boring insects from destroying the wood. This is very important as we learned from personal experience a couple years ago when we had to destroy and rebuild over half of our house due to termite damage. Applying this black coating has to be one of the hottest, dirtiest jobs I’ve ever done (and I haven’t done very much, we hire this done for sure)!

Along with this the rough plumbing and the electric has been installed as well. The masons are to return this next week to begin the cement plastering of the walls’ interior and exterior. After that is complete concrete floors are hand poured, and then finally a thin coat of cement put over the top for a smooth finish. Once this is done we can put the ceiling in the rooms, paint, and start using them. Then demolition and replacement of the church itself can begin.

NEW CHURCH MEETING BEGINS

I know what you’re thinking, not another long name we can’t pronounce! But this one isn’t too bad--it’s in the village of Barathi Puram. This is close to the Mahiloor church but far enough that travel is somewhat difficult. We have been praying about this start up for several weeks now and it has become reality!

I know I haven’t mentioned it before now even as a request, but we were so uncertain if this was the direction we should go. God opened the doors for things to start and so we did. There have been 5-8 adults, about the same number of teenagers, and the younger Sunday school kids.

Dene, the preacher at Mahiloor, his wife Vino, and Dene’s sister-in-law Shareen are the ones who have started this. Shareen has been the Sunday school teacher and the one who has spear headed this plant. She has been and continues to be a real blessing to our ministry. This began as one of the satellite Sunday schools

Presently they meet in a home, and once again we have begun the search for possible property for a future building. We’re not looking hard at this point, but at least we have started the search.

PERIYA KALLAR CHURCH MUST RELOCATE

We have been meeting in the same house for almost two years now and the home owners have said they want us to leave as they intend to sell the house. We’ve looked at other property, considered purchasing this property, or even renting a vacant home which is also a possibility.

We need your prayers for a good decision as we will have to move within the next couple of months. This is one of the things which hinders the growth of that church, as this will be the third time we have had to relocate.


TWO ANNIVERSARIES THIS MONTH

Shanthi and I celebrated our thirteenth wedding anniversary for the second time. We always get to celebrate twice as we had a registration which is the legal wedding date March 12th and then we did a church blessing service May 21st.

We also celebrated the anniversary of Lamp Lighters which we started May of 2000. We didn’t do much in the way of celebrating other than a special lunch with cake for desert, but mainly remembered the days and thanked God for how He has blessed and continues to work in and through us.

TEACHING AT THE BIBLE COLLEGE

We spent three days this month at the Bible college in Valai Chennai teaching. This was a real blessing to us and we think to the students as well. It was almost like a vacation for us as we stayed at the school. Originally we had planned to travel back and forth but the road is under repair and is horrible.

The focus for our study was to be the life of Christ. I taught on the parables of Jesus, and Shanthi taught one afternoon on some of the miracles. The students must have enjoyed it and thought it was worthwhile as they have already invited us to come back, most likely in October of this year.

Our four students are doing well and each time we see them we see more spiritual growth in them. They will be coming home June 1st for the two month term break, and will be working with their home churches once again.

PRAYER REQUESTS

1. The new church plant in Barathi Puram, and for full time workers there.

2. Workers to take over the Onthachimadam church.

3. Property or meeting places for Periya Kallar and Barathi Puram churches

4. Completion of the Periyaneelavanai building.

5. Bible college students and their continued study and growth.

MAY 2010


Most of this month our kids have been out of school as this is their semester break. We had hoped we would have enough time to take them for a day somewhere for some fun but it just didn’t work out--too many things going on it seems. But the kids enjoyed themselves with doing other activities that they don’t normally get to do. One of the things they all like is to watch Christian television programs and videos in Tamil. If they had their way they would sit and watch for hours, but we limit how much time they spend in front of the TV.

This month we had parliamentary elections, and the president’s party won most of the seats, so we have a “new” government now (but I don’t foresee much difference from what it has been for the past few years).

Also Sinhala / Tamil New Year was celebrated for two days (or more) so along with the elections we had about two weeks where not much could get done with church construction (or anything else for that matter).

We always want to express our thanks to you our supporters for your faithful prayers and financial support. We thank God for you and your willingness to share with us so that we can continue the ministry work here and in Trinidad. May God bless you for all you do for us.

