My life as a Christian began by being born into a faithful Christian family and my father, who became a minister. We were four children, two girls and two boys. I was the second in the family and had a major testimony at birth being diagnosed as a stillbirth but lived. Just a few days before delivery, I was given the name ‘Simone’ means “He has heard”, referring to my mother’s prayer. Since my childhood I had always been an introvert and a melancholy person. Until the age of fifteen and until accepting Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, the purpose in life and my journey changed in a total opposite direction academically and in skill. So in this article I would like to share my life experiences with the teachings of the Bible. Finding God helped me find myself and the value of creating me and the cost of my life to be ransomed worthwhile for Jesus’ life.
Over the years many men and women were called to serve the Lord. Commonly men, and uncommonly women who were few as the Bible itself give fewer examples comparatively to men. God called me to serve Him when I was fifteen years old. Till then I was walking a very quiet but faithful walk with the Lord as taught by my mother who was my role model, unaware of the experiences and challenges He had planned for me.
We all know that God created man in His own image and woman from man; which reflects God’s image in both beings. God had a plan for man when he was created! and so is for woman! a special Plan. My childhood experiences in connection with the church and the only child out of the four to be tagged along with my father where ever he went for God’s ministry, God was in action unnoticed, laying path stones toward my future. My plans started into action after getting married to my life partner Clement who is a minister of the Christian Reformed Church in Sri Lanka. Our first calling was in the capital of the country which led us to gain the main experiences within the church frame. Connecting with other denominations, understanding cultures and human status, we thought we were well equipped for our next mission in one of the rural parts of the country. Having very small children we were certain of our calling amidst all negative opinions from our loved once. Why would people react so negatively to a divine calling?
Along the history of time, men and women have been given the opportunity to identify the purpose God had intended for a person. Every person was created either man or woman but uniquely different. Every human had a responsibility to God and also to man or ‘Love God and love man’. Identifying man’s purpose of life started drifting apart as a result of being independent (apart from God) likewise was an independent question, in identifying him by himself. Where God was the prime intention for people, that intention was able to answer the question of the purpose of life and help people be content in life, while others keep on striving through challenges of life trying to figure out their purpose and being discontented with almost everything.
It is quite challenging for a person to wait upon the calling of the Lord and be faithful to His own timing. When you know that there is a purpose and you have the desire to fulfill His calling, it seems to be so irreverent nowadays to just be patient.
Women on the other hand have been able to strive alongside of men, trained to be content and or be satisfied with whatever the future holds as a daughter, sister, wife or mother. We haven’t been given the choice as much as it is, in the present, the acceptance of opinion, or an expression of honor which was otherwise keeping silent for the majority Asian women.
As an Asian Christian Woman leader, I find it hard to change or educate the mindset of my generation, including the women themselves, as to what God intended them to be, rather than the so called fundamental societal norm of ‘no choice’. It is with great honor that I personally believe that God has called women to accomplish the female design in His great Agenda: honoring marital vows, responsibility to family and extended family including in-laws, child bearing, rearing children and fulfilling grandchildren responsibilities. I would call this ‘The primary calling of the divine plan’.
But when it comes to a secondary calling apart from our obligations, the Bible strongly affirms the love for Christ beyond borders and obligations. This would be a ministry of love for Christ, ready to face the worldly war with the enemy. Crucially, many women were obedient and understood the calling from our Lord God with a sound heart for the voice of Christ.
Crucially, meaning by the Word, with all its means; of a worldly view which had been victoriously defeated by the witnessing from the Bible, history and present testimonies. Taking into account examples of the Bible – no woman who loved the Lord ever disrespected or dishonored her husband, household or children, but tried to fulfill the primary calling alongside their secondary calling. Since our primary calling gives value to our secondary calling, this connects all our experiences, faith journeys and life education, and has always been a key point of understanding in the divine calling.
God was equipping me with experiences in understanding the “cry of the women” to freedom. As the letter to Ephesians chapter 3 vs. 12 says ‘In Him and through faith in Him, we may approach God with freedom and confidence’.
We had to minister to a church of Christians in an environment of a highly non-Christian society in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. But the church was always able to witness to the small village where we were stationed. As minister of the church, my husband was called to show love and forgiveness to the society. And my calling was with many underage mothers, women with conflicts in marriages who were always approaching the church as a shelter. I had no experience of so-called counseling or advising. But God was leading me to minister and understand the need of the women of my country.
