Thursday, February 24, 2011

Corection and update to Singampally

Correction to Meeting in Singampally:
On February 25, 2011 Harry interviewed brother Koteswara after a meeting. It seems I misunderstood that he was taken to a Hindu temple and held when it actually was a preacher from a denomination who was held in the temple, manhandled and forced to denounce God. Our brother Koteswara went to the temple and fought for the mans release, and won!  

Update: In the process of the interview we learned that the extremist Hindus had harassed them in several ways. One of the three temples is practically next door to their home where he conducts services on his porch. The Hindu's blasted vulgar blasphemies at them when they are worshiping, they cut their water lines, they banned anyone in town from allowing them to buy food, and they came to their worship services and screamed in his face to intimidate him. They also advertised that drugs were put into the wine for the Lord's supper and their women were being forced through drugs to convert to Christianity!

He finally got the political man of the village to work with the only authority in the town to investigate. They covertly investigated for six months and found that the church was being terribly harassed. One individual that the Hindus brought in from another town was jailed for 12 days and the authorities demanded peaceful relations. While the investigation was ongoing, brother Koteswara was working.

Through all of these trials he continued to teach the message of Christ as our redeemer to anyone he could get to listen. He baptized a man from one of the extremists families, then his wife and children. He has baptized some of the persecutors wives! When their husband would not give them permission to go to worship, they went anyway (that's a big deal here. wives have to ask their husbands to go places). They respect him more than their husbands. It's his humble nature that makes him a valuable leader. It wouldn't surprise me if he converted the whole village! I can't wait to get him that bicycle. I'd buy him a scooter if I could afford it!

Please read "Meeting in Singampally"

Church Building Dedication

We were surprised when Sudarsana, Elizabeth and Bobby showed up Sunday night, February 14. Their grandson, Cyril, had recovered from his bout of dehydration and Bobby drove all night from Hyderabad to get his parents home.  Also, Raja and I arrived home very late from the meeting in Singampally and Monday morning Harry was feeling well enough to get out of bed. So, everyone was back and ready to work, if maybe a little tired and weak from the weekend of preaching, travel and sickness. Monday, February 15 was a very important day for Sudarsana and the church in Seetanagaram.

It wasn't a very long drive to Seetanagaram and it was a beautiful day to dedicate a new church building. The church members have been waiting two years for the "official" dedication and it was a festive atmosphere.

They actually finished the building construction and began using it in 2008. They waited for Harry to dedicate the building because he and Sudarsana began the work there in 2001 and Sudarsana wanted Highland Heights church of Christ to be honored. Harry had to postpone his visit until this year due to his wife Carolyn's bout with cancer, which she has survived by God's grace to the joy of all who love her dearly.

In 2001 Harry Anderson held a meeting there and 300 people were in attendance. There were people from every religion and denomination present. They counted 50 denominational preachers! There were only two baptized believers when they began to meet regularly. Raja organized the evangelistic effort over the past few years and preaches there regularly.

In 2002 Sudarsana bought property in a centrally located area of the town across the street from the bus station. From 2006 to 2008 he had a two story building constructed with a meeting hall on the top and stalls on the bottom to be rented out to local businessmen. One of the stalls will be kept as a library and resource room. The rent will help to support the local preacher, congregation and evangelism efforts.

 Very festive
They now have a regular attendance of 50. One of Raja's responsibilities is to train local preachers, so they have an associate preacher who lives in Seetanagaram named A. Bapuji who ministers daily to the congregation.

Harry and I were warmly welcomed and given a tour of the property. There is a huge back yard that will accommodate a large tent for big meetings, weddings, lectures and other events. In 2001 they had to rent a hall for their meeting.

 Huge back yard!

We went up to the door of the church and unveiled the plaque that commemorates the event. After the ribbon was cut Harry and I spoke on the importance of using what the Lord has provided for the glory of God, encouraged them in the Lord's work and the opportunity's they will have to evangelize.

Personal note: Now I have my name on two buildings in the Andra Pradesh state. Of course, I'm riding Harry's coat tails, but it's still pretty cool!

This congregation is going to do great things in their town and I hope to see it grow through the years. We will certainly all be praying for them.

 Stalls to be rented to business'

Cutting the ribbon

 The congregation assembled

All dressed up for the official opening

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Meeting in Singampally

Sunday night, February 13, Raja and I went to a small village called Singampally. Our first stop was the preachers home where we met him, his family and several members of his congregation. We met an upper caste (yes, the caste system is still used) lady who attended meetings for two years, then one night around 8 pm she accepted the testimony of the scriptures and decided she must be baptized for the remission of her sins right that moment. So, she walked two miles to find the preacher and he took her to a body of water and immersed her. Her family isn't happy about her decision, but her husband allows her to attend services. For awhile she brought her son with her until her in-laws protested.

 Brother Koteswara's home and church facility.

