2017 Sri Lanka – Kayc Hilihetule

The day after Christmas, from December 26th to December 31st, a team of New Philly members from Seoul, Busan, and Sydney were sent to the beautiful island of Sri Lanka. The thought of celebrating the Christmas season and bringing in the New Year sharing the Gospel was super exciting, and our team knew our time in the field would be marked with unity. But what we didn’t realize was that the word unity wouldn’t only be for us, but for our entire travel party, which consisted of our New Philly team, our local ministry contact, and his team of Sri Lankan ministry leaders who would accompany us for the whole trip.

From what I know, this was one of the first times a New Philly team had been blessed with the company of a local team of leaders who travelled with us to every town and city to do ministry. Initially in the beginning the local team seemed to be staying at a distance so they could let us do our thing, but we weren’t having any of it. Immediately we got them involved in praying with us and ministering with us, and soon we were all an army of warriors ministering alongside one another. The word unity started to become clearer and clearer over the course of our trip. It meant so much to have a team of local leaders partner with us, give us insight into ministry location, and just be present to answer all of our questions. Each person had a unique smile and gift that we know God will use to continue His work in this nation.

On our first day of outreach we travelled to a church plant in the countryside off the east coast of Sri Lanka. We opened the day by worshipping together, and the children of the church performed a few little dances for us. Shortly after we thought we would return the favor and start with some VBS, or children’s ministry songs. My role on this trip was the VBS leader and so it was my job to get everyone up and excited for the Lord with an easy song and some actions. The children were super active and really eager to learn, they all had huge smiles on their faces and even the adults and elderly in the back were up and ready to shake a leg or two. There is just so much joy that comes from dancing for the Lord, especially when it can remind us that we are all His children. Through VBS we were able to set the atmosphere and let the Holy Spirit fill up the space.

Being the VBS leader for the group I at first felt a bit hesitant, but whenever I felt inadequate or lacked confidence, the Lord kept pulling me out of that place with affirmation and the opportunity to perform once again. This time it was no different. He had given me courage and kept on reminding me that He had given me the gift to perform with excellence and without fear. So from this place I was able to minister through the VBS songs we had learnt before coming on this trip. Little did I know that one of the most epic VBS moments ever would go down- one that even I may have not imagined before coming on this trip.

This would have to be my highlight of the whole trip. Even though there were so many good moments and memories, this one by far takes the cup. The team and I set off with our local Sri Lankan team set off to do outreach at a drug rehabilitation centre. From the moment our bus pulled in, we knew the Lord had already been doing something powerful here. The entrance to the driveway had huge rock faces, with Bible verses painted onto the stone. Some verses looked like they had been painted many years ago. There were also a few well-tended gravestones and memorials in front, maybe from people who had been there before? We weren’t too sure, but we were definitely eager to find out more of what this place was about.

We all jumped out of the bus and went into the main office. There was a man named Manju waiting for us with a big smile. He was the person who looked after the whole place, and began to give us a rundown of its history. This drug rehabilitation centre was founded by an ex-drug lord named Raja who had found Christ while in prison. Raja decided to open up this place for people to be set free from drugs by the power of our Lord and Savior. Manju himself had a radical story- he was once a patient in the centre but had come far from the drug-abused life he had once lived. But Raja had poured into him and discipled him, helping him to recover and eventually be raised up to inherit this ministry. So the guy running it now was once recovering in this place, and now he was running it with the help of other people who had been once been struggling just like him. Knowing these details, we knew this place had to be rich with so many powerful testimonies and testimonies in the making.

Eventually after our first encounter, we were welcomed with a huge feast prepared by some of the center inmates who had once been cooks before they fell into addiction. I remember so many vibrant colors and amazing tastes from this meal. We were shown such sincere hospitality. They were such fun-loving and hospitable people with huge smiles on their faces. After lunch we all gathered around and our team was ready to start our program. The plan was to start off our portion with VBS, specifically the song about the power in the blood of Jesus. But first the men of this centre led worship. Their powerful prayers and voices of praise began to fill the open air. You could almost feel the Holy Spirit moving between these men. The worship was powerful!

One of the local Sri Lanka ministry leaders leaned over to me as they were singing and said that they were singing in their local language about the power of the blood of Jesus. From that point I just thought, “Oh man!” knowing that soon after we would all be dancing together to a song declaring the same thing! It was kind of crazy but more of a confirmation from the Lord to just let loose and let His Glory fill the air. My first thoughts were that these songs are usually for kids, but here I was preparing to lead it for a group of about 40-50 men who were all once drug abusers. No problem, I could already feel the Holy Spirit moving and I knew I should just go with it. So by the time the powerful worship time wrapped up, we announced that our team would now do a song and performance for them. All the men cheered and we went up and did our VBS song, all to the welcoming smiles and applause at the end.

But that wasn’t all. It was now their turn to dance with us, and we were all going to learn the song and moves together. And all these men stood up, ready and eager to get down and boogie! Man, it was awesome to see all these men stand up and pretty much put down any pride, shame, or even embarrassment and just start to dance and sing. As I began to teach the actions and the words, each person in the crowd was following intently. It was almost like things were being broken off, and slowly these men were being clothed with the Lord’s love and joy. After all the moves were covered we were ready for some music! We called out for some of the guys to come to the front and join our team! What joy! Seriously, I have taught dance before, but this was totally different. These men could feel the power of God will them with every move. I could feel it even, and I was so amped as I went back and forth into the crowd, hyping up different people. The vibe was almost like a b-boy battle going down and everyone was so hyped!

One thought that came to mind was that these men felt free, and maybe they felt free because a person like me, a man, can stand up in front of them and just have fun with all the moves and jump around and have no shame in dancing for the Lord. Just maybe. But either way, I knew after we had wrapped up our dance moves, that this very moment would be my personal highlight for this trip. After our time of song and dance, our team leader Sam followed up with a super powerful testimony on the power of Christ to break off addiction. This message was received really well. Looking back, I know for certain that the Lord is dwelling in that place. He is smiling down on all these sons who have turned from their past addictions and are now leading lives that are pleasing to the Lord. I will continue to pray for this rebailitation ministry and the men who are there. I will continue to thank the Lord for always giving me the confidence to walk out the gifts that he has blessed me with. Thank you!