arly on the morning of March 2nd, Paula took me to the airport to begin my spring trip. Since Betty Choate was traveling on her nearly 3-month mission trip, Paula needed to stay in Winona to handle the office work; thus, I was traveling alone. My first stop was Manila. After getting some much needed rest at the hotel, my native co-worker, Jun, met me and we traveled in a packed van to the city of Tanay, about two hours away, to meet some of his extended family. He had arranged a Saturday seminar with a group of 30 people, none of whom were New Testament Christians. There is presently no church in this area, so he is trying to plant a church there. The plans are to begin a Bible study center there as well as another one in Lucena City. Of course, we are furnishing the literature for these two centers.
On Sunday morning, we traveled to a nearby city to meet with the church. The preacher for that congregation has agreed to do the follow-up work associated with the Bible study center. Hopefully, these two centers will result in the conversion of several in the coming years.
My first stop in India was a new place for me, Aurangabad. This city is located in the same state as Mumbai, about one hour flight from that huge city. Amul Bansod met me at the airport, and he was overjoyed with my visit. He is translating the Voice of Truth International into the Marathi language. He thought the first issue would be ready when I arrived, but he experienced several problems, so it has been delayed. He also directs a school of preaching. I taught for two days at the school, and he was also thrilled that I would take the time to do that. He related that I was the first American to actually teach at the school, and all the students and teachers were delighted that I took the time to teach and encourage them. It seems that few Americans travel to this area, so Paula and I will probably make additional trips to this area. We feel that it is a more valuable use of our time to travel to areas that are relatively untouched.
Each night we had an evangelistic meeting at a nearby church. One meeting was at the congregation of one of the teachers at the school, who also preaches for two congregations. He was afflicted by polio many years ago, so he is partially crippled. He and his wife are very poor. Their house consists of one room, about 10 x 15 feet. They have lived in this house about 20 years, raising two children who are now grown.
Normally on our trips, we do not do much sightseeing. However, on this trip, Amul took me to see an amazing sight not far from the school. It was an ancient temple carved out of solid rock nearly 1,000 years ago. It was considered to be an area of contemplation for both Hindu and Buddhist worshippers. Considering the size and detail of the carvings, it is almost unimaginable that such carvings could be accomplished. It took over 200 years for it to be completed.
My next stop was on the eastern coast of India to teach for a week at the Viskha Valley Bible School. I have been here several times, and this school does an excellent job of training the future leaders of the church. Currently, they have 14 students, and they are now about halfway through their two-year study program. I taught the Work of a Preacher to these future preachers.
I have commented about how the Indian government's attitude towards Christianity is changing. New laws and restrictions are being passed, and it seems the government is doing all it can to limit Christianity’s influence on society. Publicly of course, the government tries to appear to promote freedom of religion, but appearances are often deceiving. John Dean, the native director of the school, reported that within the last year 300 Christian children’s homes have been closed by the government in his state alone. The authorities are searching for infractions of even minor rules to justify the closings. John and his father also have a children’s home, Skinners Garden, and it was inspected the week I was there, and nothing significant was found to be lacking, so it is okay for a while longer.
My next stop was Kochi in the state of Kerala. Here, I met Philemon and his son-in-law, Kingsley. They direct the J C School of Evangelism, which we financially support. This is a school designed to encourage and train individual Christians, both men and women, to be better soul-winners. It is an 18 month program meeting once a month, and Philemon travels nearly every weekend to conduct the classes in various locations throughout India. They do an outstanding job of encouraging the students to truly be evangelistic. Great results are seen in every case.
Two locations finished their study this spring. One graduation program was in Pondicherry on the eastern coast of India. Betty Choate attended this program, while I attended the graduation program in Kochi. As a result of these schools, over 20,000 tracts have been distributed in addition to many other study books and personal Bible studies. These students baptized nearly 30 people over the last 18 months, and much seed has been sown which should bring an even greater harvest in the future.
My last stop was the North India Bible College in Chandigarh. Betty attended the annual graduation of this school in February. They had some special ladies programs for her. I did not think we would have time to visit on our fall trip, so I wanted to spend a week teaching at the school on this trip. Since they just recently had a graduation, the new class had not begun, but nevertheless, we had a good session. In recent months, Ernest Gill, the director, has begun a new program. For one week a month, he invites some older preachers to the school for additional teaching and encouragement. Some of these preachers have never attended a Bible school, so this program is especially good for them. I taught about the New Testament church, and even though, much of this material was familiar to them, I delivered it from a different perspective, so they seemed to gain much from our discussion together.
