Director of Sri Lankan Bethel Children’s Homes thanks Port Stephens community for decade-long generosity

THE Port Stephens community has played a large part in homing orphaned children in Sri Lanka for the past 11 years.

Money donated for Beachside Christian Fellowship’s gift wrapping service in Salamander Bay Shopping Centre each Christmas is forwarded to the Bethel Children’s Homes in the north east of Sri Lanka.

Fellowship pastor Bill Brill estimated that, in the past decade, more than $70,000 had been raised for the homes through the gift wrapping service.

The efforts of the church and generosity of the Port community were thanked when the director of the homes, Navaradnarajah Somanathan, or Som as he likes to be called, visited Nelson Bay for the first time in September.

“When I heard you have been supporting the children all these years I said I had to come to your community,” Pastor Somanathan said.

“I was longing to come to this place to thank you for your work.

“On behalf of the church, children and staff we really appreciate your help with our work in Sri Lanka.”

The homes were established to house children orphaned during the country’s civil war.

Pastor Somanathan said he saw was struck with a longing to help children he saw carrying weapons and acting as freedom fighters in the jungles of Sri Lanka.

It would not be until many years later that the pastor and his church was able to establish the homes, where about 30 disadvantaged children live.

Through the church network, Beachside Christian Fellowship member Audra McLachlan heard about the homes and wanted to help.

She phoned Pastor Brill with an idea – wrapping Christmas presents in the shopping centre to raise money for the homes.

“I thought ‘that will be a lot of work, we’ll need a lot of volunteers’,” Pastor Brill said.

“But then I thought maybe this is what God wants us to do.

“So, I called the shopping centre and spoke to the manager who had just happened to have a conversation with someone about finding a group to do gift wrapping in the centre.”

During his visit to the Port, where he visited Beachside Christian Fellowship in Taylors Beach, Pastor Somanathan spoke about the success stories to come out of the homes.

After a short stay in the Bay, Pastor Somanathan then travelled to Sydney for a national church conference. 

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