Suresh Navaratnam

Even as I express gratitude to God for drawing me to put my faith in His son Jesus for salvation, I am always struck with amazement of His saving plan and work. As I look back, the path He chose for me was a means to wean my heart away from the futility of this world and cause me to turn to Him.

I had come under a Christian influence in my early years and have grown up in the surroundings of the wider family many of whom lived in the fear of God, and engaged in private reading of scriptures and prayer. My mother in particular demonstrated this in her personal life. And in her desire to bring up her children in Godly fear, she would even train us in our early years to pray and I remember she would pray aloud while we repeated after her. 

The other significant influence was the school I attended from the age of six for over twelve years. Some of the staff at St Thomas College in Colombo, had a godly influence upon me too. The school had traditions where Chapel services were conducted regularly. An ordained minister from the Anglican Church (employed on a full-time basis) took the services and it was a solemn time which included preaching from the word of God. When I was in year six, a substitute teacher took the opportunity to narrate the main events from the book of Genesis starting from creation over a period of time. The class would have consisted of students who came from other faiths too. It was an absorbing time to hear of the creator God at work and His dealings with man and how His favour rested on Noah to save him from the impending judgement of the world. I wonder what impact it would have had on others, it certainly had me captivated. After I had left school Mr K and I were in the same team on a joint evangelistic outreach mission where he learnt for the first time of my conversion. It was a special moment for me and I am sure it was for him too, to talk about my newly found faith when we journeyed back home in the same bus.

 

 

The above were in God’s good and eternal plan, that whilst still a teenager, He was to bring me to point of conviction of my sin and my desperate need of a saviour, to penetrate the veil of self righteousness and draw me to put my faith in the saviour who died in my stead for my sin, so that I may be spared from the wrath of God which would lead me to eternal damnation. Although I have had not given to much rebellious ways yet I knew the true nature of my heart. I was selfish, self seeking and lusted after the things of the flesh, accompanied with an absence of true satisfaction and peace in my life. I believe that God used my sensitive nature and my self righteous attitude to alarm me and draw me to spiritual things, so that when I was invited to attend a Youth for Christ meeting I did readily accept it. Although such para-church organisations do not embrace all of the scriptural truths, yet the gospel message of salvation was preached at every meeting and made clear in the bible studies conducted. My newly generated spiritual interests at first only directed me to attend a very nominal church regularly and Youth for Christ meetings and also showed much eagerness to listen to any visiting evangelist from overseas. In April 1976 I left St Thomas College and went to Royal College, a school nearer to home. This move I believe had an effect on me, in that I had moved out of a familiar zone and into a new environment perhaps a security which I clung on to whilst I expressed an outward religiosity. 

It became plain that Rom 3:23 included me, and Eph 2:8 left me in a hopeless condition for none of my good works or the appearance of it could reconcile me to God and find peace with Him. I remember coming home after a bible study one evening and having shut the door of my bedroom knelt down and prayed to receive Jesus as my Saviour and Lord. I was now convinced that trusting in Christ for salvation and to come under His lordship was the only way to enjoy a new life and receive a new heart which could only truly please God. 

The Spirit of God had opened my eyes to recognise, at this point, that all my outward works were but empty rituals and before God these were mere filthy rags. All my sincere efforts to lead a good life were wrought with frustration and failure and could have never earned my salvation or merited God’s favour. My spiritual blindness was restored and God had brought me from darkness to light. 

The instructions I received in the scriptures even prior to my conversion was a platform upon which God was to bring increase and growth as a new Christian. Love for God’s word was an evidence of this work of God’s spirit in my life. There was much enjoyment in learning about the God of my salvation and of His dealings with man. I am also thankful to God for the godly men who cared for my soul, who nurtured and invested their time to establish me in the faith and to see Christ formed in me. I remember meeting one of them regularly at 6am on Saturday mornings for prayer and checking on memorised scriptures!! 

