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HE SAID TO THEM "GO.." MARK 16:15

 

Sri Lanka

CRC CHURCHES INTERNATIONAL HAS BEEN WORKING IN SRI LANKA SINCE THE MID 1980'S.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE BETHEL CHILDREN’S HOMES SRI LANKA
REGISTERED UNDER “THE DOOR OF HOPE INTERNATIONAL”

 

In 1962 I had an encounter with God and His Word came to my heart. It was clear and precise that one day I would do something for the orphans, widows and the needy. God used the passage from Job 29:13-17 to speak to me.
13: The blessing of a perishing man came upon me, and I caused the widow’s heart to sing for joy. 14: I put on righteousness, and it clothed me; my justice was like a robe and a turban. 15: I was eyes to the blind, and I was feet to the lame. 16: I was a father to the poor, and I searched out the case that I did not know. 17: I broke the fangs of the wicked, and plucked the victim from his teeth. 

In 1993 I made my first trip to Sri Lanka with Trevor Paterson and Neil Milne. I met Ps Somanathan and family. I was impressed with the faith and caliber of Ps Somanathan and touched with the need in his nation. This was at a time when the civil war was at its height.

After reflecting on Ps Somanathan’s request for help and also seeing the pressing needs of his nation, I struggled with what I could do in light of the many things I was already committed to in other nations including PNG. So I decided it would be best for Trevor Paterson or Neil Milne to pick up the responsibility rather than me.

In 1995 Ps Somanathan came to Adelaide Crusade Centre for the CRC National Conference.

Ps Somanathan had an opportunity to share about his nation and his vision to help the children who had been orphaned, displaced and abandoned. 

The Holy Spirit spoke to me clearly, saying, ‘Don’t you mention about your decision not to get involved in that nation because I specifically want you to be engaged there. Do not be afraid for I have much people in that place and no man shall set on you to do you harm’.

So I was now convinced that I needed to help Ps Somanathan in starting a home for the children ravaged and disadvantaged by war. Some of these children had witnessed terrible atrocities and someone needed to rescue, care for them and give them a safe home and hope for the future. We had no money but the children’s plight was enough for me to fulfil the word from Job 29 that God had given to me. 

Eventually someone gave me a small amount of money which I banked and for the next 2-3 years we continued to save until we had sufficient funds to start the first children’s home. To my knowledge this was a first for the CRC. 

The finding of an empty house in an active war zone was the first miracle. Many of the owners had abandoned the village because of the death threats from the rebels. 

We were able to trace the owner of a house who lived in another part of Sri Lanka. He agreed we could rent the house for children, for AUD$200 per year. A personal friend gave the money for the rent for the first year. Subsequently, he continued and added more to assist the children.

After renovations we opened the first children’s home with 11 girls at the beginning of 1998.

We wanted to purchase the house but the owner was adamant he would not sell the family house, as it was where his children were raised before the war. 

But I believed that God wanted us to have our own home and continued to persevere in prayer and confessed to Ps Somanathan that the house will be for sale one day.

In the year 2000 when I was visiting the Philippines, travelling in a taxi from the airport with Peter Hauje, a PNG missionary, he took a call on his phone from my wife Rosalie. She asked if we still wanted to purchase the house in Sri Lanka because Ps Somanathan had contacted her that day to say the owner had agreed to sell. Wow, another miracle!

I made the deal in the taxi and committed to purchase it even though we did not have money at that time.

However, some weeks later, we were able to purchase the house for approximately AUD$10,000.00. Now we had our first permanent CRC home for Sri Lankan children.

In September 2000, we were able to purchase the adjoining block of land for a girls’ home. Over time we were able to build two 4 bedroom homes for the children.

This was all during the war years. The children and staff witnessed bombings, and armed military stationed around the homes. Every night people lived in fear and uncertainty of what might erupt with a clash between the rebels and government military.

One night the children’s home had two hand grenades thrown at it while the children and staff were hiding inside. Windows were smashed and some other damaged occurred but the home continued to function.

Kevin and Brenda Hughes, Rosalie and I, along with Ps Somanathan and staff stayed right through these times for the sake of the children. Ps Somanathan and his family endured greater risks and harassment during these times.

We were joined later by others from Australia - Hans Voortman, Malcolm Taylor and Bryan Grasby. Others from Papua New Guinea and Fiji came to helped in spite of the dangers and risks.

In August 2004 we purchased another property for a boys’ home. This was forced upon us by new government regulations to separate the boys and girls by a minimum of one kilometre.

We officially moved the boys into that property in May 2007. Later we were able to build a new 5 bedroom home and water tower for the boys.

In 2005 we purchased 16 acres of land. This was used for farming and housing for those children who were older and were doing their secondary or tertiary education.

The farm would also be able to contribute to the children’s homes by providing rice and vegetables grown there and this has worked out well even though it is not operating at full capacity.

The children in our homes come from a minority ethnic group of peoples who have been discriminated against and bypassed for many years.

In 2002/03 we purchased a 2.1/2 acre piece of land for another second children’s home in a town called Vavuniya which was the last secured area 15 kilometres from the border between the military and the LTTE. The children in this area also suffered greatly from the conflict and this was a huge refugee area, thousands in make shift camps.

We commence with a small church there on the property in 2003/4 and a couple of years later build a 5-bedroom house for the second Children’s home. We took in our first children in 2008.
As the war ended in 2009 the Government in 2011 then forcefully closed down 19 functioning children’s homes in the town of which we were one. We just had to send the children out into the community for them to fend for themselves. Very heart breaking for Somanathan, his family along with the staff.
Currently after 3 years of applications and much difficulty we were granted a licence to operate a pre-school, which is currently functioning very well.

While the war is over and peace has come to the nation there are, in some places, still thousands of scared and traumatized lives. Children still have to face the aftermath of war, poverty and dysfunctional families traumatized by the conflict.

There is still a pressing need for us to continue to help the children of Sri Lanka as every year there children being brought to us by the Gov. Agency from different areas of Sri Lanka.

Our commitment to the injunction of scripture is clear and we think mandatory upon all of God’s people which is to care for the fatherless & to plead the cause of the poor and needy - Deuteronomy 15:7-11.

7: If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. 8: Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need. 9: Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: “The seventh year, the year for cancelling debts, is near,” so that you do not show ill will toward the needy among your fellow Israelites and give them nothing. They may then appeal to the Lord against you, and you will be found guilty of sin. 10: Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. 11: There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.

Oh behalf of all the children past and present we thank you all for your prayers and financial support over many years but more importantly, for the moral encouragement that you have given to us to continue on regardless of the challenges and difficulties along the way.

PS BARRY SILVERBACK
ON BEHALF OF AND AT THE REQUEST OF PS SOMANATHAN, HIS WIFE PATRICIA AND HIS CHILDREN, JOANNA, MELCKY AND REBEKAH