Choosing Her Own Path

Christabell’s desire to serve others as a minister began at an early age, but her chosen career path initially caused conflict in her family. Trying to follow her calling meant asserting herself against her parents’ wishes.


My parents dreamed that I would be a doctor one day, but in grade eleven I sensed a call from God, so I wanted to be a pastor. My parents were deadly against the idea, they said, “You can’t be a pastor, you are female.”

Christabell and her family at the Colombo Sri Lanka Zoo 1969. Image courtesy of Christabell Selvalingham.

Christabell grade 10 exam ID card 1974. Image courtesy of Christabell Selvalingham.

My father was afraid, at that time there were no women pastors around. So he talked to me about the challenges which I am going to face. But I told my mother and father, “I am the one who is going to face all these problems, not you, so don’t worry.”

During this period of tension in Christabell’s family, Sri Lanka was also in conflict. She and her family were often without electricity due to the fighting. One blackout coincided with Christabell and her father arguing for three days about her desire to work for the church.
My mother said, “Okay, do whatever she wants to do because she’s the one who is going to face the challenges or face the success.” At the time, the lights came back on. My mother took it as a sign from God. Then my mother convinced my father. He asked me, “You promise me, you have to finish your Ph.D.”

To work towards her goal and her promise to her father, Christabell went to India to pursue her studies in divinity and studied abroad in Germany before completing her first degree. For further studies, Christabell chose to come to Canada.

Christabell’s parents Samuel and Grace Duraisingam on their wedding day, April 24 1957 . Image courtesy of Christabell Selvalingham.