Our trip to India was almost delayed before we even started. You may remember the ice storm that hit Arkansas and Tennessee on Sunday, March 2nd. We left on Monday, March 3rd, and we spent the weekend before with our daughters in Jonesboro, AR. Jonesboro and that area was hit hard by sleet with an accumulation of 3 inches. We don't believe that we had ever seen that much sleet. We were scheduled to visit with the congregation in Senath, MO Sunday night, but that was canceled as you might expect. Monday morning arrived with the sun shining brightly, but everything was covered with ice. Fortunately, our flight did not leave until that afternoon, so we had plenty of time to make the trip to Memphis. We had no problems, although the roads were very slick until we arrived in Memphis. Nevertheless, it certainly made for a stressful beginning.
The first part of our trip was composed of very short stops. Our first stop was visiting with Ernest Gill in Chandigarh. His wife has cancer and many of you have contributed money towards her treatment. She has nearly finished her treatments, and she is doing well considering, although she had certainly aged since a year ago. She commented to Paula that one of the worst parts was that in the beginning she developed sores in her throat and was not able to sing during worship. She prayed that God would grant her the ability to recover her voice, since she loved to sing. Fortunately, she now has no problems with that. Ernest prints the Voice Of Truth International for us in the Hindi language, and a new issue has very recently come out. He also directs a school of preaching which we help support in a small way.
From Chandigarh we traveled to Manipur in extreme East India to visit Thang Lien. He also translates the Voice of Truth for us, and we left him funds to print one of Bro. Choate's books, Why We Believe What We Believe. We were only there two days, but we had several teaching sessions with one congregation with whom we had visited before. It is a small, but very spiritual congregation, and they made us very welcome. We also met with another brother from Imphal, the capital city of the state of Manipur. He wants to start a small school with 5-6 students. A school like what he proposes is certainly needed in that area, and the costs are minimal. He thinks he can run the school for only $350/month. We are a little short of extra funds to commit to that cost every month at this time. If only 3 congregations could increase their support $100/month, we could totally fund this school. Surely it would be well worth that amount.
The next stop was Chennai in South India. Even though we were still within India, it took four short flights and 13 hours to travel from one hotel to another. During that time there was nothing to eat except some snacks that we had brought with us. Needless to say, we were hungry and exhausted when we finally reached our hotel. We surely rested good that night.
The next morning we awoke refreshed, and Jerry taught a few hours to a group of approximately 50 preachers and their wives. At different times Paula taught the women and some of their children. This was a group to whom we had never spoken, although we had met a few of them before at various places. This congregation is led by two elders and two deacons, and it is unusual to find a congregation in India that is organized to that extent. The building in which they met is owned by one of the elders. The bottom floor is rented to a couple of businesses, the church meets on the second floor, and the family lives on the third floor. By the way, there is no elevator. We ate breakfast with this family one morning, and they had enough food for about 10 people. We were really impressed with their hospitality.
We learned long ago that one must be very flexible, because plans can change at a moments notice. This happened to Jerry one night. He understood that he was going to preach at a night meeting, thus he planned one lesson thinking he would have an hour or so to preach. About two minutes before he was to begin, Arjunan leaned over and said that some people had to leave to catch a train at 7:30, and it was then 7:05. That meant Jerry only had about 15 minutes to preach his lesson, not nearly enough time to preach the lesson he had planned. Consequently, he had to quickly get another lesson in his mind to preach.
Arjunan is now working closely with the preacher for the congregation where we met, and we were pleased to find he could speak English well. He translated for Jerry some during the two days. These two men and two others had just started a part-time Bible school in four different places to help train people who cannot stop work and attend a full-time Bible school. The cost for this type of school is minimal (about $200/month), and we have agreed to help their efforts in this regard.
We also had a short group meeting with our three team members, Arjunan, Philemon and Rajanayagam, all of whom work in the same state of Tamil Nadu. None of them lives in Chennai, but all travel to Chennai to film their TV programs, so there really was no extra travel involved. This made for a full day, because we met with a small group of preachers and their families during the day, met late that afternoon with our coworkers, and then rode an overnight train with Philemon to his hometown, Madurai.
We did not sleep well during the train ride, but we saved a day of work by riding the train at night. We had not been in Madurai for nearly two years, and it was good to see everyone again. We feel an especially close bond to the people of this area, so we enjoyed our brief time there. The first day was a meeting with some graduates of the JC School of Evangelism. Part of the time was spent with everyone telling what they were doing to spread the message of salvation to the lost all around them. This was an encouraging time as we were able to hear about so much evangelistic activity and the hard work taking place. Paula was busy with a ladies day on the second day, resulting in one lady being baptized, and Jerry had a little extra time to get some work done as well as conduct some business. He still had some work to do to get ready for the class he was teaching in Yangon, Myanmar, our last stop of this trip.