 Brother Koteswara, family and friends.
The little porch you see in the picture is where they have their services in Singampally. He also built a congregation in a nearby village where he preaches and teaches. The preachers name is B. Koteswara Rao. I can't describe to you the excitement I felt after this meeting and hearing of the trials the preacher has endured and is still going strong. So, I've copied the email I sent to my wife Debbie when I returned at 1 am that night:

"Deb, the people in the village I preached at last night, Singampally, are soo incredible. The preacher, B. Koteswara Rao, has been there 22 years building two congregations. This small village has three great big Hindu temples and there is an extremist faction that harasses him. He was once taken out of his home to their temple and they tried to force him to denounce Christ for a Hindu God. The authorities do nothing! However, he has been so consistent in his life and teaching that many of the Hindu's respect him. In fact, the facility that we used last night was donated by a Hindu family that was at the meeting! They covered all the expenses. I have so much to tell you, I can't write it all. The preacher has services at his little house and his wife does some tutoring. Each of the families, about 12, bring a ball of rice for the preachers family and this is mostly what they live on. Bro Rao gives him $30 a month out of his pocket. He is looking forward to the drip irrigation gardening because it will really help his family and congregation.

Deb, as poor as he is, still preaching and teaching, he doesn't ask for anything. He is a man of faith. What I have discovered however, is he needs a bicycle. Raja hopes to raise funds to provide all the area preachers bicycles because they walk everywhere. Brother Koteswara walks miles between villages to preach every Sunday at two churches and to visit, teach and evangelize. I want us to provide one of the bicycles and I want this man to have it. The bicycles here cost $70. I love this brother for his amazing display of faith and evangelism and I'm humbled by his love for God and His people."

 Ha! Caught Raja with his mouth open!

 We ate before the meeting.

 This is the Indian Erkel. Couldn't get a smile!

 Brother Koteswara, wife and children.

The members of both congregations waited for us to arrive and meetings here are held late at night. We began preaching at around 11 pm! As stated in my email, a Hindu family donated the facilities for the meeting and covered the expenses. They were there that night for the sermon and they honored me with garland. The relatives of another member who are Hindu wanted to be at the meeting and drove two hours by motorcycle to be there.

The meeting went well, especially considering Raja had strep throat, but he didn't miss a beat translating. There was one response to the sermon, a lady who was five months pregnant. Brother Koteswara had to baptize her when the sun came up because of her pregnancy, the cold night air, and the danger of baptizing her in the cold pond at night. It would be wonderful if every congregation had some sort of baptistery so they can readily baptize. It was reported back to me the next day that she was baptized into Christ that morning. Praise God!

This picture of a church of Christ building is across the street from the meeting place we used. It is an instrumental congregation that very seldom meets. The last time anyone was there was at Christmas! If anyone knows who supports this work, please contact me. If they aren't using it, we'll get that congregation off the front porch and into a proper building. It saddens me greatly to see a sound facility in disuse while a thriving congregation meets on a porch all because of the desire to use instruments in worship.

I'm looking forward to going back to Singampally one day. I will thoroughly enjoy seeing the brethren and especially brother Koteswara, he's one of my hero's of faith!

If anyone is interested in contributing to a fund to provide bicycles to the preachers in the Rajahmundry area, contact me by email. My address is in my profile.

Sunday Morning in Madhurapudi

Last Sunday, February 13, while Harry was down sick and our host was out of town with a sick grandson, I preached that morning in Madhurapudi, the village Sudarsana was born and raised before being put in a government hostel. I didn’t know he was raised in a government hostel until this day and many things became clear to me with this knowledge. Only someone who has walked the same path as the children can have the same unspoken communication and rapport that he has with them. It’s common here for parents or grandparents to take their children to homes because they can’t feed them or provide basic necessities. Every child at the home has a story, but you wouldn’t know it by the smiles on their little faces. I’ve come to know several of the young men and women who were raised at the home and now work to help the next generation with Sudarsana and Elizabeth. It’s nice to see one generation giving back some of what they received to the next generation.

 Beautiful garland

 Kids always sit up front.

 I really look like I know what I'm doing! It didn't last long...

The village of Madhurapudi had gone all out to welcome me with decorations and a sign. They were singing when we arrived and were really “raising the roof!” There were three responses to the gospel, but I wasn’t able to stay for the baptism. They have one place they can baptize in a garden nearby. The guard there on Sunday is a member of the church and lets them in to immerse. Unfortunately, they were under a power outage Sunday afternoon and unable to have access until evening and I was to preach a meeting in another village that night. I was told that two were baptized into Christ and the third was baptized after some more study with the preacher so she could be certain her baptism was for the right reason. 

