Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Repent and be Baptized

 Preachers at Seminar
There is a great need for local preachers in India. Even in the Indian states where much evangelistic work has been done over the past few decades there is a shortage of trained preachers. The typical preacher in this area of India will preach at two or more congregations every Lord’s day. Brother Rao and Raja, his eldest son, do a great job teaching the local preachers and ensuring the villages have preachers to work and preach for them. Their success is impressive.

The local preacher visits the villages and talks with the women and those who are not working. They, in turn, bring their family members to hear the preaching and many are coming to Christ in this manner. Each church has a P.A. (public address) system. If there are four people in the meeting they will use it. The preachers put the loudspeakers in the windows or on the side of the buildings and blast the sermon and services to the whole area. This is such a common practice here no one complains and I’m sure more than a few souls have been saved from hearing there is only one God in a land with literally millions of gods.

On Friday of last week, after the wedding celebration, we went to a small village to preach the gospel. Brother Rao asked me to deliver the sermon and I have to admit, I was a little nervous. Raja is an excellent interpreter and it didn’t take long before we had a good rhythm of speaking and translating and I was fine. The church was packed and people were standing outside to hear. Most of the congregation is women, the men sat in the back on chairs. We avoid delivering the actual invitation and facilitating the baptisms because of the Hindu’s. It isn’t hard to upset the authorities over conversions, but the local preachers have a good relationship them. “When possible, be at peace with all men.”

Two ladies responded to the invitation given by their local preacher and we all loaded up to find a body of water. The village has a nice creek running by, so the ladies put on Christ as they did in the first century churches of Christ.
The next meeting was not very far away and we were well fed at the home of one of the preachers on the way. Harry delivered a wonderful message to the Visakha area churches of Christ and five Hindu women responded. We baptized them in the shadow of a huge Hindu temple in a very Hindu area. These five ladies pictured here, shivering from their wet clothes, who responded to the gospel were all Hindu and may suffer for their decision. They said, through their preacher, that "If their soul was removed from their body they would still be a Christian." In other words, we will not denounce our faith even if they kill us. When I heard this I couldn’t breathe. Such faith!!!

We had one more meeting to preach in Timmapuram and we were already late. When we arrived they insisted we eat first, and then dedicate their new facility before preaching. Harry has been involved with the work in this area for decades and they were honored he was there to do the dedication. I got my name in marble riding Harry’s coat tails!

The congregation had been waiting a long time for everything to start, but that didn’t dissuade them in the least from hearing the gospel and three ladies responded to the gospel call at 11pm.

When I attended the Nashville School of Preaching I remember hearing Tom Holland tell stories during our breaks. He said when he was a young man, which was a few years ago, they would pitch a tent and preach as long as there were responses to the message. He said that many times he remembers lining up cars along the bank of a river or pond to provide enough light to baptize a lost soul into Christ. Well, I now have something in common with our distinguished brother, except, we only had a single flashlight. However, knowing brother Holland, he’ll have a story that beats this one! LOL!!

So, the local preacher pushed the frogs out of the way and by the light of a single torch, as they call a flashlight in India, the ladies were baptized. Praise God!

Harry has written a commentary to the Gospel of John and began a seminar for the area preachers and anyone interested in John’s gospel. Tuesday, February 8, after the morning session three women and one man, all Hindu’s, who had been attending services and studying the Bible made the decision to obey the gospel after hearing Harry teach. The Fred O’Neal School and Children’s Home is a great facility, but it lacks one thing; a baptistery! So… we all loaded up and went to the river in Rajahmundry.

The situation with the Hindu’s in delicate, as I mentioned before, but brother Rao is well known and they generally allow him leeway. His first thought was for Harry and me to sit in the car and observe the baptism, but after arriving at the river he felt it would be okay to get out.

The scene appeared to be from several centuries ago. Sand is required to make concrete to build, so boats go out and dreg up sand from the bottom of the river. They bring it to shore and unload it by bucket which they carry on their heads. Several of these boats were there where we baptized and one boat was on shore being reconditioned by hand. To the right of us were several Hindu men swimming and washing their clothes and a Hindu beggar priest all dressed in saffron with white hair and beard. The beggar priests are taken care of by everyone. You can’t refuse to give to a priest. Up the hill from the priest were several dhobi with their clothes lines full of the days wash. A dhobi is someone who does your laundry for you.

In the midst of all of this each one confessed that Jesus Christ is the son of God and was baptized for the remission of sins. The man that was baptized came up the bank grinning ear to ear. He is up in age and has been a Hindu all these long years, but once the truth lights the darkness, the wise will walk in the light. I shook his hand this morning before the days lectures began and I’m happy to report he is still grinning!

It’s been a fruitful journey so far. Not that we were the cause of these baptisms, not at all. Everyone baptized has been involved with a study of the Bible with well trained preachers and teachers for awhile. We just happened to be holding a meeting when they decided to follow Jesus into eternity. We are saved by the grace of God when we believe He is, that Jesus is His Son, repent of our evil ways turning to the Way of Christ, and obey the command to be baptized for the remission of our sins. I’m thankful I was a witness to these conversions and that everyone reading my blog can see the great work being done in India.

1 comment:

  1. I feel like I'm there with you! You are able to describe the atmosphere and locations very well. Gary did assist in baptisms while we were there and even though our family that are missionaries over there said it isn't a big deal since we were there for a short time, we know that if we continue to go back we will have to be out of the picture when people are baptized. Keep up the good work and we will continue to pray for you guys!