Sri Lanka Mission Report: Serving “The Least of These”

Sri Lanka Worship Conference in the Hill Country

Sri Lanka Worship Conference in the Hill Country

‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:40

Right now I’m writing during a rare moment to reflect, sitting outside in the beautiful “hill country” of Sri Lanka.

We’ve just finished the first worship training conference, perhaps ever, in this region. The testimonies from the participants of what the Lord did here was amazing.

The conference was hosted at a nice retreat center near Hatton

Our conference retreat center with waterfall and lush greenery provided a peaceful oasis in the midst of Sir Lanka’s Tea Estate region.

The Backstory

Before coming here, I knew very little about this country, formerly the British colony of Ceylon. It’s an Asian island nation at the tip of India and one of the largest tea exporters in the world.

I had never heard of the “tea plantation” system before this week. Today we visited a “tea estate” next door.

I think I’m beginning to get it.

This is a rural agricultural economy. Generally speaking, many if not most of the people here are poor with little opportunity, limited education and low English literacy.

Tea Estate workers

These the are poor and disadvantaged. They are literally the least of these.

The churches we’re serving are ministering the gospel among some of the lowest members of this society, the tea estate workers.

Tamil Tea Estate Children

Tamil Tea Estate Children

Generation after generation of Tamil laborers have lived in near-poverty working on tea plantations, some for as long as 200 years. Some conditions have improved but, not a great deal.

Typical Tea Estate home is a section of long barrck

Tea Estate homes are on the plantations in a long barrack. Laundry is dried on the roof.

Today I watched a scene that’s been playing out for many years on these hills. Women working on acres of steep tea fields doing what their grandmothers and their mothers grew up doing. Plucking tea leaves by hand, earning $7.00 for a 20 kilo bag, the required minimum. They can earn double that if they pick more, so there is an incentive is to work long and hard.

Most do.

This is truly an under-resourced area of the world. Most are poor. Racial prejudice and social stratification  are engrained in the culture.  Christians are a tiny minority and persecution is a very real and on-going concern.

This is a part of the world where the gospel offers real hope.

You can see that Christians here really love the Lord, and one another.

God is doing a great work here.

The Conference

On this trip, we had the great privilege of not only seeing, but being allowed to contribute to the work of the kingdom in this land.

Our teaching team was led by Tom Johnson; with myself, Elliot Diaz and Anna Johnson teaching biblical and practical leadership principles of worship.

We saw God moving on hearts of participants as they embraced the call to worship as a lifestyle.  Tom opened and closed the conference with powerful, prophetic and challenging messages. We saw the Spirit open up a new level of corporate worship and raise up a new generation of Sri Lankan worship leaders.

Tom Johnson teaching and preaching the opening session

Tom Johnson teaching and preaching the opening session

The conference was translated into the two languages of Sri Lanka – Sinhalese and Tamil.

At our last morning session, I was looking at their smiling faces and greeted them with my best Saturday Night live impersonation of “you look marrrrvleous”.

They laughed. One of the few jokes of mine they actually got.

Teaching with double translation, Sinhalese and Tamil = takes time.

Teaching with double translation, Sinhalese and Tamil = takes time.

In our 8 teaching sessions, I taught 3 sessions on Practical Theology of Worship, a Guitar Workshop, a fourth session on Heart of David, and a practical teaching “How Do You Know If You’re Called To Lead Worship?” We concluded with a panel Q&A session.

Guitar workshop. There's a huge need for instruments and lessons.

Guitar workshop. There’s a huge need for instruments and lessons.

Elliot Diaz taught on the role of the Holy Spirit in worship, character, the pastor /worship leader / worship team relationship and the presence of God in worship.

Anna Johnson taught on unity and servant leadership.

We had a powerful ministry time where we prayed impartation for the participants. Something broke and there was a deep work of repentance for disunity, then an extended response of intercession for the churches and pastors, their villages and nation.

Flanked by our translators, Anna and Elliot take questions. I was tired , so I'm sitting behind them, but I did a lot of talking. :)

Flanked by our translators, Anna and Elliot take questions. I was tired , so I’m sitting behind them, but I did a lot of talking. 🙂

The conference was very well attended by pastors in this area. Currently many of the preaching pastors are also the worship leader. Musicians are in short supply. There is a great need for trained and anointed worship musicians and leaders.

Photo op with a few of the many pastors attending

Photo op with a few of the many pastors attending

Results

At the end of the event, Pastor Yoganathan, leader of a 90 church network sponsoring the event, shared a few words. He said they have done many conferences for pastors and different things, but the feedback from everyone was this was the best conference by far.

Then several people came to the front and gave testimony after testimony of how they had been inspired, encouraged and changed for life.

 

Best conference ever

Best conference ever

The Future

Dreaming out loud. We’ve been invited to return. If the Lord allows, I think it would be great to have a worship conference next year and add an intensive music instruction element. We would need quality worship musicians to come and volunteer as coaches to teach guitar, keyboards, drums, vocals and bass.

Let’s pray about it.

If you’re interested partnering with us, send me an e-mail (see my About page for contact info)

The next generation of passionate worshipers in Sri Lanka

The next generation of passionate worshipers in Sri Lanka

Overall, this was a humbling and incredible mission to experience and contribute to.

Thanks to everyone who supported our work through prayer and financial support. 

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12 thoughts on “Sri Lanka Mission Report: Serving “The Least of These”

  1. Loved the pics and loved to hear about how God is moving in such an impoverished land and people! I know that you were a real blessing to them and they to you! If you ever have a need for kids worship teachers, maybe I'll tag along! 🙂 Blessings and prayers for a safe journey home!

  2. So encouraging to read and see how God is directing your paths this season. I pray the doors of wisdom be opened to you as you seek Him for the next move. Peace, joy, rest, and safe travels home!

  3. Wow Rob, that's quite a different culture than the Balkans! What an exciting opportunity and joy to know God has used you to encourage them. Their hunger for worship, even in the midst of their poverty, is refreshing to see.
    My recent post Eyes on Jesus

    • Hey Beck! There is so much we can learn from other cultures around the world. I'd love to hear more about your trip to Serbia when I get back.Sent from my iPhone

  4. Rob, the pics are awesome! What an amazing opportunity for you and others to have worshiped and taught worship to this remote part of the world! It seems as though we forget the other parts of the world, and almost pretend as if they don't exist. This is wrong! Thanks for opening the eyes of many, including me about the many cultures who need Christ! You are truly gifted Rob! God is using you in a powerful way to bring clarity and insight into what worship truly is! God bless. See ya soon.

    • You're awesome bro! Believers around the world can learn so much from our differences and diversity. Gods grace makes the impossible, possible. Bless you !Sent from my iPhone