The new circle of friends with whom I shared the same faith brought much enjoyment and the means to understand the battles I faced against the wiles of Satan and the struggles as a believer in a secular world.  My former friends found my new interests and values difficult and irreconcilable to my former life. Many of them kept in touch but showed defensiveness or responded with ridicule when they listened to my testimony or any discussion on spiritual matters.

Even after conversion I continued to attend the Methodist church and on some occasions an evangelical church in the evenings. My chief reason to remain with the Methodist church was because of the opportunity to teach the gospel to many unconverted young people who attended the youth meetings. God opened the door of opportunity and the harvest came in plenty. It was a joy to see these youth from the church also turned from their religious ways to put their faith and trust in Christ for salvation. To nurture these young Christians was very rewarding and it deepened my faith due to the discipline involved in preparation for bible studies and one-to-one meetings to establish them in biblical principles. God blessed this ministry and used this as a means to teach me to put my trust in God to work in and through me, leaning upon God for grace to sustain the work, praying for conversions and in answer God would work in these young lives. Many of whom came to put their trust in the saviour have continued to walk by faith in Christ Jesus and are actively engaged in the work in His Kingdom.  

 

Calvary Evangelical Church Brighton England

Migrating to UK was the biggest decision I had taken after my conversion. After harrowing experiences in July 1983 due to the ethnic violence and after having initially taken refuge in the home of a Sinhalese friend and then languishing with fear in a refugee camp, I had set my heart to leave the trouble Sri Lanka to the UK or any other safer country. In May 1985 I phoned Les Hill, Pastor of Calvary Evangelical Church Brighton, and spoke of my intentions, to which he responded by saying “you are most welcome here brother”. I took this as the final confirmation that it was time for me to leave the country. Within a week I was on my way to England and stayed with Les for over two years until I got married. In God’s good design He brought across my path a godly girl in Krishanthi whom I knew back in Sri Lanka and she had come to the UK independently in July 1985. We were engaged in 1987 and married in the same year. 

I was welcomed to the membership of Calvary Church in Brighton in August 1985 and was with the church for over twenty years serving as deacon and treasurer in the last few years. God blessed our time at the Calvary church and it was here that the doctrines of Grace were re-in-forced, and we experienced at first hand when God brought increase to the church both numerically and spiritually. We have many rich memories at Calvary and maintain good Christian friendships with many of those who were there over the same time.  

 

Krishanthi and I recognised personally that a Christian is not immune from difficulties and in fact scriptures are strewn with such accounts of God’s gracious dealings with His children in times of trials and afflictions. The psalmist’s heavenward cries and pleas are the expressions of pain in such sufferings and the comfort and consolation he draws in putting his trust in God. Our experiences include long term unemployment between 1992 and 1995 and have known the sufficiency of Christ in such times and His faithful supply of our needs. 

On returning to employment an opportunity arose to work in Togo, West Africa. It was a wonderful experience of God being our defence and our strength in battles of demanding work patterns and practices and also my frequent falling ill with malaria. In addition to this, there was the struggle to fend off the weight of influence and persecution of an expatriate community, some of whom made up the whole layer of senior management in the company. Despite my refusal to work on Sundays, on a few occasions the company car will be parked outside the church ready to pick me up at the end of the services, on the instruction of the Managing Director requesting my presence for some hastily arranged meeting. Yet in the midst of this we were frequently encouraged by the spiritual yearnings of the local residents and the opportunities which God made available for us to minister in numerous ways.

 We also experienced God’s faithfulness in steering us safely through the time when Krishanthi was diagnosed with breast cancer and whilst she underwent treatment. It was yet another demonstration of God’s infinite mercies and His goodness not only in restoring her to full health but also in bearing us up in our affliction, to provide care for her, the children and self, at the same time sustaining me to keep a full time job. 

We are also full of gratitude to God’s faithfulness in leading us to the Maidenbower Baptist Church where we have enjoyed the blessings of God honouring church practices, Christ centred worship and to sit under sound and authoritative preaching of God’s word by gifted men.