'I went back to our house, but there was a massive crowd inside, with guns and knives'
Stanley’s story | Trusting in the rescue plans of God
“My wife and I grew up in Jaffna, Sri Lanka. We married in 1966 and we moved to Colombo, for work. We slowly got involved in the Methodist Church. I became a local preacher for the Tamil congregation and we attended weekly prayer meetings.”
“Then, on July 25, 1983, the children went to school and I went to work in the city, as normal. To my surprise, my boss told me there was trouble brewing. He told me to wait at the office till midday. At midday, I went to the bus stand and there was no bus. I started to walk home. There were shops burning. A Sinhalese man came up to me, holding a knife. He suspected I was a Tamil. Fortunately I knew Sinhalese, so I spoke to him in that language. He believed me, but then, like a fool, I started running … and a group of thugs chased me.
“After some hours, I reached home. My wife and kids were hiding with our neighbour, who was Sinhalese, so I joined them. They had left everything in our house, only bringing our Bible. At 5:00pm, I thought, ‘We don’t have any clothes. We have left our jewellery and money. Why don’t I go next door and get those?’
“I went next door to our house, but there was a massive crowd inside, with weapons – guns and knives. They shouted, “He’s a Tamil Tiger! Get him! Kill him!”
“I hid in a room and then under a bed. I was praying! They smashed the windows and doors. A man came for my head with a stick. Then, at that moment, my neighbour came in and he helped us.
“We all escaped and went to a refugee camp on an aerodrome field. We stayed there for three days and we read Psalm 46 over and over again. Later, our church opened up its premises for people to stay. Friends gave us clothes. People from overseas helped us with money. We had lost our jobs, and our home, and our belongings, everything. After some months, we tried to return to our native place of Jaffna, but that was also difficult. When we got there, our children told us they were being pressured to join the Tamil Tigers.
“So we came to Australia. I had a cousin who sponsored us. When we applied for the papers, I only had one prayer. ‘Lord, let your will be done. If you want us to stay in Sri Lanka, and serve the church there, please show us. If you want us to go to Australia, please open the doors.’
“And God wonderfully opened the doors. We settled in Perth in 1984. Our children were 13 and 15. Not long after we arrived here, we found out about the Tamil Association of WA. They were planning to hold a Carol service at the end of the year, but they had no resources in their heart language, so I volunteered to help them. I had a tape with Tamil songs on it and a Tamil Bible. It was the first ever carol service in Tamil and it was held in the grounds of Curtin University. Reverend Des Fielding of the Uniting Church was also of immense help.
“Afterwards, they all said, ‘Stanley, why don’t we start a Tamil service?’
“That’s what we did. It’s been going now for 33 years. Even some of our Hindu friends come. They remember all the sermons and they can repeat them to me! And our children were able to finish school. Our daughter went on to study medicine, then she and her husband and family went back to Asia, to serve as medical missionaries. We praise and thank God for both our children and grandchildren, who all walk closely with the Lord.
“My favourite Scripture is Isaiah 55:8-9 – ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’
“I know that God’s ways are so much higher than mine. I thought I’d lost everything, but I came to see that ‘everything’ wasn’t actually everything, after all.”