OVER 22,000 people gathered at a rugby stadium to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first Pentecostal missionaries who came to Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) in 1914, the same year the U.S. Assemblies of God was founded.
Many thousands travelled long distances at great personal sacrifice to attend the event at a time when Christian churches are undergoing aggressive persecution by religious extremists. Across Sri Lanka, more than 200 AG churches have been attacked and vandalized, and some have been burned. A number of pastors have been physically beaten and even martyred.
Lionel, a former Buddhist monk who had planted a church in a totally unreached area in southern Sri Lanka, was martyred in March 1988. His widow, Lalani, stayed and continued the work, despite ongoing persecution. The church has since gone on to plant many churches in that area with a combined attendance in the thousands.
AGWM Executive Director Greg Mundis spoke at the event and encouraged pastors to continue to persevere in proclaiming the gospel and establishing more churches. He says, “I was overwhelmed by God’s work in Sri Lanka and by the passion believers had to be together to celebrate. They are putting everything – themselves, their families, everything – on the line to spread the gospel. They are modern-day living martyrs. It was humbling.”
Dishan Wickramaratne, general superintendent of the Sri Lanka AG and pastor of Peoples Church, a congregation of more than 8,000 in Colombo, the nation’s capital, will be speaking at the centennial celebration of the U.S. Assemblies of God in Springfield, Missouri, on August 9.
Recently Pastor Wickramaratne said, “When persecution has increased, we remember what one of our pastors said, ‘If our faith is good enough to live for, it’s good enough to die for.’” AG Centennial