As usual it has been a busy two months, but all is well with the Bates household. Even though we were in the states during January it was a really busy month. During January, we visited churches in Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Tennessee and Texas. Of course, I was also getting ready for my trip to India in February. I will cover that in due time. In addition to my February trip, I was also lining up our work for the next two months. Most would not think about it, but we usually stay planned out a month or so in advance, but it is longer than that when we go on our trips.
One weekend in January we made a long trip to the Dallas area. We carried many books to the New York Avenue church in Arlington, TX. They were sending a container to Tanzania, Africa, sometime in February. The same weekend I spoke on a Korean mission workshop in Ft. Worth. Then we traveled about four hours west to Big Spring, TX to visit one of our supporters of the Voice of Truth. Since they are so far, no one has ever visited them. Then we hurried back to Arlington, where I met with the elders of the New York Avenue church to discuss our work. We traveled many miles that weekend, but it was a worthwhile weekend. The following Saturday, a group from Collierville, TN came down to help with some jobs in the office, so that was also a busy weekend.
We had a short break before we headed out again, this time for the Freed-Hardeman lectures. World Evangelism had two tables for a display, so we took many books and set up the display on the Saturday before the lectures. We always enjoy attending the lectures as we are able to see many of our old friends, as well as meet some new ones. However, we had to cut this one short, as I left on my India trip on Wednesday of that week.
Paula did not accompany me on this trip. It was going to be a fast moving trip, and it did not appear that she would have had many teaching opportunities. We always want to use our time and money in the wisest way, so to save money she stayed home. Of course, that did not mean she was not doing anything. She was in the office as usual, although she did spend a couple of days with our daughters and grandson in Jonesboro, AR. Everyone asked where she was and that they wished she was with me. They also asked if she would accompany me next time, and I was glad to say yes. I think they had rather have her than me anyway (ha, ha).
The first stop on this trip was Sri Lanka. About one year ago, I conducted a seminar on the first few chapters in Romans, and I did the same thing again this time on Saturday and Sunday. They really enjoyed the time of fellowship and learning together. Hopefully, we will also continue this fall. The church seems to be growing gradually as they are receiving more contacts through radio messages. Harold Thomas is the preacher for the congregation with which we work, and he is having Bible studies about every night of the week. He is also the manager of a factory in Colombo, so he is very busy.
From Sri Lanka, I flew to Visak to visit with John Dean and his father, Samuel Raju. They are the directors of the Bear Valley school in that city. I did not do any teaching this time, but we did spend some time discussing the details of the school. The school is continuing to go well. Gary Fallis from Dallas was there just before I arrived teaching the final two courses of the masters program. Ten
people are on track to complete their degree, and graduation is planned in July with the new masters’ class also starting at that time. Fourteen students are currently enrolled in the undergraduate program, which began last year, so that program is also doing well. In addition, about 3-4 people are auditing the classes in order to increase their knowledge. Of course, we are glad for them to do that. This means that more teaching is being done to help the church than will be reported, since we only talk about the graduates.
Another new development with this school is that our sponsoring congregation, the Strickland Church of Christ, has consented to also be the overseeing congregation of the school. The policy of Bear Valley is to have every school overseen by one congregation, but until now this school was lacking that important factor. Strickland has already had a relationship with Samuel and John, since they have supported them in their other work for several years. We certainly value very highly our relationship with this wonderful congregation and are grateful that they would consent to take on this added responsibility.
In Chandigarh I attended the North India Bible Lectureship as well as the graduation of the North India Bible College. This is the first time I have attended either one, and I wanted to be there this time. This was also the main reason for making our India trip now instead of March as we did last year. Some of
you may have heard of Russell Bell. He has been making semiannual mission trips to India for many years, and he financially sponsors the lectureship. The theme of the lectures this year was 1 John. Of course he also attended with a fellow traveler from Kansas, Dennis Holst. It was really good to meet Bro. Russell, as I have often heard his name since we began our work in India. About 90 people from all over North India attended the lectures, which was about the same number as last year. It was good to meet several new people and hear some good lectures. Of course, Russell and I both spoke during the two day lectures. Two of World Evangelism’s faithful workers, Francis and Vinay David from Delhi, were there. Both of them also spoke and it was really good to see and hear them. I did not stop in Delhi this time, but I promised them we would stop for a few days this fall.
