Large Areas Without Christ
We recently finished our overseas trip, and most of it went well. We were in the Philippines last, and had planned to visit an outlying island and look at how we might help start a new work in that area. However, our plans had to be changed due to a typhoon that roared through just as we arrived. We flew into Manila and were going to fly to the other island early the next morning, but that flight was canceled, which meant that our entire program was scrapped. Our Filipino brother had some family who lived south about 4 hours by bus, and we visited them over the weekend, so we only had one day of complete downtime.
One thing that impressed us in the Philippines, as well as in other countries, was the amount of work left to do. Sometimes we think how far the work has progressed (and it has), and the work seems to be going so well (which it is); however, there are whole areas and very large cities with no church presence. Much work has been done in the Philippines, and there are many Christians in certain areas, but large areas and whole islands remain which are almost untouched. The city to which we traveled is one of the largest cities in the Philippines, yet no true church exists there. We were going to go to another island, and there is no true church there either. There is a large Catholic presence and numerous denominations exist but little knowledge of the true church.
The same situation exists in India. After multitudes of people traveling to India for many years, and thousands being converted and hundreds of churches now existing, one might think our job is almost done. However, we would be sadly mistaken if that is our thinking. India is the world’s second largest country, population wise, and again, there are huge cities in which the church has never been established. For example, one of our Indian brethren, P K Varghese, has a son who lives and works in Pathanamtitta in the state of Kerala, and it has no church. While in Delhi, we met a man at church from Nigeria who was going to school in India. He traveled four hours by bus in order to attend worship because there was no church closer to him.
These examples just illustrate the point that there is much work left to do, even in countries we think has largely been evangelized. Thus, we must not relax on our past deeds; rather, we must continue to work and help native brethren expand the church into those areas that are unevangelized. Our work is not done, and it will not be done until God calls us all home.
In August Jerry spent two weeks in Africa teaching a master’s program in Accra. That was a good time in that it also coincided with the printing of the Voice of Truth International. The ones in charge of distributing the Voice of Truth in Ghana as well as Nigeria were there, and he was able to visit with both of them as to how the distribution was working out. Makinde, the one in Nigeria, reported that he was getting more interest now, and he wanted to double the normal printing. Three thousand copies are normally printed, so he wanted 6,000. It is good that it is so well received, but, of course, that also increases the cost. Jerry told him that the cost might be too great to do that all the time, so Makinde’s solution was to only print twice a year. The work in Nigeria is going well, as he recently reported an entire Pentecostal church had been converted.
About mid-September we began our fall trip to Nepal with a mind-numbing 15 hour flight from Chicago to Hong Kong immediately followed by a 4 hour flight to Kathmandu, arriving at 10:00 p. m. Saturday night. We also carried with us two donated water purifying systems (total weight about 50 lbs.) to help with the relief effort in Nepal. You probably remember that a massive earthquake shook Nepal about six months ago, and we saw firsthand some of the effects. However, we were surprised in that a large amount of cleanup had already taken place, so it wasn’t bad in the city. The damage was much worse in the countryside, and winter is fast approaching. Jerry taught the book of James in the school for a week. These students were excited since their graduation was only three weeks away. They had also been actively involved in the relief efforts. We understand a little more about earthquakes now, because two nights before leaving the Philippines, we felt the tremors of an earthquake. It was a 5.4 quake, much smaller than the one in Nepal; nevertheless, we were even more ready to return home after that and the typhoon messing up our plans.
India from North to South
We had planned to visit Aurangabad Bible College, where World Evangelism has begun printing the Voice of Truth in the Marathi language; however, due to family illness the director was forced to cancel our visit. Fortunately, we were going through Delhi, so we spent our first weekend in India with the Davids. The church there is doing better since they have moved to the new building a couple of years ago. Their TV program continues to bring in many contacts from a wide area. The potential audience of these programs is mind-boggling. Hindi is spoken by approximately 40% of India’s population, which means that about 500 million people speak Hindi, which is more than the entire population of the U. S.
From there we met Rajanayagam and traveled to a hill station where he had planned a special seminar on the eldership. For three days, Jerry spoke to about 40 preachers, and Paula spoke to 10 women about the character of the wives of church leaders. There are only a few churches with elders in India, but much interest is developing in this topic, which illustrates the maturing of the church. We met the preacher of a church in Chennai, and he is an elder as well. That eldership was appointed in 2014. His congregation began about 20 years ago, but now it has an attendance of around 300. He reported that one of the major reasons for the substantial growth was the use of Bible classes with different grades. Many things that we take for granted in the U. S. are novelties in many other countries.
