Unexpected Blessings in Sri Lanka3 min read

Once known as Serendip, then later Ceylon, Sri Lanka is the island nation at the eastern tip of the continent of India. Serendip is derived from the English word “serendipity,” meaning “happy surprise” or better yet, “unexpected blessing.”

Lutheran Work

Lutheran work began in Sri Lanka in 1927 as an outgrowth of mission work in India, and missionaries served there until the late 1990s. Most Lutherans in Sri Lanka are located in the central highlands, among the tea plantations. These minority folks emigrated from India, speak the Tamil language, and came from a Hindu or Muslim background. The Sinhala, Sri Lanka’s native people, are predominantly Buddhists, the official religion. Today, the Lanka Lutheran Church is languishing. Because pending legislation may make it illegal to convert from one religion to another, its long-term existence is at stake.

The Greater Need

Although not seeking missionary work at the time, in February 2012, I was contacted and later called by the LCMS Board of International Mission and asked to consider becoming a missionary to Sri Lanka. I accepted the call, and serve to strengthen the Lanka Lutheran Church through preaching and by teaching its pastors, vicars, and laity.

“For Every Season …”

sri-lanka-lcms-02Our thoughts are always on Sri Lanka and what life will be like when we deploy permanently. Everything is exotic and new to our imaginations, so it is startling to remember that life in Sri Lanka is ordinary human life. The very same things that we experience and suffer here in our familiar settings are also experienced and suffered there.

Recently, it has been a shock that we have been confronted with death — the sad and unexpected death of the father-in-law of the President of the Lankan Lutheran Church, Pastor Nadaraja and the death of Mr. Nathan’s younger brother. Mr. Nathan is our LCMS field officer in Sri Lanka. He must now see to the welfare of his brother’s widow and two young children. Thankfully, I was able to visit with both families and preach at Pastor Nadaraja’s church. I also had the honor of conducting Divine Service at Mr. Nathan’s home.

Another aspect of life in a fallen world is sickness. Sri Lankan Pastor Deva was hospitalized during much of my stay. Visiting him in a hospital ward was an experience unlike anything I have ever had! Imagine many beds filled with patients and every patient with several visitors!

Our Next Big Step

The happy surprise and unexpected blessing is that the Lord has chosen our family to fill the needs of those serving the Lanka Lutheran Church. To do real pastoral care in Sri Lanka was a great joy, giving me a little taste of what I hope to be doing daily in the not too distant future. Your prayers are much appreciated for me, my wife Amy, our family, and the Lankan Lutheran Church as it needs particular pastoral care. Great wisdom and insight will be needed to determine how best to guide and teach in this culture and setting.

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About the Author

Rev. Roger James has been an LCMS pastor for over 20 years. For more information on the James’ mission work, visit and be sure to view

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