2017 Sri Lanka – Anja Heenop

The Loving Greatness of God

This was my first and definitely not last missions trip with New Philadelphia Church. With everything in life, I have my expectations. And through this trip God came and blew my expectations away, showing me more than I expected. I had the privilege of being part of God’s movement in Sri Lanka, to be His hands and feet in the nation and to see how God is using the New Philly missions ministry to be a light in the nations. And I can say with confidence: never put God or what He can do for you in a box.

Taking time to prepare for missions was not easy. I kept on hearing the enemy tell me how unqualified I was! I was extremely busy at work and I had no idea how I would be able to raise the money to cover my trip costs. Who would I ask and how would I begin? But a voice whispered in my ear and it kept on increasing in volume, “Anja, do you know who your provider is? Do you know the God of the Universe is your provider?” In that moment I put all my financial trust in God and God alone! And indeed God provided extravagantly, and not just in finances- in every way. This missions trip to Sri Lanka was marked with unity, as our team partnered with a local team from Sri Lanka. We started off as strangers, but now we are all brothers and sisters on fire together for God. Our team shared amazing memories, laughter, long bus rides, deep conversations, and testimonies that have changed the way I will live. I will treasure and remember these moments forever.

God opened my eyes to see who He has made me to be- He has made me to be more than what the world has asked of me. I had been living with different expectations- things I thought I had to do if I truly wanted to be happy. But God took me all the way to Sri Lanka to show me how precious, special, and unique He has made me. And not only that, but He showed me that Christ is truly everywhere. I saw Him in the locals, in Pastor Sarath (our local contact), my team members, and myself. We were all able bodies empowered by Christ to have the amazing opportunity to serve in His name. My faith grew during this time, and my mindset changed from being caught up in this world, to starting to focus more on the movement of God!

On the second to last day of ministry, our team was asked to pray over a house. Usually I would pray and think by myself “It’s just a house. Why do we need to pray for it?” As I was the videographer of the team, I started to take video footage as everyone started to pray. But as I entered one specific room, I couldn’t hold the camera anymore. There I realized that truly our battle was not against flesh and blood. The Holy Spirit stirred up a fire in me, and I prayed like never before. I prophesied God’s light, I prayed in faith, and I prayed powerfully in the name of Jesus. In that moment God said to me, “Anja you know you can do all things in the name of Jesus.” It was a dark room, but I could see in the spirit a small light that had brightened up the whole room!

In my own personal life I had been going through a dark season, but because I have Jesus, nothing can cover the light I have. I kept experiencing the fact that God is the one who is always in control, always faithful, always merciful, and always powerful. The next day, Pastor Sarath shared that the house we prayed over had been used by local people coming and going. All sorts of religious ceremonies had been going on there, and Pastor Sarath had a word of knowledge that a person had been killed in the second room during a period when student activists were tortured and murdered by the police. It was then that I more fully realized that God wants us to warfare with Him. Our prayer and our praise was enough to claim the house for God’s kingdom. Psalm 119:105 kept on being highlighted to me: “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.”

Looking back, nothing about this trip was wasted in God’s eyes. Our team traveled a lot. We had bus rides ranging from anywhere between 2 and 12 hours! But during these times I had the opportunity to share with others how God had been moving in my life. I had time to reflect on all the small blessings and revelations I had missed from this past year. I listened as the local team shared their stories. God even used our travel times to build up and encourage the wider body of Christ.

I’ve also been reminded of the power of unity. Leading up to missions a lot of us got the word ‘unity’ as we were praying. And on the missions field God really showed us the power of unity: how important it is to walk together, have the same mindset, to love and worship the same God. As a team we worshiped and danced together. We did children’s ministry together, shared testimonies in front of large groups, preached about forgiveness and breaking addictions. We prayed and laid hands on people. We led men, women and children to the Lord. We saw big strong men crying before the Lord, lifting their hands up to praise the one almighty God.

Our team was also greatly inspired. We were able to visit a new church plant and a house church. Pastor Sarath shared with us how difficult it is to freely worship in any building. Christians are generally not allowed to worship in a building if they don’t own the ground. Most of the buildings in Sri Lanka are rented buildings. The Buddhist temples have more authority than the police in certain villages, and they will command the people to leave the house or physically hurt the family if they find out that you are praising the Lord in a rented space. Many Christians in Sri Lanka have experienced the most overwhelming hardships, and I feel that they might be tempted to be angry with God. Yet these people were hopeful and steadfast in their Christian faith. I was beyond blessed to hear some of their testimonies, and got to talk with and pray over these amazing men and women. I could talk for days about how awesome these people are.

Our team was blessed, and we also got to bless and give hope to those in the field who felt a bit hopeless. We reminded these sons and daughters that God will finish the work He has started. God loves them. God is in this journey with them, and He will never leave them. Seeing the bright spark in the people’s eyes as we left after every ministry time was priceless. Short-term missions trips are powerful. They are needed to bring concentrated times of refreshing and empowerment to the local church- to speak truth and light into the hearts of local believers. As our team was preparing to leave Sri Lanka at the end of our trip, we kep on being told how God used us to bless all the people we encountered. I rejoice in this, but I will also never take for granted the blessings I received from my brothers and sisters in Christ in Sri Lanka! God is truly an almighty amazing God and I forever want, need, and absolutely desire to live in a state of worship to him!