When It Rains, It Pours
As you might imagine, it is always very busy getting ready for an extended overseas trip. It was even more so this time. Near the end of July, we came in on a Sunday night after visiting churches, and found that water was leaking from our living room ceiling. Obviously, it was time for a new roof. It was not a very good time to be involved with that, but we had no choice. We were hoping to get the job completed before we left, but that was not to be. Due to time constraints from the roofer, ordering shingles, etc., we had to leave with the job only about half completed. Fortunately, we were able to have a good trustworthy man doing the job. Don Robertson, the preacher at the Coffeeville Church of Christ, replaced the shingles as well as seeing that the repairs needed inside the house were also completed. It is truly wonderful to have fellow Christians that you can trust. In addition, we had our annual meeting, completing our lessons and last minute details, making one final visit to our grandchildren, and of course, visiting churches. Sometimes, we are glad to get on the plane so we can rest!
We left home on August 22nd, and our first stop was Sri Lanka. This is a small island country with no Bible Schools, so we try to hold a weekend seminar twice a year to further ground the Christians with some deeper teachings. Several of the Christians rode the train about two hours in order to attend. Saturday went well, but then that night Paula became very sick with an upset stomach. The seminar went well, and Paula soon recovered with only a few lingering effects by the time we arrived in Kochi, India on Monday.
One of our TV speakers, P K Varghese, invited us to attend and speak at this annual 3-day lectureship. This is a great lectureship with about 250 attending from all over South India. All attended at their own expense, some traveling a long way. The complete expense of this lectureship is paid for by the Indian brethren. I was busy during these three days, with speaking three times to the entire group, and teaching four special classes. Those days were also notable by the coolness of the weather. It rained every day, and the temperature was just about perfect. It was so nice that we were wondering if we were really in India, until we looked around and then it was obvious.
This was a short weekend visit with the Gootams. We flew into a nearby town and immediately drove about an hour to a preacher’s lectureship where I spoke to about 100 preachers and families. The Gootams care for approximately 80 children, and they have a guest room there with the children. Each morning we awoke early to the sound of the children singing. On Saturday we drove about two hours from Kakinada to preach in a village church. The small church building was completely full with mostly women. After my lesson, the ladies stayed behind for a women’s class taught by Paula. We also picked up three large boxes of books to carry with us to Orissa, our next stop.
On Monday morning we boarded a train and accompanied Philemon from South India to a border town in the state of Orissa. Philemon is a missionary in his own country, since he cannot speak the language in Orissa. So he had to have a translator even when he taught. This is impossible for us in America to fully comprehend. We had never been there before, and the state of Orissa has been a violent place for Christians in recent years. Thankfully, such persecution has ceased for the present. The church is very small and weak in this state, so the Christians need much encouragement. Philemon has been conducting the JC School of Evangelism there for the last six months, and we went this time to teach. About 40 students attended the school, and most of them traveled a long distance, some even having to come the day before. Some were from a very remote mountainous village and had to walk about 45 minutes just to catch a ride. For the women in this village, this was the first church program outside of their village that they had ever attended. Even though they had little education they were very interested in all the lessons especially the ones taught by Paula.
The school went very well. The students were eager to learn and they are practicing what they are learning. That is, they are teaching others about Christ, and they are reporting success. Eight souls were baptized into Christ during the school. This town is very close to the ocean so the baptisms took place there. Others have been baptized by the students in earlier school sessions. Everywhere school sessions are held, churches are strengthened and several baptisms occur. Even more than that, the minds of individual Christians are changed so that they continue to be fishers of men.
Personally, this was a tough week for us. Paula was fine, but I felt bad the entire week. I came down with a very bad cold on Monday during the train ride and until Thursday I had fever every day, which was controlled to some extent by constantly taking aspirin. Even though I felt bad, I taught as planned on Tuesday and Wednesday. However, on Thursday, with continued bouts of fever, it was decided that I needed to go to the doctor. So with Philemon doing the teaching, we went to the doctor accompanied by the local preacher. We went to a government hospital. It was definitely an experience. It was free health care, and we doubt that you can even come close to imagining the scene. Nor can we adequately describe it. It was a madhouse of people, which looked to us total confusion, but the local man skillfully maneuvered us through the maze, and we were able to see the doctor fairly quickly. He thought it was just an infection and he gave Jerry some medicine, and by the time we boarded the train to leave Orissa, Jerry was feeling better, although still not 100%. Seldom do we get sick on our trips, but I guess our luck ran out on this one, with both of us getting sick.