DESPITE DELAYS CONSTRUCTION CONTINUES

With the elections and New Year’s Day celebrated this month, construction at Periyaneelavanai slowed quite a bit. We’re still happy with the way things are progressing though for the most part.

The back section, which is the Sunday school area and the preacher’s living quarters, is where we began the work. The block walls are all built and the roof lumber is purchased. The carpenters are to begin today building the roof. To be honest it is at the ugly stage of construction, but we are thankful that things are getting done.

After the roof is finished we will work on the electrical, plumbing, then plastering the walls, pouring the concrete floors, and more carpentry for the ceilings. Once this section is complete we will demolish the old building and begin construction of the church building itself.

We have always faced opposition when we construct a building, so we had prepared for it again this time. But by God’s grace and with a lot of prayer nothing has materialized! Please continue to pray for this as well.

Lord willing we hope to be in the completed building by September.

ONTHACHIMAMDAM “TEMPORARY” BUILDING COMPLETE

We have been meeting in the building for several weeks already, but now we have a functioning toilet, our water well, and flowers planted and in pots outside to decorate. We were able to get the painting mostly completed so the building looks much nicer on the inside as well.

After 80 truck loads of fill dirt (and several days) we have the front portion of the property filled. Now the youth are saying lets have a cricket match! It’s a little rough, but they don’t mind at all. Most likely we will need to bring in another 20 loads to bring it up to a level where it won’t be subject to flooding. In a couple of years we pray the church will have grown to a point where we can build a church building and preacher’s living quarters here as well.

But the greatest story is this. Sazaak, the man we have purchased the fill dirt from, was sharing with us about his family. He is a Muslim, but he married a Tamil lady. He shared about the physical problems his son has as well as many other things going wrong in their lives. We, along with our preacher Vijay, shared Christ with him and he has been bringing his wife and children to church each Sunday since. He won’t come into the services however, as he’s too afraid of what the Muslim community will do and say. Please pray for Sazaak and his family.

PERIYANEELAVANI CHURCH HOLDS CRUSADE

To prepare for this meeting the whole church met for 20 days prior to the revival for fasting and prayer. God truly blessed their commitment and answered their prayers as 21 people have come to know Christ during the three days, and we are confident that many of them will be baptized in the near future.

One lady who had suffered a stroke several years ago came to the crusade and asked for special prayer for healing. She is now walking normally and she has regained complete use of her arm! She comes from a very strong Hindu family, and even with this testimony many in her own family still do not believe in Christ, but she is fully committed to follow Jesus Christ. Everyone attending was amazed at God’s power—yes, God does still heal in miraculous ways!

 

FAMILY CAMP POSTPONED

We had to postpone the camp in Jaffna (northeast coast of Sri Lanka—where much of the civil war was fought) for several reasons, but the biggest one was that I couldn’t attend, and the families didn’t want to leave me here alone. It seems that I can go to Jaffna only with a government permit, but there are conditions for the permit! I would have to drive to Colombo, get the permit, and then fly to Jaffna—the government would not allow me to travel by bus or van. The flight would cost $250, and even though it is only a 45 minute flight it would take 9 hours to go through all the red tape. So the trip was postponed until later this month. The church people were disappointed but understanding.

NOTE NEW E-MAIL ADDRESS!
lamplite@sltnet.lk

PRAYER CONCERNS

  1. Continued progress for construction on Periyaneelavanai building.

  2. Those who came for the crusade to grow and become committed disciples of Jesus Christ.

  3. Family Camp later this month to be a time of spiritual renewal for the churches.

  4. Our kids as they are now back in school.

  5. The government of Sri Lanka to truly put the needs of the people first.

  6. Workers to take over the Onthachimadam church to free us for other work.

 

1st Quarter Financial Report

INCOME: $22,312.85

EXPENSES:
            OFFICE: $ 573.66
            CHURCH PROPERTY: $15,000.00
           
            PAYROLL:
            NATIONAL EVANGELISTS: $ 2,170.00
            STEPHEN BYCROFT: $ 7,500.00

TOTAL EXPENSES: $25,243.66


APRIL 2010

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Well I have intended to write the newsletter long before now but it just hasn’t happened! So when you receive this a little late it’s my fault.

