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Pastoral Letter - 28 Apr 19                                               

Dear Calvarians, 

Praise the LORD for the two missions teams to the Philippines and Sri Lanka. Pastor Frank Low, in collaboration with Life BPC, led a medical team to the Philippines. This is the first missions team to the Philippines. We took on the missions work after the support for the Hilltop ministry was ceased because Dr Bill Ebert preached at our Bible Conference in 2018. Calvary is glad that such a door is opened to us. If you remember that during the period of our redevelopment, there would be no expansion of our missions commitment. But immediately after Calvary's building project was finished, we prayed that the LORD will give us more missions opportunities, and He opened the door to the Philippines through Dr Ebert and the Hilltop ministries, and the pastors of the Centre for Biblical Studies Institute and Seminary (CBS).


There was a second team led by Eld Vincent Lee and Bro. John Chan to Sri Lanka. I am heartened to see that the team was made up mostly of young people from the YF and YAF, with several of them first time participants to the missions work.

Over a period of three days (10-12 April), they ministered to over a hundred children in hot and humid weather. The theme for the adults conference was "Contending for the Faith" taken from the Epistle of Jude.


The Bible Conference was held at Jaffna College - a Christian university built in the 1800's. The LORD has provided for the Sri Lankan brethren. Even the mattresses they slept on were supplied and delivered by the Sri Lankan army. It was quite a sight to see armed soldiers collecting the mattresses at the end of the Conference when ten years ago, these soldiers would be fighting a war in Jaffna. We thank God for the peace that came to Jaffna that opened the Gospel door to the northern province of Sri Lanka.


The team also joined in the 10th Anniversary Thanksgiving Service on 13 April. Elder Foong Kon Yu also flew in for the auspicious occasion. The Singapore team left Jaffna on 14 April.


Eld Foong, Rebecca and I left for Trincomalee after the morning worship service in Jaffna. We arrived in Trincomalee in time for the evening service held at the Trincomalee City Town Hall. To use a government premise for a Christian gathering would be unheard of either in Singapore or Canada; yet, ironically, this was possible in Buddhist-dominated Sri Lanka.


From 16-18 April, some 40 pastors and preachers met for the ministers' conference in Trincomalee. Again, the meetings were held at a government office - the Department of Agriculture and Husbandry. Over six one-and-a-half hour sessions, we studied the Reformed doctrines encapsulated in the Five Solas of the Reformation.


After the minsters' conference, Rebecca and I headed for Nuwara Eliya for a couple of days of rest. The cool weather of hill country where the tea plantations are located was a welcomed change for us.


Rebecca and I joined our brethren at Norwood for the Lord's Day service (21 April). We are most impressed by the congregation's eagerness to listen to the Word of God and the solemnity of their worship.


After the worship service, we got news of the bomb attacks in Colombo, Batticaloa and Negombo. I was supposed to preach at the church in Wattala that evening. As we were heading toward Colombo, I could sense the panic of the people. The roads were jammed with traffic. The two-lane traffic out of Colombo became three lanes, as cars leaving the capital cut into the oncoming traffic entering Colombo. It took us nearly five hours to reach Wattala - a journey which usually takes less than three hours.


When we approached Colombo, the government had imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew. Hotels were closed except to those with reservations. Our hotel in Wattala had only twenty guests. Most of them had checked out earlier that day. Wattala is less than ten kilometres from Colombo, and from our location, we could see billowing black smoke from the buildings that were bombed.


The next day, Pastors Vijayenthiran and Thayanath sent us to the airport. The roads were less busy than usual. Most of the shops remained closed. Schools which should have resumed on Monday after the new year holidays remained shut. Armed soldiers were visible at important buildings and public places. No private vehicles were allowed near the terminal because a bomb was earlier defused. We were dropped off half a kilometre from the airport, making our wat to the terminal on foot. Our flight out of Colombo was scheduled at 8:30pm, and we spent the next five hours at the Bandaranaike International Airport waiting for security clearance. We finally left Sri Lanka at 9:00pm, at the same time, praying for Pastors Vijayenthiran and Thayanath as they headed north to Jaffna and Trincomalee. Thank God that they have arrived home safely.


Through it all, we know that we are under the watchful eye of the LORD. We know that we are covered by the prayers of God's people. The Sri Lankan brethren were equally concerned for our safety, often calling Pastor Vijayenthiran to check on us.


The attacks on Easter Sunday morning were the first bombings since the cessation of the civil war in Sri Lanka in 2009. However, the attacks this time are different. In the past, it was a civil war fought between the separatist Tamils in the northern provinces and the Sri Lankan government. It was political struggle. The attacks this time have religious overtones because the attacks were targeted at churches - two prominent Catholic churches in Colombo and Negombo, and a large Charismatic church in Batticaloa - on Easter Sunday.


A decade long peace in Sri Lanka was shattered by the wickedness of men. However, as I reminded the Sri Lanka brethren on the occasion of their tenth anniversary that the Trinity Reformed Presbyterian Church was established in the midst of turmoil, so this latest round of bomb attacks will not hinder the work of God. As I parted with Pastors Vijayenthiran and Thayanath, I shared with them from Psalm 76:10 - "Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain." I know God will overrule the depravity and the wickedness of men for His own glory and for the good of His people.


Remember to pray for our Sri Lankan brethren that they may continue to have the boldness to preach the Gospel in these troubled times.  

Lovingly in Christ,

Pastor Isaac




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