Our next stop was the graduation of the J C School of Evangelism in Dindigul. This was the sixth group to complete this program, and Philemon is doing a great work with the program in preparing and encouraging individual Christians to be more involved in evangelism. Great results are achieved each time, but this was one of the best. The hosting congregation was an older congregation and an older preacher, but both were discouraged. The preacher reported that as the 18-month program progressed, the congregation changed from an apathetic group to being involved and dedicated. For example, they had never finished their building (no lights, windows, doors, paint), but now the building is transformed into a beautiful building by Indian standards and all done by the congregation itself. They have also begun supporting the preacher allowing him to buy a motorcycle to help him in his ministry. Twenty-two people were baptized and thousands of tracts and books have been distributed, which should continue to bear results into the future.
The next stop was another hill station on the border between the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Arjunan had arranged a large gathering of preachers and Christians with their families. About 150 attended a three day program during which Jerry taught some lessons on the first 6 chapters of Romans and Paula had women and children’s classes, even one by candlelight. Would you be willing to attend a three day seminar where you stayed in a barracks type situation with no warm water for bathing? They seemed to enjoy the fellowship. Although primitive and dirty by our standards, we had our own room with hot water, but one can endure a lot for only three days, especially when one has such a good group to teach. Seven were baptized in the river during this special seminar.
Next, we traveled 5 hours by car to the city of Trivandrum in the state of Kerala. Here we met P K Varghese, another one of our TV speakers. He arranged a special one day seminar with four congregations represented, and we met a preacher who had formerly been a Catholic priest. A small congregation was meeting in his home in this large city. P K had only known him for a couple of years, although this man had been living there about six years. This illustrates that there may be Christian groups meeting in various places that one never knows about. Fortunately, we serve a God who does know.
Next, we encountered another problem with this trip. We had scheduled an early morning one-hour flight to Chennai and planned to have a day program in this large city and an early evening session at a different church, where the second edition of Jerry’s sermon book in Tamil was to be formally released. However, when we arrived at the airport (about 5:00 a.m.), we learned that our flight was delayed. Later, we were told that the plane was coming from the Middle East, and a sandstorm prevented it from taking off. It was delayed a couple more times, and finally about 4:00 p.m. we took off. Obviously, we missed the day program, and was a couple hours late for the evening session; nevertheless, a large group waited for us at the building.
This group of islands lies in the middle of the Bay of Bengal between India and Myanmar, but it is a part of India. Philemon had some contacts in the capital city of Port Blair, and he wanted us to join him. The church is small and weak in this area. One problem is the multiplicity of languages spoken in the islands. People have come from all parts of India to the islands, thus the presence of many languages. We met with both a Telegu congregation and Tamil speaking group. One congregation had to have two translators for Jerry. Philemon was hoping to start a School of Evangelism in the islands, and perhaps a TV program. Recently we learned that the Christians there are eager to start the school, and the TV program would be a great help to them especially during the time of the school. However, more funds are needed to make both programs a reality.
One stop on this trip was Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Vietnam is a different country than most would think. It is a very modern and clean country. Jerry visited there in November of last year, but this time both of us were able to go. Vietnam is a Communist country; therefore, it is not very friendly to Christianity. There are several Christian groups scattered throughout the country, although they are small. They meet in various homes, and they are free to meet as they please. The only problem is that we as Americans are not supposed to meet with them. Thus, when we meet with them and teach, we are doing something illegal. In order to avoid trouble, the leader invites many to stay in a hotel for 2-3 days, which avoids the coming and going which may bring attention.
In this case, a nice house was rented a couple of hours drive outside the city in a tourist area near the beach. A bus was rented, and after Sunday morning worship, we all rode the bus to the house. Paula and I actually stayed with our translators (separate rooms, of course) in a hotel nearby. When asked why, the Vietnamese Christian simply said it would be safer for us to stay at another location. To give you an idea of how serious he was about safety, the house had walls and a gate around it, and all day the gates were locked from the inside. We had no problems, and it was a good teaching time. We divided the groups into men and women, and we taught many hours each day. Many of the students were not New Testament Christians; thus, much time was spent answering questions and discussing false ideas. Some had little knowledge of the Bible. One person was baptized during the sessions, but we did not attend the baptism. We enjoyed our time meeting with the Vietnamese people, and it sure was good to be able to eat beef and pork again after coming from India.
As always we are thankful to get home, but most of all we are so blessed to have all of you as contributors to our work with World Evangelism. Your continuing encouragement is a great strength of support. God has been so merciful and longsuffering to us all. May He continue to give us more days to try to reach those who are lost.
Jerry & Paula Bates