We also want to say Happy Easter to you, and pray that the resurrection of our Lord becomes even more real to you this year, and for His blessing in your life to be extreme!

Last month when I wrote we had gone through so many challenges that I was “down,” but there was an “upside” to it as well. We got lots of emails, cards, notes, and calls from family and friends to encourage us, so we say thank you again for your concern for us and your prayers for the ministry! I have always tried to present things as they really are here in Sri Lanka and it has certainly been a time of emotional trial for us all, but God sees us through every day, and your prayers are a great source of encouragement! In this letter we will share things for which we can praise God.

One of those is you are supporters! We do praise and thank God for you and your faithful prayers and finances for the ministry. It is a blessing to us to know you are praying and that through you God is providing all that is necessary to carry on the work here.

GROUND BREAKING HELD FOR NEW CHURCH

On the 15th we finally broke ground for the new church building in Periyaneelavanai and it was a wonderful morning! We have waited a long time to be able to do this--not just waiting for the approval, but for the church to grow to the point where a new building was necessary.

Laying the First Stone!

The construction includes Sunday school rooms and a house for the preacher and family, all connected in an “L” shaped building. The first phase is the back section of the building which is where the Sunday school rooms and the living quarters will be located. There won’t be any dividing walls in the Sunday school area right now. After this is complete the church will begin meeting there so that the old existing building can be demolished. Then the new worship area will be built. After its completion we will finish the interior of the Sunday school rooms and store rooms.

During the first two weeks the foundation for this back section was completed and has been filled with clay in readiness for pouring the cement floor. The masons are beginning to lay blocks for the walls (with door and window frames built in). As several of the men of the church are unemployed we have hired them as laborers for the masons so the work is going fairly quickly (at least for now).

Shanthi with the Stone Mason

We are praising God for His provision for this building. We still don’t have all the money necessary to complete the entire building but we are confident that God will supply this as well! 

ONTHACHIMADAM BUILDING ALMOST COMPLETE

We are meeting in the building and have been all this past month. All that is lacking is painting the walls and doors and finishing the fence around the building to keep the cows out. We‘re hoping to do the painting this week before Easter Sunday so it will look nicer inside, and the fence also is to be completed this week. We built the church with a three feet high wall and left the upper portion open for ventilation (which is vital as we have no electricity there).

These are our hottest months, already hitting mid to upper 90‘s each day, and it will get hotter yet. By the time the morning service is over my shirt and trousers are completely soaked with sweat. Because of the heat we have seen a drop in Sunday school attendance, but this is normal in the churches as the sun is so intense kids won’t come out. We are seeing some new people come to the services, and even with our limited time in visiting with families we are seeing more interest in the church.

One family, which we made contact with several years ago in Trincomalee, is now living in this area. I baptized them into Christ in Trinco, and they have remained faithful in their walk with Christ. We are so happy to see them join with us in the Onthachimadam congregation!

Onthachimadam Church (minus fence!)

With all the other things we are doing we feel that we are simply maintaining the church, which neither I nor Shanthi like! We are praying that God will bring someone who is faithful to come and take on this ministry.

PLANS FOR FAMILY CAMP

This month plans are made for all the families in the churches to join together for a three day camp. It was decided to go to Jaffna which is a day’s bus ride from here.

Jaffna is in the north where the rebel fighting was taking place last year. Now the area is reopened for travel, and we are going. Along with Bible studies there will be time for some sight seeing. I really don’t know what sights we’ll see, but it will be nice to go to an area where we have never been before. In years past this area has always been off limits for foreigners so I couldn’t go. Now with a special permit from the government I can.

Pray that this will be an encouraging time for the church to grow spiritually.

TEACHING AT THE BIBLE COLLEGE

We have been invited this month to come and teach for three days at the Vallaichennai Bible College (where four of our youth are studying). We are very happy to go and do this, but it certainly adds to our busy schedule. It is a two hour drive there, and we will teach all day, then drive home. They asked us to share on the life of Christ, and I immediately thought of my own Bible college years when I took seven semesters on the life of Christ. Needless to say we won’t cover it all! This will be very tiring for us and so we need your prayers for safety in travel as well as energy to share with the students.