I approached the village with my academic experiences by teaching the children English and being involved in Montessori approach to education. I was surprised to see the women gathering around just for an ear to hear their burdens. Solutions or no solutions, the need for being heard was a major need. Some women actually thought that it was fate which was making them live in misery with no escape. A religion with hope was always drawing them closer and closer to the Christian community. The church itself was nearly a hundred years old, but wrong ways and sinful living brought a curse upon the church with no blessings. Every single minister himself was falling, no matter who was appointed in the area.
After praying and asking guidance from the Lord, He showed us the wrong ways and the church started confessing and praying. Then, later, the church was blessed and the work of the Lord was in action. It was a crucial, sad, dishonored journey. But, God was glorified and His will was accomplished by just humbling ourselves before Him.
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land” II Chronicles 7:14
“I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security” Jeremiah 33:6
I wish to state that God has always been gracious to use us for His glory in all that we do and say. An example is a woman who once said, “You do not have to tell us or try to convert us by speaking about Jesus, but the work of what you do speaks how Jesus is defined”. Hearing words of hope and changing lives was a positive gift that the vision God gives a person in ministry. But we cannot just determine the results just by a positive outcome, because God works in a different way in all His Sovereignty. His works may be totally different – showing negativity or confusion – but always focusing on the human turning back to his righteous ways. After walking a faithful but challenging ministry with the Lord, He called us to take over a church which was one of our main churches in Christian Reformed Church in Sri Lanka.
After being appointed in Colombo our capital in Sri Lanka, I was able to serve the Women’s Federation of the main body. Having had experience about the women’s needs I was always called towards the needs and strategies of the women of the rural areas of the country. Understanding the calling of the women, the desire of God’s heart when He created women, is only fulfilled by asking God for healing from the emptiness of life. Even though we seem to bring tradition to our own homes, from our generations, and try to evangelize our own children, we forget that God has a unique plan for each and every human being including women apart from all other responsibilities. So it is wise and gives fullness to life and spirit when we accomplish the purpose of life God intended for us.
Since then, I have been appointed as President for the Christian Reformed Church Women’s Federation in Sri Lanka. By this leadership responsibility, God has enabled me and given me the opportunity to go around the island with a team, empowering women in their calling, identifying God’s plan for their life and also living as a witness to Christ in a non-Christian country. I have also been able to work in an inter-denominational circle of women in Sri Lanka. We promote the “world needs a father” and the mother’s involvement in “The female design of God” among many Christian and non-Christian Sri Lankans.
Since my church does not approve of women’s ordination, but has no hesitation for the ministry of women in the church, the women are only involved in lay leadership level. We find that focusing on women’s issues are only handled by the local churches and reaching out when needed is crucial. All ministry strategies and encouragement are difficult to make happen without a female ministry mind. Currently I pray for more women’s involvement in ministry and involvement in our church.
I am currently studying at Colombo Theological Seminary on my ‘Certificate in counseling’ course which would help me communicate, understand and help women in need. It also gives me qualification in methods while serving and solving issues in a right way with God’s wisdom.
Life is a difficult journey without the help of our Creator. I have been challenged, motivated and filled with joy when depending totally on our Lord Jesus Christ – allowing the Holy Spirit to overflow with his work. It is difficult to compare and question men’s authority in our part of the world. But having in mind what God wants us women to do – be submissive to our husband – in the sense, relieves us from all negative thoughts of equality. The negativity of the expectation is withdrawing and malfunctioning due to dysfunction of the spirit in our life. My purpose and intention as an Asian women’s ministry worker is to accomplish the plans of my Creator entrusted to me and to be a trustworthy person to my divine calling in letting other women understand the purpose of the female design their Creator has for them by sharing my testimony. This has led, for me, to “Life & Life abundantly”.
Simone Vishvabharatha (Clement) is Sri Lankan. She is married to Clement Yagarajah, an ordained minister of the Christian Reformed Church in Sri Lanka. They have three children, a son Nathan (14), and two daughters Deborah (11) and Tamara (09). Simone has worked as a Montessori teacher and later on worked in a secretarial profession till she had children. She and her husband have had the opportunity to work in different parts in the country. She has been involved mainly in Church activities as a Sunday school teacher/teacher trainer/ worship leader/chorister and all children and women’s ministry work.
Simone has been appointed as the President for the Christian Reformed Church Women’s Federation in Sri Lanka, which gives her the opportunity to go around the island as a team, empowering women in their calling, identifying God’s plan for their life and also living as a witness in Christ in a non-Christian country. She is studying at Colombo Theological Seminary on her Certificate in Counselling.