London, the celebrated metropolis of monarchs and majesty, is one the most diverse cities in the world. Home to national treasures such as Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and Kensington Gardens, it’s also home to a wide range of people groups, from all around the globe. Surekha Hulugalle, senior pastor of Living Waters Foursquare Church in Kenton, on London’s northwest side, himself hails from Sri Lanka, and is an example of the rich culture the city has to offer.
“London is a melting pot of different peoples and races,” says the 42-year-old pastor, who moved from his homeland to the UK in 1998. “When they begin to understand that God loves them for who they are, and not for their performance to be accepted by society, their lives will never be the same again.”
The vision of his church, Surekha explains, is simply to help people find Jesus and be set free. “Love God, Love People” is his congregation’s motto. And while the grand melting pot of London represents a great opportunity to do this, it also presents a great challenge.
“Ministry in London is interesting, challenging and tough,” notes Surekha, the father of two sons, Shanendra and Shamindra, with his wife, Chrishani. “In a postmodern era, Christianity is seen as irrelevant and outdated. There is an anti-Christian sentiment in the UK, although it is seen as a Christian country.”
Indeed, according to 2001 census statistics, 71.6 percent of Great Britain’s population described themselves as Christian, while 2.7 percent were Muslim, 1 percent were Hindu, and 1.6 percent belonged to other groups. Just over 23 percent were unspecified or had no religious affiliation.
Surekha and his congregation of around 80 members, however, have seen the power of Christ penetrate the barriers of resistance, bringing hope, healing and reconciliation not only between individuals and their creator, but also between people groups that normally would not associate with one another. Members of Living Waters Foursquare Church have included both Sinhalese and Tamils—people groups who in Sri Lanka were bitterly opposed in a civil war that resulted in thousands of deaths and massive refugee populations.
Physical healings as well as relational healings have marked Living Waters’ ministry in London—in fact, miraculous healings are how the church started. In April 2000, Surekha says, a healing service was conducted with Leslie Keegel, national leader of Foursquare Sri Lanka, who works closely with area pastors and Foursquare Missions International missionaries. Seventeen people received Christ. At the end of the meeting, Surekha announced that church services would begin the following Sunday.
“This of course is not the traditional way of beginning a church,” Surekha shares, “but it definitely was the work of the Spirit!”
Surekha has witnessed many miraculous physical healings firsthand. One former church member, seven years ago, was on her deathbed, suffering from leukemia and unable to move or speak. The pastor and his team went to the hospital to pray for her, and she began to improve immediately. The next week, she was in church.
Just last year, a 36-year-old woman was healed of a brain tumor. Surekha and some church members visited her in the hospital, where she had been in a coma for more than three weeks. They prayed for her and left. That evening, the pastor says, she regained consciousness, and within 24 hours the tumor had vanished. She is now leading a normal life.
“We have another lady who was to undergo a heart pacemaker operation due to an irregular heartbeat,” Surekha excitedly shares. “We prayed for her at one of our prayer meetings before the operation. On the day of her operation, she had been made ready for surgery. But the final checks confirmed a perfect electrocardiogram and a normal heartbeat. The operation was canceled, and she was sent home. She is an active member of our church.”
Training others is another key value of Living Waters Foursquare Church. They regularly mentor young people, meeting with them on a monthly basis for teaching, and then one-on-one throughout the month individually. Their goal is to raise leaders of quality, Surekha says, who will in turn raise up other leaders.
The congregation also reaches out to the area’s homeless population, providing food every Sunday as well as spending time to get to know people on the streets personally. The next step, the pastor shares, is for the church to help them find homes. They plan on starting a Bible study for the homeless, and Surekha says some of their homeless friends have already begun to come to church services.
“Surekha and Chrishani are two of the most dedicated followers of Jesus I have ever come across,” says Kenn Baird, who has served as national leader of Foursquare Great Britain since 2003. “This shines through their congregation, and you will always find them in the midst of human need, ministering the love and transformation of Jesus to anyone in need. They have a wonderful ability to cross cultures and are remarkable encouragers to all around them.”
Kenn has seen remarkable growth in the Foursquare movement in the UK in recent years. When he first became national leader, there were just five small churches in the UK. Now, in London alone, there are 10 churches, and another 13 congregations are scattered throughout the UK. They plan on planting 12 more churches this year.
“All of our churches have both evangelistic and social programs operating,” Kenn told Foursquare.org. “We are winning the British, and also Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims to Christ. There are outreaches to homeless people in London and many of our cities, and a number of family-support outreaches in operation.”
Surekha shares an intriguing insight when he says that there is a general consensus among Christians in the UK that God has been bringing back people from the very nations to which the UK first sent missionaries.
“This is seen as God’s favor over the UK to bring back revival into the very nation that so faithfully planted the seeds of the gospel,” Surekha explains. “We too are part of that fruit.
“People have migrated to London for economic, political and educational reasons,” he continues. “Since these people are away from their native environments and are in a place of need, they are more open to receiving the gospel than they would have been in their own countries. We have experienced this even with the Sri Lankan community.”
And it’s only the beginning, he believes.
“I would like to see our church planting a few multicultural churches in London and other areas,” he shares. “Further, a church that is also training to send missionaries into the field.”
This passion, vision, and heart for healing and reconciliation sees London not as a mere melting pot, as rich as that may be, but as a field ripe for one of the greatest harvests the world has ever seen.
By: Bill Shepson, a Foursquare credentialed minister and freelance writer in Los Angeles