Jayawardhana Christmas Letter 2023

Dear Friends & Family,

2023 has been the most challenging year to date that we (PJ and Gwenda) have both faced. But we are so thankful for how our faith, trust in, and love of God has been greatly strengthened throughout this year and ‘we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose’ (Rom 8:28 ESV).

PJ (Giga)
continued to make a great recovery this year after his November 2022 stroke. Although going through the public healthcare system has been incredibly slow in getting referrals for specialist appointments, we are thankful that PJ has not needed to rely heavily on these to see his progress and recovery continue (thank you for your prayers!). PJ remained in his role as Chairperson for Compass – finances God’s way Australia this year and continued in his role as Treasurer of the NEB Church Diaconate, Nundah for most of the year. He would like to re-enter the workforce and continues to wait on God as to His will regarding what role(s) will best suit his gifts, talents, and abilities moving forward.

Both PJ and Gwenda were Team Members (lead a team) on SU Australia’s SplashOut City camp for teens grades 7 to 12 in September. Their daughter Rasika and son-in law Nic were Team Leaders (Directors) of the camp again this year and so it was a unique opportunity to not only see how well they lead this camp but to also share in, and support them, in this experience.

Gwenda faced her most challenging year yet but was thankfully sustained and strengthened through it all by the grace of God. She commenced and completed a Grad Cert Professional Supervision (Pastoral) this year which now qualifies her to offer professional supervision to ministry workers. She intends to offer this service to pastors and chaplains from next year. You can check out her supervision webpage here: https://jayatarras.com/supervision/. She would appreciate you spreading the word to any ministry worker friends and family members you may know.

Gwenda also enjoyed a trip out with some girlfriends to see the Kalbar Sunflower festival and continued to appreciate the beauty of both the Jacaranda trees in bloom as well as the spectacular Poinciana Trees in bloom this year in the lead up to Christmas.

With limited opportunity to rest and recover from PJ’s stroke last year, coupled with ministry pressures that were to remain unchanged into the foreseeable future, after much prayer and discernment God affirmed to both Gwenda and PJ that Gwenda was to hand in notice to conclude her role as Associate Pastor for Connect Groups and Teaching at NEB Church. This also meant PJ concluding his role as Treasurer on the Diaconate. Although this decision came as a shock to many in the church, both PJ and Gwenda continue to have God’s peace that this was, and is, His will and way for their future and they were affirmed as having ‘finished well’.

Gwenda continues to have God’s peace as she waits for God to reveal the what, where, when, and how of her next season of pastoral ministry. In the meantime, God has provided her with work as a Myer Christmas Casual. This has been a different change of pace for her and has provided a fascinating insight into the retail industry in the lead up to Christmas and Boxing Day. Unfortunately, the plantar fasciitis in her right foot flared up just prior to her commencing at Myer which has brought some challenges and foot pain with her having to stand for 6 – 9 hour shifts at a time but God is sustaining her through this physical discomfort.

Gwenda’s parents also celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary this year. They didn’t want too much fanfare but we all still made sure they felt very loved and celebrated this important milestone in their lives.

Taruna commenced work as an accountant for a French accounting firm called Mazars. He now commutes to the city during the week and works alongside a friend from High School days in the same firm. Mazars has offered up a plethora of opportunities for him to broaden his skillset and social circle too with Mazars often putting on social activities and getting behind themed days to build community within the office. Taruna has also continued with his CPA studies part-time and continues to receive good grades. He will finish his CPA studies mid-next year.

Rasika commenced work in Human Resources at Services Australia this year as part of their Graduate Program. This exposed her to lots of different work areas within this large organization including having to be part of a call centre experience to assist customers with their online services. Rasika also had multiple opportunities to fly down to Canberra for various parts of her work. She has been offered a role helping to run the Graduate Program within Services Australia from next year which she is looking forward to doing.

Nic also had a great work year continuing on as a Graduate Transport Engineer at AECOM Engineering. He was awarded the 2023 AITPM Young Professional Award – Queensland. This award recognises talented young professionals, fosters networking and inspires future leaders in the transport industry. Nic has worked on various projects throughout the year and is looking forward to further opportunities within his workplace.

As mentioned above, both Nic & Ras were once again Team Leaders (Directors) of SU Australia’s SplashOut City 2023 camp in Peregian Beach, Qld for students in grades 7-12. This involves recruiting a volunteer leadership team, organising activities, booking venues & catering, as well as caring for the leadership team so that they can then care for the kids. This year was their biggest one yet with almost 80 kids. They did an exceptional job all round!

Nic & Ras also jointly took on the role of Youth Coordinator for NEB Church’s Youth program when the NEB Youth Pastor concluded their role early in the year. Together, Nic & Ras coordinate a team of 10 adults to deliver a weekly 2-hour program of youth games, activities and learning. Coupled with them both working full-time this year, plus their added church ministry responsibilities, they have had a very big year!

Prashan continued to enjoy all things Cyber Security this year. He completed building his server network in the family home’s office and commenced study towards getting a CompTIA A+ certification which is seen as being the gold standard certification for beginning an IT career. He commenced work as a Yardsperson for Brett’s Timber and Hardware at Chermside early in the year but finished this role early in December to move to Perth to live. His girlfriend Enaya also moved to Perth in January of this year, so they were happy to finally be reunited after many months of being in a long-distance relationship. Prashan hopes to ‘get a foot in the door’ in the Cyber Security industry in Perth and is applying for various graduate program positions for 2024.

 has settled into Perth life and is enjoying being in closer physical proximity to her sister who has lived there for many years. She graduated as a fully qualified Cert 3 Nail Techician in August and has setup her own home-based nail business. Enaya also secured work at Strandbags and was recently promoted into a managerial role. Unfortunately, she was unable to continue as a hairdresser due to the physical demands of the role being on her feet all day.

With all the changes happening in our family this year, we unfortunately didn’t get much time to play Badminton as a family this year. You never know how long these special family time seasons will last so we’re glad we made the most of that one whilst we could.

Together as a family we have faced many highs and lows this year. At times it has felt like waves of ‘grief upon grief’ hitting us but we have continued to press into God and He has been our portion and strength throughout these times. We also want to thank our family and friends who have interceded on our behalf and prayed for us throughout the year.

Our final grief experience for this year was the passing of our beloved family cat, Charm on Saturday 16 December 2023. She lived a good sixteen (16) years and although it was hard to say goodbye, we are thankful for the many beautiful memories we had with her being part of our family. We will miss you, Charm!

Our prayer is that 2024 will be a year of freedom, fruitfulness, and flourishing for each one of us in the various places and spaces where God calls us to love and serve Him, and others in His Name.

Jesus is the Prince of Peace, Immanual – ‘God with Us’ – and we are so thankful for His abiding peace and for His promise that He will never leave us nor forsake us.

We pray you too will know His peace, provision, and presence afresh this Christmas and New Year.

Love from PJ (Giga) & Gwenda, Taruna, Rasika & Nic, and Prashan & Enaya