NEWS FROM TRINIDAD CHURCH

We got a letter from Rennie today so thought I would include some of it in this letter.

At our encouragement he has started a home Bible study in a different area away from the church. At the first meeting they had eighteen people come, and the man of the home asked them to have the meeting at his home each month.

Several families left the church, and so once again their attendance is down to 12-13 adults.

Rennie asks for prayer for this Bible study, and the outreach of the church in Trinidad.

PRAYER REQUESTS

1. Construction on the Periyaneelavanai church to go smoothly.

2. New workers to minister with us here, especially in Onthachimadam.

3. Families attending the Jaffna camp to grow in their walk with Christ.

4. Strength for us to travel and teach at the Bible college.

5. The churches in Sri Lanka and Trinidad to grow.

MARCH 2010

As I type this I have just finished listening to a song performed by the group Mercy Me titled “Keep Singing”.  Basically it says that even when things are bad or don’t go the way we hope, we’ve got to keep singing and praising God.  We all face times like this, and how true it is that even when things are not good, God is still on the throne and He is worthy of praise!  His promise is to work all things for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

              Ever since we returned to Sri Lanka last June we have been under attack in ways like never before.  This past month has been an extremely trying one for us (which we will explain later).  To be honest there are times when we felt like giving up and returning home, wondering what we were actually accomplishing. But we’ve got to “keep singing!”  He is the reason we are here and He will never let go of us, He is our refuge and stronghold when all else falls apart!

              We have received a few cards and notes from folks at home reminding us of their prayers, for which we can never say “thank you” enough!  This means more to us than we could ever express.  We do also want to say thank you for your continued financial support for this ministry.  We know the difficult times there in the States and we realize that many missionaries are losing support right now.  All we can say is thank you and may our God supply all you need and more besides!

 

IT’S FINALLY COME

              We’ve been waiting for seven months for the government approval to begin construction on the Periyaneelavanai church building.  This was supposedly only going to take a few days (and I suppose that in light of eternity seven months is but a blink of the eye), but seven months IS a long time here, and now we are rejoicing that this is done and we can begin.

              The church people are excited and have begun clearing the area where the new church will be built, including removal of an old well and filling it in.  We are planning to begin construction early in March, Lord willing of course. 

              This is a much needed building for several reasons: the church numbers continue to grow, the old bakery building (where the church presently meets) is in very bad condition, and the preacher Vijay and his family will get a house in the village where they minister.  Therefore we are thrilled with being able to get started.  I’ll try to do a better job of sending pictures and keep you up to date on the progress.  So many times I think “hey, that would be a good picture to send the supporters back home (if I only had my camera)”!?

              Thank you for making this possible with your support!

 

TWO BECOME ONE

              We’re not talking a marriage of people, but of our Onthachimadam temporary building and Sunday school hut….

              After we purchased the new property for this church we wanted to move the buildings to the new site (yes, we are actually taking the buildings apart and moving them piece by piece).  Then the rains came and slowed our progress--with the rains came the flooding, which we have dealt with over the years.  And with the flooded land came the crocodiles (WOOHOO!).  So we worked out a deal with a homeowner and moved the worship and Sunday school into an unfinished empty house which is adjacent to our new property.  This had worked fairly well until recently.  The homeowner’s son has moved in and is living in one room. He uses the house for beer parties, which is obviously not the best situation for the church.  With the weather finally cooperating, we dismantled the two buildings, hauled them to the new property and rebuilt them.  This time we made one building out of the two and will put a dividing wall midway so worship will be in one end and Sunday school in the other end.  We are also going to attempt to make it more secure.  Our future plans are to eventually construct a new “church building” and continue to use the present building for Sunday school.

 

THINGS ARE NOT ALWAYS AS THEY APPEAR

              Last August a young preacher and family, George and Vathani, came to work with us.  They began working in Onthachimadam and we were very pleased with their attitude, their work, and seeming spiritual maturity.  This is the family we shared about who lost a grandmother and step-father within a month after they came to work here.

              Last month George’s sister-in-law accused him of taking her daughter’s gold necklace (given to infant girls at birth).  We discovered later that he had indeed stolen it.  He had also been accused of stealing some cell phones. Our nephew’s phone was missing from our house, but we had no reason to make a connection with George at that time. 

