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.