One retired couple, Ken & Connie Tipton, from Florida journeyed up to help for a couple of weeks in April. They arrived just in time to unload Volume 87 of the Voice of Truth and a new book designed for classes, Divorce Prevention by Glover Shipp. In the next few days they helped send out the Voice of Truth, packed two big boxes bound for the Philippines, counted tracts, and did other miscellaneous jobs. They took many Spanish books since they help with a work in Ecuador, South America. They also joined us at the Mission Retreat in Alabama, helping us clean the camp and make other preparations for the coming group. We greatly appreciate their willingness to travel such a long distance and help as they can. Their attitude was certainly a servant attitude. We are always looking and grateful for any who would be willing to come and help a few days.
Hail Destruction in Manipur, India
We have been to Manipur several times, working with Thang Lien, but due to potential violence in the area for the last year, we have not been for a while. We area this fall, as the situation has now eased some. Even though we have not personally been there, his work continues. We have continued to send money, so he has been translating the Voice of Truth and has printed a couple of other books. This is just an example of how good works can continue to be done without personally being present. This is all possible with modern technology such as the Internet and wire transfers between banks.
In April, this area was hit by a severe hailstorm which completely destroyed many homes. This area is very poor, so this was a devastating blow to many. We sent $1,000 to aid some of the families. We generally do not do much benevolent work as the needs are always great, but we thought that in this case some help was warranted to encourage him and help his outreach to the people in that area.
I have been working on an extensive project for nearly two years, and it has finally been completed. We received a request from one of our Indian brethren for two short yet deeper correspondence courses than is currently available. He suggested two courses, Godhead and Worship, and I added a third, Bible Covenants, since it is a highly misunderstood subject. Recently 10,000 copies of each was printed and distributed in India. On my last trip I showed them to Ernest Gill in Chandigarh. After looking at them for a few moments, he said that he had just been thinking that he was needing some courses just like that. He said I did his work for him. I simply replied, “Now you can translate them. That is your job.” I hope these lessons will be helpful.
We continue to thank all of you for your support and encouragement of our work. Without your help, none of this would be possible. We are all fellow-laborers in the kingdom to God. To God be the glory!
On March 26th, I returned home, and Paula was glad to have me back. With everyone gone, this left a lot of things for her to take care of at home and in the office. However, she did have help for a couple of days. A group from the French Camp congregation came and helped her send out Betty's newsletters. Paula sent out our last newsletter by herself, which is no small job. Also, Efrain, the Spanish minister from the West President Street congregation in Greenwood, and his nephew came and counted bundles of tracts. Of course, she spent a few days with our grandsons in Jonesboro, AR.
Rather than returning home after arriving on Saturday, the 26th, we journeyed to Trenton, TN, and Sunday morning and evening I was speaking to two of our supporting congregations. Early Monday morning, we left for Memphis to set up a table at the Memphis School of Preaching lectures. Ronnie Gootam, the son of our co-worker Joshua in India, is currently a student at the school, and he helped look after the table. After being gone for over three weeks, I was ready to get home, so after being at the lectures for only a few hours, we finished our journey back home. About two weeks later, Ronnie and his wife spent the night with us. They had traveled to Monroe, LA for a door-knocking campaign, so they were coming through Winona. It was about midnight when they arrived, and they were so glad to have a break, as he was about to go to sleep while driving. The next morning we had a good visit, and he picked up books at the office.
After a few days of catching up on emails and office work, I departed again for three days. Twice each year, the Bear Valley extension staff meets in Denver, so I used some of my frequent flier miles. These meetings are necessary because we are all scattered throughout the country. We always enjoy visiting with one another and sharing ideas, even though the meetings sometimes get long.
The last week in April found us in Hamilton, AL at our annual Mission retreat. The weather was perfect; the food was great; the fellowship was amazing; and the speakers were encouraging. The World Evangelism team sponsors this event, so it is a lot of work. We carried several boxes of literature to share with James Lee in Florida, who has an extensive prison ministry. We provide these at no cost, because he has little support and a very small congregation. One box of Spanish books were also provided for the work in Honduras.
Our immediate future looks very busy as usual. One of our co-workers from India, Philemon Raja, is coming to visit for a couple of weeks. While he is here, we will, of course, be visiting churches on Sunday and Wednesday. One week, Jerry and Philemon will be traveling to Texas and will visit churches on the way on Sunday, then unload a shipment of books at Mission Printing in Dallas. They will then travel to World Video Bible School at Maxwell, Texas near San Antonio, and Philemon will do some taping for a course in Tamil for a few days. Paula will stay in the office with Betty and hopefully send out Betty’s newsletter and other office details. On June 9, both of us will travel to Tanzania for two weeks, then to Ghana for a little over a week.
Jerry & Paula Bates