              George finally came and spoke with us saying that because of these accusations his testimony in the village was destroyed, and he desired to work somewhere else.  We agreed that his testimony was destroyed in Onthachimadam, but at this point there were no other ministries available, and we simply felt it best if he resigned.  We asked George to bring all the church receipts, accounting books, and offering money from the church, which he promised he would do.  His promise was never kept.  After repeated attempts (and many excuses) we finally got some of the paperwork back--no receipts at all, offering book pages ripped out and the book half burned, no records for money we had given for the church Christmas program (or any other church program), and no weekly offering money.  In addition to all this we have now discovered that George borrowed money from three different church members promising to return it within a few days (which he didn’t), and now he will not answer his phone when they call. 

              We still don’t have the money or any idea of actual accounts, but what we have lost is trust, which is far more important than the couple of hundred dollars he stole.

              We are all guilty of sin, after all that is why Christ came.  But it is so sad when a preacher gets waylaid by Satan—not only for the minister, but also for the affect it has on the churches and other workers.

              Shanthi and I have now taken the Onthachimadam church work until we can get another minister in place.

 

ONE LESS COLLEGE STUDENT RETURNS

              One of the five remaining students did not return when the Bible College began the new semester this month.  Instead he eloped with a girl from the church late one night.  Everyone knew that these two young people were a “couple,” but they had agreed to wait to marry until he had finished his schooling.  We found out later that the girl’s mother was the one that forced the issue and began to spread rumors that her daughter was pregnant!  When all this was heard in the village of Mahiloor, the people turned out in force, threatening to beat our preacher and destroy the church building.  The villagers blamed the church for bringing the two together, and for her pregnancy. None of it was true, but that’s how rumors start and how society here reacts to things.  We are saddened by these events, and once again see the harm Satan has inflicted on the reputation of the church by gossip and rumor.  More than that we have lost another set of willing hands to aid us in our ministry here as another young boy has chosen to leave his training for ministry in Bible College.

 

PRAYER REQUESTS

1.  The construction at Periyaneelavanai to begin soon.

2.  Completion of the Onthachimadam church building so we can move into it.

3.  Faithfulness and strength for our current workers, and for new workers to join with us.

4.  God’s wisdom and strength as we continue to deal with George and the aftermath of his theft.

5.  Onthachimadam church to recover and grow in spite of the trouble caused by George.

6.  Our four remaining Bible College students as they continue their training.

7.  Mahiloor church dealing with the false rumors and unhappy villagers.

FEBRUARY 2010


Dear fellow laborers in Christ,

As I write this today we are having presidential elections. This is quite a controversial election as the top general through the war resigned his post and is seeking the presidency. By the time you read this it will be history (except there is always fallout after a major election here). We do pray that God will direct and the man he wants in office will win.

We’ve somewhat recovered from the holiday “busyness” but it seems it has been replaced with new things to keep us jumping, I guess that’s a good thing though.

Over the last few years we have encouraged our preachers to set goals for the coming year and how they will accomplish them. We discussed these in our last staff meeting and they have set some pretty high goals for themselves and for the churches, but that is needed as it is much too easy to just sit back and wait for things to happen, which is the norm for here.  The greatest thing we try to instill in them is their need to pray for God to work in their ministry and the village where they work. We can “do” all kinds of things and never entrust it to God or look to Him for direction. As the churches here grow our preachers are finding this to be true.

We praise and thank God for you our supporters! And we know that you make a sacrifice to support our ministry financially. We pray that God will bless you for that and request that above all you keep us in your prayers.

SLOW DOWN IN GROWTH RATE

This past year we have not seen as many baptisms as we have in the past, but we have had some growth. In fact it had been several months since any of the churches reported a baptism so I was beginning to be concerned. Then this last Sunday there were six baptisms in the Periyaneelavanai church (there were supposed to be seven, but one young lady had a change of heart at the last minute).

All the churches have people in attendance who have never accepted Christ so there is the potential for more in the next few months.

What we have seen is more people getting involved in the work of the church, and not just leaving it all up to the preacher (which is good). And the preachers are doing a better job of training up leaders in the churches.