After the meeting we ate in one of the brother’s home, as is their custom. They set up a table in their bedroom to feed us because it was the biggest room in the house (I think they only had three rooms. They were a charming young couple with two boys running around the yard. After diinner we sat on his porch to talk. There is a wonderful sense of “we’re not in a hurry and neither should you” about this village that reminds me of visiting my relatives in Hickman County Tennessee, “the country,” when I was a lad. We would all sit on their front porch for hours and wave at the very few cars that passed by on that old red dirt road. It was as if time stood still while we gathered our thoughts and rested a bit.


 Home where we ate.

 Our host and his youngest son.

Our hosts wife and good cook!

 View from the back porch. See the cow?

Typical cooking hut.

The people of this village mainly find work in the agricultural sector around the village. They are poor in material things, small huts and dirt walkways, but they are wealthy in spirit, character and love for the Lord.

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Birthday Party

On Tuesday night, the week of the seminar, a couple who attend the meetings here, Babji and Anitha, brought new clothing for all the 42 children at the home. Dhruva, their daughter, was having a birthday Wednesday and they wanted us all to come. They requested that Harry and I present the clothing to the children, so Harry said a nice prayer for them and their child and we handed out the clothing. These children have very little and what they do own is worn and patched. The school provides them with a uniform that only costs $4. They were excited!

 The next day during lunch we went the couples house to celebrate their daughters first birthday. The mother is still a Hindu, but she is close to excepting the truth. I've never seen a party like this. They ushered Harry and I on stage with the family and Brother Rao, who has done this many times. He read something out of PS 127 and then he asked Harry to pray for the child and family, which Harry did. I was thinking, "I'm next." So, I began composing a prayer in my head. Well, brother Rao turned to me, with hundreds of people all there looking at the two white guys and the nice couple with their little girl on stage, and said, "Please say something about the little girl and her birthday." Man, talk about being put on a spot! I think I did okay. I commented on how great a community of friends and family they had and yada yada yada. Then after I had scraped by, by the skin of my teeth, he said, "Now say a prayer for the Dhruva and her family!" I had already used up every good thought I had! LOL!!!! Then we ate, as usual. I was wrong to think I would lose weight in India! The kids all looked spectacular in their new clothes and they sang happy birthday for Dhruva.

 Aren't they pretty in their new clothes?

Brother Rao being eloquent.

 Mom wouldn't let me eat with my hands.

 This young man took special care of Harry and me!


 View of the festivities from the roof.

 Children waiting their turn to eat.

 The birthday girl!!

Seminar on the Gospel of John

Harry Anderson wrote a commentary on the book of John and form February 7 to 11 he presented lessons from John's gospel to 192 area preachers, teachers and any one interested in learning. It was a great week of making new friends and fellowship with evangelists on the front lines preaching God's Word to an area of India that is about 89% Hindu. In the course of the week 10 souls responded to John's gospel through Harry's expert command of God's Word. I posted three blog entries on our journeys down to the river to baptize. In this blog entry I wanted to post some photo's of the seminar and also the way our Indian brethren honored us "Indians style" at the conclusion of the week. In Paul's letter to the Romans he says, "Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor." (12:10 ESV) Enjoy the photo's:

The roof of the School and Children's Home was transformed from concrete with half constructed pillars to this really nice meeting place. The School is on the highest ground in Rajahmundry and from the roof you can see many miles.

 The first day of the seminar had a strong turn out and Tuesday four baptisms! I'll never forget this gentleman's smile when he came out of the water and I held my hand out to him. That's the smile of some one who has just been born into Christ.

 They erected a tent in the adjacent lot to feed all the attendees. The kids ate there with them during the week of the seminar. They had a great time in fellowship and every night I saw groups of three or more sitting in a circle with their bibles and notebooks on their knees ready to discuss the days lecture. They have a zeal for knowledge.

Here are a few of the photo's taken during the week:

 Harry preparing his thoughts for the day.

 Not every one paid attention.

 These preachers all work in the same area.

 These shades are just cool!!

 The ladies really paid close attention.
 Lunch is served.

 Children came from school to see the end.

 Harry, E. Abraham and family. Son Baptized this week


 She was trying to sneak a picture.

I call her sweetie.

Tons of notes were taken.

 She just wanted her pic taken!

On Friday they honored Harry and me with garlands and everyone had a great time ending the week of good bible study and ten baptisms with a show of love and fun!

 We thought we were receiving a (one) garland

 Okay, it's awkward, but we survived!

 But they weren't finished!

 Everybody wanted in on the the flowers.

 And more...

 and more...

 And the kids....

 and the teachers...

 Sudarsana and Elizabeth with a blanket...

 Bobby and Swetha...

 We couldn't move!!!!

 Laughing because they want Harry to stand!

 It was a group effort...

 These garlands are real flowers and heavy!

 Harry prayed beautifully as always

 Harry honored Elizabeth.

 Everybody was so very nice.

We're seeing these preachers again at their villages

 This brother was very nice and wanted a picture.
"Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor." (12:10 ESV)