The evening of the second day was filled with the graduation of the North India Bible College. Five students received their certificate and were ready to go to work. Russell and I also spoke some words of encouragement to these students. This school is vital, since the church is weak and scattered all across North India, so trained workers are desperately needed. Ernest Gill is doing a good job directing this school, as well as translating and printing much material for distribution. He is truly a hard worker. This school has lost $500 a month in funding this year. We have committed to making up $400 of that amount to help cover the shortfall, but we really need one or two congregations to commit a monthly amount to secure its funding. I am firmly convinced that schools are one of the best ways to evangelize India. We must train local workers and the only way to do it effectively is to train them in their own country.
After Chandigarh I went back to South India and worked with Rajanayagam. He had organized a three day preacher’s seminar. About 30 preachers attended this meeting. The purpose was of course to impart some spiritual encouragement but also to talk about how they might work together more to help the church grow in Tamil Nadu. I think the meeting went well. It is encouraging to see this desire to work together with other congregations and other preachers to help the work grow. It was decided that it would be best to print many tracts, organize joint gospel meetings in different towns, and then all the preachers travel there for a campaign to distribute the tracts in connection with the meeting. Of course, we will try to furnish the money to print the tracts, but the native brethren will do the work of preaching and distributing the tracts.
My last stop was in the state of Manipur on the extreme northeast corner of India bordering Myanmar. The Choates had done some work in this area several years ago, but for some reason stopped. This area has also been politically unstable in recent years, so Americans were pretty much prohibited from visiting, but that ban has now been lifted. This was the first time I had been to this area, and the purpose was to become better acquainted with Thang Lien, whom I met in Delhi last fall, and to better understand the area and the needs of the church in that region. Thang is going to start translating the Voice of Truth into his native language. Part of Myanmar also understands this language so this publication will be sent into Myanmar as well, thus it should have a wide distribution area.
This part of India is quite different from the rest of India. The cities are not large as in the other parts, with much of the area used for farming. There are some mountainous regions also, but I did not go into the mountains on this trip since I was only there a couple of days. The nationality of the people is different as they look more like the Burmese or Chinese people, and the culture is also quite different from the rest of India. However, they are quite poor, more so than in the other parts of India. The church, although small, appeared to be doing quite well. Nevertheless, much work remains to be done.
One refreshing thing was the commitment of the church to maintain doctrinal purity. In recent years they have encountered problems from Western preachers, mainly the antis, and also some who claimed to be Church of Christ but they used the instrument. These preachers had come and caused division and many problems. Thus, the native brethren were very careful about knowing what I believed before they extended fellowship to me. Even though they were familiar with the Voice of Truth and trusted Thang, the leaders of the congregation wanted to personally meet me and talk with me first. I had no problem with that, and I complimented them on their desire to be careful to whom they extended fellowship. I feel confident we will have a good relationship in the future. This is a region that needs some help as no Americans are going to this area, at least on a regular basis. Yet, they are continuing with their work, and it is refreshing to know that they are not completely dependent upon American support as is all too common in other parts of India.
The next two months appear to be very busy as well. In March I travel to Denver for a meeting of all the coordinators of the Bear Valley Extension schools. In addition, on March 18-21, I have a gospel meeting scheduled with the Central Academy congregation between Batesville and Oxford, MS. Then, at the end of March, Paula and I both will travel to Myanmar to teach for three weeks in the Bible School in Yangon, so most of April is taken up with that work. We continue to thank you for your support and encouragement. We couldn’t do it without you. May God bless you.