MAHILOOR CHURCH GOING THROUGH OPPOSITION

We had a special meeting with our preacher Dene and with the village G.S., the man appointed by the government to assist and help the people within a district of their village.  The problem is the G.S. in Mahiloor is making trouble for the church and for Dene. For example, all the people are required to do some community work around and in the community building (such as cleaning, digging etc). Dene was informed he had to come to help. He is more than willing to do so but he is disabled--he has one leg and arm which are somewhat shriveled and is physically unable to do manual work. Dene sent 3 people including his own mother to the center on his behalf and the G. S. sent them back saying Dene had to come personally.  It is “strange” that none of the Hindu temple chiefs or priests are required to do this. But the G.S. isn’t willing to listen to any kind of reason.  The G.S. told us that if we did “anything” in the village it had to be first approved by the District Secretariat and then overseen personally by himself. So on goes the work of Satan to try and destroy what God is doing.

NEW TRAINING STRATEGY

This past month we had a full day training seminar for the Sunday school teachers and youth who want to go to Bible College in the future. This was held for the Mahiloor and Onthachimadam churches and was very well received and attended.  Our plan is to do this one day per month. We felt it was very beneficial and our Koddai Kallar and Periyaneelavanai churches will be beginning theirs this month as well.  We have begun with some very basic teachings and will progress through the months to more in depth studies.

MORE SCHOOL SUPPLIES GIVEN

Last December we were asked by another school in Periya Kallar to help their students with school bags and supplies. With everything that was going on, and wanting to make sure we would have enough funds for the Sunday schools, we waited until January to do this.

It is a very small school with only 32 students--grades one through five.  It was originally started by the Methodist church, but it has long since stopped any help for the schools they started in years past. This is one of the few schools which still retains the Methodist Mission name, as most have been taken over by the government and the name changed.

The principle and the teachers were thrilled that we would help the students in this way. Most of these small schools are totally overlooked by the government and other organizations, and the students in this school come from very poor families so they really needed our help.

COLLEGE STUDENTS DROP OUT

We were so thrilled to report last year we had ten young people who wanted to enter full time ministry and go to Bible College. And I must confess we along with our preachers were proud of this achievement. Maybe this is why we are struggling now with keeping them in school. As the Scriptures teach “pride goes before destruction,” and we see now how true that is.

During the past month five of the original ten have dropped out of the program, some not even giving reasons for their decision. This has been very discouraging for all of us but has made us stop and examine ourselves, our motives, and our training methods as well. We have seen where we failed to adequately prepare them for what full time ministry means, and the sacrifices which must be made many times.  All the students loved the school, but they were not prepared for the challenges they would face personally and in ministry when they returned home during the holiday break.

CONSTRUCTION APPROVAL SUPPOSED TO COME THIS MONTH

The approval to begin construction for the new church at Periyaneelavanai is supposed to come through finally this month but we haven’t seen it yet.  We are ready to begin building as soon as we get the approval, because the congregation continues to grow and the present building continues to deteriorate.  This project will take several months to complete so we want to begin as soon as possible but must wait for the local government approval.

PRAYER CONCERNS

1. Strength for us and the coworkers as we face many areas of opposition.

2. Approval for construction in Periyaneelavanai so we can begin the new church.

3. For the remaining college students to remain faithful to their commitment.

4. God to use the school supply distribution for His glory and the Kingdom’s sake.

5. God to bring more workers for the ministry here.

JANUARY 2010

Lamp Lighters World Ministries - January, 2010

It just doesn’t seem possible that another year is gone, and so quickly too!  We do hope that you had a wonderful Christmas and we also pray that God will bless you abundantly throughout this new year.

              We look forward to the opportunities and challenges that this year will bring as we serve our Lord here in Sri Lanka.  There are always surprises and blessings in every circumstance.  We know that God has great things in store for you this year as you labor for Him and His glory!

              We are so grateful to you for your faithful support and prayers throughout this past year!  You have indeed have been a blessing to many souls here in Sri Lanka as well as in Trinidad.  You have made it possible for us to continue our work in Sri Lanka, supporting the national preachers, as well as many different projects this year.

              May you truly have a blessed 2010!

