|Vol. 1, No. 4||Page 20||April 1999|
Mission News From India
8 Vans-96 Brothers-732 Baptisms
Each Spring before the brothers graduate from the three-year preacher training at Dindigul we send them on an evangelistic campaign for Christ along with the "seniors" from the two-year school of preaching for single men at Coimbatore. This is in order to win souls for Christ in an intensive manner.
When the first group of 17 graduates were sent on such a campaign in December 1990 there was only one van. This year (Feb. 13-27) eight vans were used to carry the 96 brothers to proclaim "the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ" (Acts 8:12). We thank God 732 obeyed the gospel.
In order that you might have a better understanding of this effort let me tell you about some of the things that influence our approach to the work. I have occasionally worked in such campaigns, although it is our preference that native brethren be sent to their own people. This way we have poor saints preaching to poor people.
Speaking of poor people, India and other third world countries are filled with them. Tamil Nadu alone has about 75,000,000 souls. The vast majority live with very limited resources as to this world's goods. Yet, it should be burned into our hearts that Jesus not only proved His Messiahship with signs and wonders, but by the fact that He preached the gospel to the poor (Matt. 11:5).
It is also most important to recall, people are often prone to approach Christ if they perceive that loaves and fishes are available (John 6:26). Thus our young brothers are instructed to tell the people they come to them not with a promise of sheep, goats, rice or rupees but with the hope of salvation and the promise of eternal life.
In this most recent two week campaign the brothers preached in more than 600 places. This means that each of the eight vans had to reach more than five villages per day for the 14 days. The number of places preached in comparison to the number converted (732) illustrates the real stringent task it is to win souls in the conservative Hindu state of Tamil Nadu. Yet, when the school at Dindigul was first begun in May 1989 there were 71 congregations in the central portion of the state, while today there are 425 (or more) and students and graduates have baptized 16,000. In other words the work has not been phenomenal but it has surely been steady.
The embedded joy in the program is that virtually all these congregations have a trained evangelist preaching for them and that the vast majority of these gospel preachers are supporting themselves or getting help from their own congregations.
The fact that these brothers preached in more than 600 villages also illustrates the real potential of a leap in the number of congregations in the next two or three years.
Although most of my time is spent in training the preachers and teaching the teachers I have over the past ten years been on some of these campaigns. Since, as I noted, each van load of workers averages visiting more than five villages per day you can well imagine the drain of energy such requires. In order to hold so many meetings the appointments for them must be arranged ahead of time by some of the students or former graduates.
The day usually begins at 5:00 a.m. as we get up in time to make our first meeting at 6:00 before the laborers go to work in the fields of rice, sugar cane or other crops. Once we reach the village the brothers go into the narrow lanes encouraging the people to come to the meeting, which is usually held in the street or another open place between houses. Some students pull grass mats from the van for the people to sit on. Often the villagers themselves will bring out their mats for this purpose. The meeting lasts for about an hour with the brothers leading the songs and prayers. The evening services last longer.
If I am preaching and it is a new place my theme is almost always Christ and His kingdom (Acts 8:12; Isa. 2:2-4; Dan. 2:44; Matt. 3:1-2; Mark 9:1; Matt. 16:18-19; Acts 2:36-41 and so on). At the close the plan of salvation is explained by me, but one of the native brothers does the exhortation for obedience. If anyone wants to be baptized they are taken by van to the river or canal while most of us wait in the village. The native brothers do the baptizing.
After the van returns we go to the next village and conduct the service in a similar manner. About 9:30 a.m. we go to a hole in the wall restaurant, which they call a "hotel," and take breakfast served on a banana leaf. The brothers usually eat three or four idly (molded steam-cooked "dumplings" that are made from rice flour), or they may eat dosai (a crepe-like rice pancake). Both idly and dosai are served with chutney made from ground coconut or with cooked vegetable stew. Some also eat fried eggs. I usually take the same with a pancake-like bread from wheat flour. After breakfast each one drinks tea or coffee laced with milk and sugar.
After we have ordered our food one of the brothers will stand in the midst of the room and say "let's pray." This he does in the hearing of all, including the unbelievers who are also eating. This id done each time we stop for meals throughout the day.
Five or six similar meetings are carried on each day and are usually about 2 to 3 hours apart. The last one can be as late as 9:00 or 10:00 p.m. At one time we were expected at one village around 9:00 but were delayed until 11:00. When we arrived the people were still expecting us and listened to the preaching till after midnight.
At night the brothers sleep in the open or in a hall we may have rented for a night meeting in some small town. They sleep on grass mats as is the custom in the tropical climate. Bathing and places for toilet facilities can be a problem.
Ordinarily the brothers will find a room for me in a small house or lodge. Once I slept in a tobacco barn and watched the rats scamper along the rafters. On another occasion I slept in a room at Paramathy in a rather nice bed and got eaten by bed bugs. If we are near a town of any size a hotel room can be rented for about $2.50 per night with a bathroom and in the cooler part of the year they will provide a bucket of warm water for a bath. The grass mats that are in general use for beds are son thin (about one-fourth inch) that I require at least two of them to be comfortable.
This month marks the time of the year I must mention an urgent matter. Most churches plan their budgets in the late Fall or early Winter, but our greatest need for preacher support comes in June. This is because the school year ends at the end of April, selection classes are held for one month in May and those who qualify enroll the next month.
Last month there were 534 preachers in training. Of these 204 are in the three-year program at Dindigul. Of these 51 will graduate on May 8th leaving 153, but to the number will be added about half of those in the one-year schools. These one-year schools with local churches anywhere from 50 to 120 miles from Dindigul serve as feeder schools for the three-year program. There are presently 267 enrolled in those six schools and if things hold true to form about 50 percent of them will elect to enroll at Dindigul for the 1999-2000 school year. This will add about 130 new students to the 153 due back for the coming year or a total of about 283. The one-year schools will fill up again. Remember $33 per month will support one man while he studies in one of the schools and $100 will support three. Help us if you possibly can. Please keep us in your prayers as I will leave March 24th for another long stay in India. May God bless each and every one.
In Christian love,
Jim E. Waldron, Dunlap church of Christ, Waldron Mission Fund, P.O. Box 123, Dunlap, TN 37327-0123