An Update By Tom Walker From India
Nearly a year ago Janet and I read a book together called “Granny Brand.” It was the story of Evelyn Brand who was a missionary to Southeast India. We laughed and cried as she described her beloved “hill people,” along with the sights and sounds of India. Last Friday we felt we lived out a part of that story.
We left our hotel after lunch and embarked on a three hour journey to a village church dedication. The journey was complete with bicycles, motorcycles, cars, buses, trucks, three-wheeled “autos,” cows, sheep, goats, chickens and pigs. (We had even seen a camel the day before). That is normal for India, but where the normalcy ended was when we turned off the main road.
We began to wind through the countryside, “jungle,” on a one-lane road. We began to notice cotton fields, being worked by the village people. Then we came upon an ox cart filled with bags of harvested cotton. When we arrived at the village it became abundantly obvious that we were the novelty. Word spread quickly that there were some white faces within view and people began to come by the vehicle and some were even brave enough to try out their sparse English with a brave “hello,” followed by laughter and antics. We slowly made our way through the narrow, crowded streets of this village of 3,000 people. Then on the outskirts of town we saw them. The people of the church, gathered for the dedication service.
For most of us, it would be a stretch to call this structure a building, let alone a church. In reality, it consisted of eight concrete pillars, some trees trimmed as supporting beams and several sheets of corrugated tin, completing the roof. The walls consisted of large pieces of fabric and the ground was covered by an assortment of woven grain bags and tarps for the people to set on. Now in India no church would be complete without a sound system, despite the fact that the enclosed area could not have been any bigger than 150 square feet. There was a green ribbon tied across the front opening of the structure, awaiting the arrival of the distinguished guests from the Berean Fellowship in the US. We were greeted warmly by the gathering of about 35 men, women, and children who had been waiting patiently for our late arrival. After Janet and I were honored to cut the ribbon, all proceeded proudly into the building and took their places on the floor, while we occupied the places of honor, an assortment of plastic chairs at the “front” of the church. Fresh flower were hung around our necks and coconut milk was served to us, straight from the coconut! This was a festive occasion for this small band of believers.
The Lord had impressed upon me that when I brought the dedication address it should be in story form, as undoubtedly many of these simple villagers would be illiterate. That was the case as only a few possessed Bibles. I chose as my text the familiar passage where Jesus tells the story of “three lost things,” in Luke 15; a lost sheep, a lost coin, a lost son. The people sat attentive and captured by the Word of God, communicated orally through a translator. Knowing looks and heads bobbing in agreement conveyed to me that the stories were part of their culture, communicating truths they were connecting with. As I sought to be animated and relevant with my illustrations I was observing three men that were standing some distance away, along the road. Obviously, they were not yet part of this fellowship, but would they be in the days ahead as the believers live out their faith?
Then it struck me. This is why we came. This made all the expense, inconvenience, heat and humidity, culture shock, and feelings of being overwhelmed worth it. As I looked into the faces of these simple, village people, and saw the beaming smile on the face of the young pastor whom we had honored by dedicating “the building,” my heart was moved. This is why Christ came, to seek and to save the lost. This is why Granny Brand endured decades of hardship to reach people just like these, nearly a century ago.
Some things have changed in the villages of India over the years. Some have electricity, cell phones, and indoor plumbing, but the need remains the same. Men who will brave the challenges of ridicule, prejudice, and threats. People who will pray and encourage those who go. People who will give.
For ten years now the Berean Fellowship has been invested in training and supporting men such as this, who in turn will go to the villages with the light of the gospel. This is my eighth trip to teach, preach and encourage. But all over again I remembered why we came. Why you gave. Why they go.
Please leave a comment and encourage the Walkers in their missionary work!