                                                                                    Yours in Christ, Steve and Shanthi

 

OUR BIGGEST CHRISTMAS EVER

             

              We’ve had a busy month with our five churches each having a Christmas program.  In addition to that we had two schools that invited us to come and share in their Christmas programs, as well as another church which asked us to come and speak at their program.  We also hosted a lunch on the 24th for all our staff and Sunday school teachers (with 50 in attendance), and of course we had our Christmas day services in the churches. 

              Somehow during the month we squeezed two trips to Colombo to get the Sunday school gifts for the churches.  We purchased over 700 Christmas gifts for the children in the Sunday schools.  I wish you could be here to see the expressions on their faces when they receive their gifts.  When we started getting an approximate number of children from the preachers back in October we kept saying where will we get the money to do this!  But God is good and placed the need in so many hearts, and we had more than enough to buy everything--gifts, food items, and even renting a couple of facilities for programs.  We praise God for how He provided everything through you our supporters!

              It was impossible to count the people who attended (you would have to be here to understand why), but we had well over 1,000 people come for the five programs.  At least two of these were standing room only with people on the front porches and looking over the wall in front of the church to see and hear.  At least two thirds of these people are non- Christian (typically Muslim and Hindu).

              We mentioned in our previous letters that this was also an evangelistic outreach as well as this gives opportunities to talk with the family members of the children.  We’ve not heard from all our preachers, but I know that there are new people coming to church already who have never attended before in at least two of our churches.  This is in part from the Christmas programs and gifts given. 

 

LOTS OF FAMILY

 

              Shanthi’s sister Naomi and her husband and their son came to Sri Lanka for Christmas.  This is the first time in eleven years they have been here, so we had all of Shanthi’s family here for Christmas day lunch (it reminded me of our family Christmas in Illinois while I was growing up).  Shanthi has seven brothers and sisters, all married with children, and in addition to that we had some uncles and aunts too.  It was a wild day but very enjoyable for everyone!

 

MORE WORK, FEWER WORKERS

 

              This month John and Thyananthy, who have been assisting in the Periya Kallar ministry, said that they were leaving our ministry to move back to where Thyananthy’s family lives and to work in another ministry in that area.  We had planned to send them to a Bible College this January for more training but that won’t happen now.  John has been with us for five years, and as a couple for a little over two years.

              Pushpalogini who heads the Periya Kallar ministry is also leaving, but for a different reason.  She had never been able to complete her Bible college program at Gospel For Asia because the tsunami of 2004 destroyed the school, and it has just now reopened in Batticaloa.  In January she will be leaving us return to Bible college.  This not only leaves a gap in the ministry but also in our home as she has lived with us for the last five years.  She has done so much work here at our home along with the ministry that we are really going to miss her!  But at the conclusion of her schooling she will be even more prepared for ministry, for which we praise God.

              George and Vathani, who are currently working in Onthachimadam will be taking on the Periya Kallar ministry as these villages are close together and at this point both are relatively small.  We also will be assisting them until someone can be trained or someone can come and join us to take on one of the ministries.  There is a possibility that another couple may join us sometime in January or February.

              Please pray for all of these workers and the adjustments that will need to be made in the ministry here.

             

NO APPROVAL YET

 

              We still do not have approval to begin construction at Periyaneelavanai.  We really need you to pray about this situation!  We have been given verbal approval but with all the religious opposition as well as changes politically in our area we can’t take that risk and simply must wait for the written approval.

              This year the Periyaneelavanai Christmas program was the only one to be held outdoors because the building just wouldn’t hold all the people, and (of course) it rained during the program.  The floor and walls of the present building are deteriorating rapidly, and the building must be replaced soon.

 


PRAYER CONCERNS

1.  For Pushpalogini as she returns to school and our other college students who will return to school in February.

2.  For George and Vathani as they take on more responsibility of two village churches.

3.  Approval for construction in Periyaneelavanai.

4.  More workers and leaders in our churches.

5.  For God’s wisdom and strength for us and our workers throughout this year.



Lamplighters World Ministries primary goal is to go to countries where the gospel has not been preached, or limited work has been done to establish Churches in those countries.  Founders Steve and Shanthi Bycroft work with the people of Sri Lanka.
 


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