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BMS church plant blossoms in Sri Lanka

We often start things without knowing how they are going to end. But God knows.Western couple with four colourfully dressed Sri Lankan children

In 1812 a BMS missionary arrived in Sri Lanka (known as Ceylon then) and planted a church the next year. Little did they know then that, 200 years on, it would be a thriving church, sending missionaries of its own.

Last October was Cinnamon Gardens Baptist Church’s 200th anniversary. Representing BMS at a weekend of celebrations were Peter and Margaret Goodall. Peter was one of a succession of British ministers to pastor the church – he was senior minister from 1980 to 1988.

At the celebrations, which were also attended by Hindu, Muslim and Buddhist leaders, Peter presented a plaque to the church from BMS and a greeting from General Director, David Kerrigan. He was also invited to plant a cinnamon tree in the church grounds to mark the anniversary.

The church was started in 1813 by BMS missionary the Revd James Charter who moved to Sri Lanka from Burma with his wife and four children. His wife had been unwell whilst he had been doing evangelistic work for BMS in Burma and he hoped that the conditions in Sri Lanka would be more congenial for her.

At first the church met in a warehouse and attracted English and European settlers on the island. The church moved to its current building and location at Cinnamon Gardens in central Colombo in 1877. Beginning as a church primarily attracting English speakers, today it now has an equally large Sinhalese and Tamil congregation.

During Peter Goodall’s time as minister there, the church responded to the needs of the poor around them by providing English lessons and computer training. Today the church helps those who have relatives at a nearby hospital by providing a place to stay the night or a gift towards paying for medicine.

Started by a missionary, the church in recent years has been able to give back to the mission field. In 2010, church member Dinesh (name changed) went to Bangladesh to serve with Sri Lankan mission agency Global Impact. In December 2013, the Church sent Priyanga to serve for two years on the Operation Mobilisation ship, Logos Hope.

Peter and Margaret were thrilled to be present at the 200th anniversary on behalf of BMS. They remember their time serving at Cinnamon Gardens Baptist Church fondly.

'It was a wonderful time,' says Margaret. 'We made some really good, deep friends there and we found it fairly easy to integrate. We found people so welcoming and so helpful. It was a high spot of our lives.'

'It was a happy, blessed experience,' adds Peter. 'Probably the highlight of our ministry together.'

This article first appeared on the website of BMS World Mission and is used with permission

Chris Hall, 25/02/2014
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