Rajamundry & Visak
We rode another overnight train from Madurai to Chennai on Friday night, and then on Saturday, we took a flight to Rajamundry. This was just a short weekend visit with the Gootams. We always enjoy our time with them. They have about 65 children in an orphanage, and most of them are younger, between 8-12. Paula taught them in class on Sunday morning and Jerry preached to the congregation.
Visakha Valley Bible School Graduate Class
Early Monday morning, John Dean and his father, Samuel Raju, picked us up, and we rode in their car nearly three hours to reach Visak. This is the location of the Visakha Valley Bible School, and Jerry was scheduled to teach two master's courses over the next two weeks. A good group of eleven students gathered for his classes. Most came a long distance, averaging about 250 km (155 miles), and the average age of the class was 37. All traveled several hours by train or bus and they are all preaching in various places, some for more than one congregation. Jerry enjoys these classes since they are taught in English. This allows for more discussion and more material to be covered. It is tiresome though, since the classes last about six hours a day. The native teachers often sit some when they teach, but Jerry prefers to stand. The native brethren are often impressed at the strength of Jerry to be able to stand and teach that long every day for two weeks. The undergraduate courses are still taught in the native language of Telegu. Paula taught five ladies classes during the two weeks, and they were all taught in Telegu with the aid of a translator.
We stayed in this city on the edge of Orissa for nearly a week, but were working with two different preachers. The Christians in this state have had many problems in the past, so the church is not nearly as strong here as in the next southern state, Andra Pradesh. Joshua Gootam had made several trips to Orissa, and he wanted us to meet with his contacts for the weekend. We had three meetings with one congregation and one night evangelistic meeting in a nearby village. We were scheduled to have a second night meeting in another village, but it was decided that it was not really safe for a couple of foreigners to visit that village. Hindus in this area can sometimes become very angry when Christians meet.
One thing that we noticed was a great contrast between this state and Andra Pradesh. The people with whom we visited in Orissa were simple minded people and few had Bibles or songbooks. Several were fishermen, and likely most could not read.
Philemon has been conducting his J C School of Evangelism in this city for the last two years, and a graduation ceremony for the students was scheduled. The students of this school have worked very hard for the last couple of years, and it showed by the results. Since 2011 these students have baptized 76 people and started 11 new congregations. This is the sort of results that your contributions help fund. In addition, two were baptized in the few days we were there.
We were especially heartened to meet one family of two sisters and two brothers. One was a young lady of 22, and she helped translate for Paula's classes. Her sister was baptized while we were in Orissa, but the other three had been Christians for some time. Their home was a town on the edge of Orissa and a long way from Delhi, but they now live in Brahmapur. Their father was converted many years ago by the Bible Teacher, a monthly magazine printed by Sunny David and funded by World Evangelism. Their father of course taught his family and also taught his brother, who has been preaching the gospel for several years. The interesting thing is that he lived a long distance from Delhi, which once again illustrates the long range of literature. They had also been receiving the English Voice of Truth International so they were familiar with us on a personal basis. They were very excited to meet one whose articles they had been reading and literally begged us to come to their home and have a meeting with their congregation. It so happens that this is quite close to Vinay David’s father-in-law’s home, who has also invited us to visit them sometime, so maybe we can do both. We have many requests to come to various places to teach, and we cannot fill all the requests.
After riding an overnight train from Orissa to Calcutta we caught a short flight to Myanmar. We taught one week at the Hmawbi Bible School as we usually do every spring. Paula taught the women using biblical examples of strong women, and I taught the men beginning principles of sermon preparation. About 25 students from all parts of the country were present for the five-week school.
After nearly seven weeks, it was time to return home. However, we had a problem on our return flight. Our flight from Amsterdam to Detroit was canceled, due to mechanical failure (landing gear not working)! We were forced to spend the night in a hotel. We were ready to be home, but the layover was not bad as it gave us a chance to rest, so we arrived home more refreshed than usual. Fortunately, we were originally scheduled to be home on Friday, so even though we were a day late arriving home, we were still able to make our appointments with churches on Sunday.
Once we arrived home, however, we were not able to stop and rest. The very next week was the annual India missions conference at Heritage Christian University in Florence, and World Evangelism was the sponsor this year. Thus, we spent Tuesday -Friday in Florence, but then we made good use of time as we traveled to Jonesboro to see our grandchildren. The next week we traveled to Maywood Christian camp near Hamilton, AL as World Evangelism hosted the annual Missions Retreat. These are two totally different events and few of the same people were present at both venues.
Once again we had a very good mission trip to India and Myanmar. We thank each of you for helping make the printing, seminars and schools with which we are involved possible. We are glad to be co-workers with you in the Lord's kingdom.
Jerry & Paula Bates