The first part of March saw us finishing final preparations for our next trip. We made a trip to Healing Hands in Nashville, delivering books, plus our normal weekend visits to supporting churches. We also visited our daughters and grandsons one more time before we left. Leaving our family for nearly two months is one of the hardest parts of making these extended trips, but we are thankful that they are only three hours away. Many people that we talk with comment that their children are many hours away, sometimes in different countries, so three hours is not bad.
Sri Lanka Here We Come
On March 20th we left Memphis bound for Sri Lanka, an island just off the southern tip of India. We finally arrived in Sri Lanka about 5:30 am on Friday after traveling nearly 36 hours. Lilani Thomas met us at the airport, which means she had to leave her house about 4:00. Needless to say we all took a nap when we arrived back at her house. Harold & Liliani always keep us in their home, and we enjoy visiting with them each time we are there. After resting Friday, Jerry continued his study of Romans with several Christians on Saturday and Sunday. They request us to come about twice a year to continue this study, and we are glad that we are able to do this. We had a free day on Monday, and Harold Thomas gave us a tour of his factory that he manages. They manufacture many tons a month of metal roofing, which is shipped all over Sri Lanka. That was an interesting tour, and we were thankful to have an opportunity to do that. Harold is very busy as he also preaches and teaches several Bible studies as he has opportunity in addition to his secular job.
You have probably heard much about this country in the last few months. It is definitely changing fast, which mostly is good; nevertheless, the change has also brought some problems for us. The hotel prices have doubled in two years, and most of that change has been in the last year. This is due to the tremendous increase in tourists and business people now visiting the country. The people have much more freedom than before, and economic opportunities will likely follow.
In our previous visits, we had only taught in the Hmawbi Bible School just outside of town; however, for the first three days this year, Jerry taught some lessons from Romans at a house gathering of Kyaw Sein. This whole family is very evangelistic, making several trips to their native area to teach. They were very hospitable to us, feeding us lunch every day, even giving us a taste of some of their native foods. One such oddity was Tamerin leaves, which is as it sounds, small tree leaves. It was cooked with spices and some minced chicken, and it was quite tasty.
We visited two congregations on Sunday with several of the Bible students also attending. One never knows the makeup of the audience in these foreign countries, as visitors often attend. Just a few days before, Winsome had met a woman and invited her to come to church. She did, was very friendly, and seemed to really enjoy the service and the lesson. Hopefully, this may lead to more Bible studies. Winsome will certainly follow up on this contact. The next week, we both taught at the Bible School. The classes were a wide mixture of ages from 13 to 40. In addition, the students were from varied backgrounds, several non-Christians and some older Christians. Paula taught several lessons on the women in the book of Acts, and Jerry taught the work of a preacher. Everyone seemed to enjoy our lessons, and all delighted in the watermelon treat the last two days since the temperature was between 100 and 105 every day.
Our first stop in India was with one of our TV speakers, Rajanayagam. He and his son-in-law also translate the Voice of Truth into Tamil. He preaches for a rather large congregation in addition to his translating and evangelistic work; thus, he keeps very busy. Sunday afternoon, was also busy, as four other men from the Tamil Nadu area met us. We always bring checks and money for the TV programs, printing work, etc., so they are always glad to see us. It is always interesting to us that once a check is deposited, it takes about a month for it to clear the bank. We enjoyed our short visit with them, and we took them out for a treat for supper.
On Monday morning we drove about three hours to a three-day retreat that Rajanayagam had arranged for about 30 preachers and 10 women. This was a nice break for us as this was in a mountain area; thus, the temperature cooled off to be quite pleasant. The flowers were beautiful and abundant and Paula gave up trying to count the different varieties. Paula taught on the Christian woman’s role in the church and society. Jerry taught some lessons on the parables of Luke 14-16, which contain several principles that are badly needed in India. He also taught briefly on the organization of the church. Few churches have elders, and after discussing this, many of the preachers thought that we need to bring some of the potential elders from the various congregations and have some special teaching on the subject. That was one purpose of the discussion on leadership, so we will put that into future plans.
We made a quick trip to Visakh to attend the second graduation of the Visakha Valley Bible School. Our sponsoring congregation is also the sponsoring church for this school, so we work very closely with this good school and its directors, Samuel Raju and John Dean. Thirteen students received their Bachelor degrees in Biblical Studies. We might say they are now ready to go preach, but in actuality, many of them are already preaching regularly, and are doing an excellent job.
World Evangelism’s coworker, Joshua Gootam, was a featured speaker for the occasion. He prints a large number of books, tracts, and translates the Voice of Truth into Telegu, so he gave a stack of books to each graduate. After the ceremony, we went back to our hotel for a couple of hours to visit and talk about the work. Of course, we also gave him some checks for his work. Included in that was $800 for Bibles, $600 for printing and mailing an Orissa bimonthly magazine, and a $750 check for tracts. As we come, we always bring the checks and money with us in order to save mailing. We have never lost any checks by mailing them, but it is expensive and sometimes it takes a good while for them to arrive.
