Rev. V.K. Daniel, Sri Lanka district superintendent, in July was honoured by the Human Rights Organization of Sri Lanka with the “International Excellency” award and gold medal. The award was given in recognition for his commitment and service for community development.
In response to receiving the award, he said, “This is a good appreciation from a well-recognized body and our government for our work with the community. This also gives me encouragement to share the love of our Saviour with many people who are in need.”
Born into another faith, Daniel became a follower of Christ at a youth camp. Two years later, he felt God’s call into ministry.
“I came to the decision that until the end of my life I should serve Jesus.”
At the time he didn’t want to join any denomination, as he feared that would interfere with his vision. So he decided to start and run a church independently.
But he quickly hit an obstacle. The family’s landlord threatened to turn his family out on the streets unless he took over his father’s job in the tea estate. Daniel knew he couldn’t work the long hours his father had done and still be fully engaged in his ministry. Despite his family’s pleas, he chose to stay on the path that God was setting out for him. His calling was affirmed when God provided.
“God listened to my prayers and gave an answer. Our family got a house and I had no problems to continue my ministry. In all the difficulties I have faced since, Jesus was with me. He encourages me and shows me how to get through any troubles.”
An historic meeting
Daniel was 24 years old when he started ministry. He began in a simple but effective way: by building relationships, first with the people in his village, then in other villages. People began coming to his church, and the congregation grew.
While studying at a small, independent theological college, Daniel made an acquaintance who radically changed the extent of his ministry. The director of the Bible college had been contacted by a German missionary who was looking for a way to start Nazarene ministry in Sri Lanka. On 22 November 1999, Dr. Hermann Gschwandtner, at that time Eurasia Region NCM Coordinator and Coordinator for New Church Development, together with the Indian pastor C.S. Dhas, who had agreed to serve as missionary district superintendent for Sri Lanka, met with Daniel at the Bible college.
Despite his initial hesitation to join a denomination, Daniel had also started to feel that it would be good to work under good leadership. So he studied the Manual and read about the Church of the Nazarene.
“I felt like this was what I needed. The vision of the church was very similar to mine. When I talked with Dr. Hermann, I finally realized that God had opened a door for my future ministry.”
Together, Hermann, Dhas and Daniel decided to start two JESUS Film teams in the Badulla area. Less than a year later, on 22 October 2000, the first Nazarene church in Sri Lanka was organized in Hali-Ela: the “Shalom Church of the Nazarene.”
In 2004, Sri Lanka was organized as a district of the Church of the Nazarene, and in January 2009, Daniel became the first indigenous district superintendent of Sri Lanka.
Nazarene church in Sri Lanka today
Today, the Church of the Nazarene in Sri Lanka has spread across the island and has grown to 237 organized churches plus 773 mission churches with 13,140 members. These are served by 22 ordained elders, 27 licensed ministers and 42 lay pastors, with an additional 89 students learning to become ministers through South Asia Nazarene Bible College. (All stats as reported at last district assembly) The JESUS Film ministry currently is driven by 34 teams who share the story of Christ in hundreds of villages every month.
This growth is partly due to Daniel’s vision, which he has shared with others, who have multiplied his ministry in many ways. He is an exceptional example of raising up, discipling, and equipping young leaders. A lot of young people from his church, both men and women, were already pastoring churches and leading prayer groups before they even started theological training through SANBC. It is Daniel’s special gift to mentor and encourage these young people.
Many of the Nazarenes in Sri Lanka today are involved with Nazarene Compassionate Ministries development projects, such as the 36 child development centres that are serving a total of 3,821 children across the island, as well as larger relief efforts like after the 2004 tsunami and the civil war refugee crisis in 2009.
In addition to his responsibilities in the church, Daniel also partners with the local government departments in the region, participates in the Early Childhood Development Authority office of the region for the development of preschools and teachers, and works with government schools and the Regional Education Department for Educational Development. It was partly for this commitment for the development of the community that Daniel was selected to be honoured, together with other individuals from across the country, at the 23rd anniversary event of the Human Rights Organization of Sri Lanka held on 30 July 2017 in Wennappuwa, Sri Lanka.
Daniel says, “My wife Vadani helps very much to do ministry. We have four sons, who are wonderful gifts from God. My whole family supports me in my ministry.”
— Information drawn from Kingdom Advance in South Asia and India, by Dorli Gschwandtner and Sarah Dandge, published by Nazarene Publishing House.