After riding the train several hours south, we journeyed to Skinner’s Garden. This is the great work that John Dean and his father, Samuel, have been working on for several years. Our sponsoring congregation, Strickland, has been supporting this work for many years and they wanted us to go by. They care for about 80 children and have a Bible school. It is a beautiful facility, and they also have a small farm where they are able to raise many vegetables, fruits, and rice to help feed the children. You would have a difficult time imagining the huge pot of rice they cook each meal. Every day, they cook about 100 lbs of rice. On Sunday we worshipped with the local congregation in Bikkavolu. We had a good service there, probably over 200 gathering for worship. The building was completely full and several were outside. Two people were baptized that morning. At night I taught a teenage class. Paula taught a ladies class and at the end of that lesson, two more ladies were baptized for a total of four for the day.
Visakha Valley Bible School
On Monday morning, John, Samuel, and we traveled to Visak to teach in the Bear Valley School. This is a good school with excellent teachers and staff. Fourteen students are currently enrolled. They all do a good job, and they are all presently working with a congregation. Try to imagine what possible good these students might do for God in their lifetime. One might be a great evangelist; undoubtedly many will be faithful preachers leading possibly hundreds to Christ. And it all starts with this little school training a few men to preach the gospel. We have a hard time imagining a greater work than this.
Traveling to Delhi on Saturday, we met Rodney Hilliard, who preaches for the Marlowe congregation west of Corinth, MS. He has a full-time job besides preaching and he took his two weeks vacation in order to teach in the Bible school at Chandigarh. That is great dedication. He had never been to India so we wanted to go with him to make sure he was settled. We were in Chandigarh for 4 days, and it was good that we were not too busy, because Paula became sick with a bad cold, similar to the one I had earlier.
We did travel about two hours west of Chandigarh on Tuesday afternoon to speak where Noble, one of the teachers at the school lives. He travels every week to teach at the school. We had a good meeting there with many visitors. On Wednesday Jerry preached at the regular Wednesday evening Bible study. Paula also taught some women’s classes.
From Chandigarh, we traveled back to South India. You might wonder why we went from South India to the north and then back to the south again. The problem was that we had dates that we could not change. We needed to go to Delhi to meet Rodney, but the seminar with Arjunan the next week could not be changed. His wife is a public school teacher, so she can only attend the seminar on her holiday, which was that week. That is why we had to travel so far.
We arrived at Arjunan’s house late Friday night and had a seminar at a village about 2 hours away on Saturday. About 75 people attended and it was a good meeting. About 10 preachers also attended and we had a special preacher’s discussion period after the seminar concluded. This was not planned so Jerry had to speak with little preparation time. In India, one has to be prepared and flexible, because sometimes things can change quickly from what you planned.
We all traveled to Kumily, a tourist place on the edge of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. About 100 people attended from all over Tamil Nadu for a three day retreat filled with teaching and fellowship. Two people were baptized as a result of the seminar, so certainly it was a good three days.
We spent two days with Philemon Raja, who has now begun working with many brethren in that area. We have traveled through this large city several times, but have never spent any time working there. One day was spent talking to an audience of mainly preachers. About half were denominational preachers that were brought by some faithful brethren. This was an interesting meeting. I preached on the need for unity and the fact that unity can only be obtained by going back to the Bible for our authority in regards to worship and the church. Of course, much more study will need to be done, but the local brethren can take care of that.
The next day found us traveling outside of the city a good distance to a one-day school of evangelism. This was a rural area and Philemon has been conducting the JC School of Evangelism in this area. This area has seen much evangelism, especially back in the early days of the church in India. The brethren are now largely discouraged, and so this school is working to encourage them. Hopefully, this will have the desired effect among the churches in this area.
Our trip ended with us spending about five days in Kathmandu, Nepal. Bear Valley has a school there and Jerry taught the gospel of John all week. The school has six students but several others came in for the classes, so sometimes there were close to 20 people attending. Paula also had a couple of special ladies classes. A second reason for traveling to Nepal was to check on the status of some printing that was being done in Kathmandu. One man has been printing the Voice of Truth for us in the Nepali language, but some conflict had developed between his group and the ones we worked with at the school. Of course, we always want to encourage cooperation between Christians and never foster division. The situation was not good, so we talked with both parties. Nothing was really resolved, but the one handling the printing agreed that rather than let the publication cease, which all agreed was urgently needed, he would let the other group do the printing and he would help distribute it. We were a little surprised that he would readily agree to that but grateful that he would have that desire to see the work go forward. So our Nepal visit went well, and it looks like the printing will continue.
We arrived back on October 6th, but time will not allow us to take a short break to relax after our trip. Since Betty and the Rushmores are both overseas, we are the only ones in the office, so we have many things to do. The Voice of Truth is ready to be shipped to us. The printers were just waiting for us to arrive back home. In addition, Jerry will leave the first of November for Tanzania. He will spend two weeks teaching in a Bear Valley school in Chimala. That will be the first time he has traveled to that country, so he is looking forward to it, although he hasn’t been home long. Paula will stay home and handle the office affairs, as everyone else will continue to be overseas until about Thanksgiving. Much work to do, but we are glad to be able to do it, and we appreciate your support.
Jerry & Paula Bates