From Visakh we journeyed north to the North India Bible College. We stayed for one week while Jerry taught a course on the Work of a Preacher. Being at one place for a week is a good way to rest a little. It is tiring being on the move all the time, spending the night in different beds, and the week before this was a busy week in that regard. In addition to the school, Jerry preached on Sunday and Wednesday night, and Paula had a ladies class one night.
This school is not a big school, but it is doing a good job in a tough area. We met two young ladies from the state of Manipur in East India next to Myanmar, and we were encouraged by them. They were sisters, and they had a job talking to people from the U. S. about medical bills. Since their jobs included talking to people in the U. S., they worked all night. They went to work about 8:00 pm, but they made time to attend Wednesday night worship just before they hurried off to work. Not many young people would be that dedicated.
Ernest also translates into Hindi and prints the Voice of Truth for us. He had just finished one issue, and we picked up a copy of it and left some money for the next issue. 5,000 copies are mailed out each time to places all over north India.
The next place was Raipur in the state of Chattisgarh, a new place for us. Raipur is located in the middle of India, but it is still considered north India. Most people in this area speak Hindi. We met Philemon Raja from the state of Tamil Nadu, who had arranged this meeting for us. Escapana from Orissa also made the long trip from his state to help with the meeting and possibly translate. Philemon is hoping to start another class of the J C School of Evangelism in this area. He is a hard worker and a true evangelist, traveling to many different parts of India to encourage Christians to be more evangelistic. We had a two day meeting with an audience of 35 Christians, many of whom were preachers. They seemed to enjoy the lectures and were greatly encouraged and strengthened.
We were also to enjoy two unexpected benefits of this seminar. We were able to meet the in-laws of Vinay David in Delhi. We had heard much about his wife’s parents from them and knew they were faithful Christians, but we had never had the opportunity to meet them. They attended this seminar both days, and we were thrilled to be able to meet them. It seemed we had a special connection to them, and they virtually made us promise to visit them in their area with Vinay and his wife, Reshna, the next time we come to India. He is a factory worker and also preaches at a large congregation of about 120 members. Whether we are able to make that trip remains to be seen as it is a very long train ride from Delhi.
The second benefit was to be with four graduates of the North India Bible College. As we have said, many students travel a long distance to attend this school. Three of them were from this area and were recent graduates, but one traveled about 900 kilometers to attend this seminar. He had graduated in 2005, and he translated for me both days, doing an excellent job. Seeing these graduates helped us realize the benefits of the school. The results of a school cannot be measured simply by the number of students you teach or what they do while in school. These men work for many years after graduation, and only God knows what ultimate good comes from the school.
Our last stop was in Northeast India, close to the Myanmar border. This was Jerry’s second trip to this area, but Paula’s first, and she was eager to visit this area. This area is quite different from the rest of India. It has only been in the last couple of years that foreigners could even enter this area. Church buildings abound, and the predominant religion in this area is some denominational version of Christianity. It is close to the mountains, so you can see mountains in any direction. The weather was also moderate, so it was nice to finish our trip without sweating.
The churches in this area are very suspicious of newcomers. The people here generally have not traveled very much, so they are especially suspicious of foreigners, similar to how mountain folks used to be suspicious of newcomers in the U.S. A second reason is that divisions have occurred over instrumental music and anti-ism in recent years, and this was brought by foreigners. Our contact here is Thang Lien, who is translating and printing the Voice of Truth into the major language of this area. One issue has been printed thus far, and the second is almost ready for printing. He carried us to four different local congregations, mainly just so they could get to meet and know us at least a little. I think this was an important visit for us.
At the last service, a local brother was doing the preaching. Paula noticed that he was holding a book from which he was looking during the lesson. She thought it looked like our little orange book (circled in picture), the Church of the Bible. Of course, we could not understand what he was saying, but we did understand that the lesson was on the identity of the church. After the service was over, we talked to him and sure enough, it was the Church of the Bible that had been translated into his language. He had received it in 1998, and it had been well used. Once again this shows the long term effect of literature. That is why we are currently publishing the Voice of Truth into the Paite language, and hopefully it will have the same long term effect on the growth of the church. We stress how the individual member can use it for evangelism. The church all over India is still very immature; there is much teaching that still needs to be done. Things that we take for granted, such as literature for children’s classes and supporting orphans, are not usually a part of their efforts. The congregations are also reluctant to cooperate together and are somewhat self-absorbed. However, progress is being made, and for that we can be thankful.
Overall, this was a good trip. We accomplished what we intended, we were healthy, and we met with almost all our co-workers in India. All our flights were on time except for the last one. Our flight from Manipur to Delhi was delayed about three hours. It was no problem; however, since we still had about eight hours to wait for our international flight. It was a long trip home, taking about 43 hours from the time we left the hotel in extreme eastern India to arriving home. We continue to be thankful to be involved in this great work, and we sincerely thank all of you for your support. May God bless each of you.
Jerry & Paula Bates