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Whose faith follow: Mr George M V Nicholas (1938-2005)

R Rodriguez

George Nicholas was born in Manipay, a village in the Jaffna Peninsula which is located in northern Sri Lanka. His family were regular church goers but unsaved. From an early age George had a keen interest in sports and preferred to play cricket on a Sunday rather than join his family in attending the local Anglican church.

At the age of 19 he was selected to follow a course in Architecture and moved to Colombo to attend University. He then joined the Public Works Department of the Government of Ceylon to train as an Architect. Subsequently he was awarded a British Council Scholarship to complete his education at the Scott Sutherland School of Architecture in Aberdeen, Scotland. By this time he had married Shanta, and they arrived in Aberdeen on a very cold day in September, 1969. A few months after their arrival they were contacted by William and Elsie Kimber who were retired missionaries who had served in South India. George and Shanta, who were feeling lonely, were very happy to be shown hospitality by the Kimbers. The Kimbers invited them to their home every week and while cooking them a curry meal gradually began to share the gospel. George was later to say that this was the first time that they had heard the gospel and the words "Christ died for our sins" and "You must be born again". In 1970 their only son Rajeev was born in Aberdeen. In 1971 Shanta was saved and a few months later George accepted the Lord as his personal Saviour.

In 1972 after completing his RIBA exams George returned to Sri Lanka and started visiting different churches in Colombo. He was unable to find a church where the Word of God was being taught. Finally, one Sunday evening in 1972, he and Shanta walked into a gospel service being held at Bethesda Gospel Hall. After hearing the preaching of the Word that evening George knew in his heart that this was where the Lord wanted them to be. The assembly at that time consisted of only a handful of elderly believers, mostly of European descent. During the sixties many of the believers had been emigrating abroad and in 1971 the last remaining elder emigrated to Australia. George, while being involved in the assembly, started telling his family and friends about the gospel and began to invite them to the gospel meetings. In 1974 his only sister was saved followed by his mother and they both came into fellowship in the assembly. As the years went by many of George’s extended family were saved as a result of his witnessing.

Since Bethesda was the only assembly in the entire country and was small in number, George decided to start distributing Emmaus Correspondence Courses across the island. In 1979 a small office was opened by George and he supervised the work of translating, printing, and distribution of this literature until his home call. In 1979 he and three other brothers were recognised as elders in the assembly at Colombo. However, within the next three years, two of the elders emigrated to Australia and the third left to work in the Middle East.

In 1983 ethnic riots broke out in the country and the homes of Tamils in Colombo were systematically burned down. As houses were burning all around him and as mobs were even outside his doorstep George prayed and asked: "Lord, if it is Your will, save us", and miraculously the mobs did not burn his home down. The week after the riots, many of his family, friends, and other believers started leaving the country to settle down overseas to escape the unrest. With the assembly being further depleted George felt that he and his family should remain in the country to serve the Lord. The following year George received many lucrative offers to take up job postings overseas but he turned them all down as he was convinced that the Lord had called him to serve in Sri Lanka.

In 1988 the Lord raised up other men to serve Him alongside George in the assembly. In 1990 another assembly was planted in Vavuniya and the Lord’s work in the country gradually began to expand even further. In the 90’s Tamil and Sinhalese language assembly meetings were started at Bethesda which resulted in the work growing further. In 1997 George retired after 32 years of service as Chief Architect to the Government of Sri Lanka and he was able to spend all his time in the Lord’s work until the Lord called him home in June, 2005.

After George was saved he became a man whose interests were narrow - the assembly, the people of God, his family, and the welfare of the work of God were his only interests. His conversation centred on these subjects in a sincere and unaffected manner. He lived for the saints. He laboured in prayer as only a real shepherd does. He led by example and by the Scriptures. If one tried to discuss politics, sports, or any other subjects he would bring the conversation back to the Lord.

His soft-spoken, gentle ways combined with humility found him many friends as he was constant and consistent in his ways and temperament. The Latin tag, Semper Fidelis (Always faithful – in the Lord’s matters) was an apt description of this indefatigable and tireless worker of the Lord. His focus was always on the Author and the Finisher of Faith, and he was intrepid in his decisions that he had to make for his Master. A caring and vigilant under-shepherd he always had an attentive eye on the Lord’s flock and never failed to teach and encourage them. He was a kind spiritual advisor and counsellor to troubled souls. He practised charity in secrecy and without fanfare, and in the same tenor was hospitable to the brethren in a most gracious manner. One of his favourite pieces of advice when believers came to him with their varied problems was, "Those who have their vertical relationship right with the Lord will almost always have their horizontal relationships in order".

In his approach and attitude towards the matters of assembly discipline and growth he always had the interests of the Lord before him and would fearlessly decide on such concerns. He was known as one who laboured in doctrine. His favourite verse was Acts 2.42. He stood for his Lord firmly and never compromised His truth for popularity or gain. His faithfulness in the ministry of the Lord was remarkable, consistent, and exemplary. His perseverance, and the manner in which he was preserved in his work by the Lord when, single-handedly and single-mindedly, he had to work alone for many years, were a shining testimony for the Lord.

The Lord’s servant played this role for nearly three decades or so, kept by the power and the grace of God as many witnessed over the years, shepherding the Lord’s flock as "a fragile and broken vessel" and an "unprofitable servant" as he was wont to remark. He was always conscientious and circumspect that no one should steal or diminish the Lord of His glory and place.

During his final years much of his time was spent in prayer and in studying the Scriptures for long hours and the assembly benefited greatly by this.

George Nicholas was "a succourer of many, and of myself also". He was one of whom it could be truly said, "Whose faith follow".


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