In 2001, Pastor Dayaratne and his wife Mala opened the Agape Children’s Village in Sri Lanka, caring for abandoned, orphaned and abused children. Due to government pressure and a media smear campaign, Agape Children’s Village was forced to close in April 2013. Recently Open Doors spoke to Dayaratne and visited the eerily serene Agape Children’s Village, now in decay.
When Dayaratne was born, his family thought he was a curse and at just 10 or 12 years old, they sent him to a Buddhist temple. As a boy, he never felt loved, he shares, “From a young age no one talked to me in a loving way. They treated me like a curse…”
Until he met Pastor Lionel Jayasinghe who accepted Dayaratne as he was, and spoke kindly to him.
After spending time with Jayasinghe and asking questions about his faith in Jesus, Dayaratne came to faith in Christ. When Dayaratne’s family found out about his new faith, they told him not to call them ‘mum’ or ‘dad’ and chased him away from their home, “But I still, I knew that God is good and Jesus is the living God.”
Called to care for abandoned, orphaned and abused children, Pastor Dayaratne and his wife Mala opened Agape Children’s Village in Sri Lanka in 2001.
Starting with only one child, they grew to care for more than 130 children. Regardless of age or background, Pastor Dayaratne and Mala raised each of them as their own. For 12 years, Agape flourished and volunteers flocked to the home. They became ‘home mothers’ for the children. By 2010, Agape was recognised as the best orphanage in southern Sri Lanka.
Due to government pressure and a media smear campaign, Agape Children’s Village was forced to close down in April 2013. The children were taken away – back to their families or even left on the streets, many of them desperately wanting to return to Agape.
The media smear campaign was started by Buddhist monks who were jealous of the children’s village and concerned about the number of children aspiring to become pastors and missionaries. They circulated false accusations about Dayaratne and Agape.
“The media didn’t give me a chance to explain. They didn’t give a chance for the children to say anything,” he laments. “I couldn’t use public transport because I felt like the people around me would beat me or kill me.”
Devastated, Dayaratne has fought hard to appeal the decision and hopes to one day reopen Agape.
For two years, Agape has been closed. Now it’s inhabitants are snakes, monkeys, geckos, and hens. Once filled with the joy of children saved from an underprivileged life, many of the cottages are in ruins, and buildings have been reclaimed by nature. At one point, an elephant even came inside.
As they wait to appeal their case, they continue their work through Agape Without Walls, educating children in rural villages and visiting the children who used to stay with them, now on the streets.
Pastor Dayaratne has an encouragement for Christians around the world, “be strong in the faith even when you are facing difficulties, trials, and painful experiences. There’s no need to worry because God knows everything. The Bible says, He will not allow you to face anything you can’t bear. The Holy Spirit is always with us, comforting us and giving us courage and strength to face these situations.”
Open Doors currently has a writing campaign to Pastor Dayaratne (Australia only, please check your local Open Doors office to see if they have a current writing campaign).
Please send cards and letters by 29 February 2016 to the following address:
Open Doors Australia PO Box 6237 Frenchs Forest NSW 2086
- Do not mention Open Doors
- Greeting cards, artwork by children and postcards are best (send postcards in an envelope, do not write the Open Doors address on the postcard)
- Print clearly in English
- Be brief, encouraging and include 1–2 Bible verses
- Provide your name and country, not your full address
- Do not send money with the letters
- Pray for Pastor Dayaratne and Mala as they face uncertainty with the future. Pray they trust God in His will for them.
- Pray for the children who were taken away – back to their families and left on the streets – many want to return to Agape.
Open Doors serves persecuted Christians in over 60 countries around the world, including Sri Lanka. You can give to Open Doors work in Sri Lanka and worldwide ministry here.
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