On A (non-)Mission
The non-Mission to India in the words of Jeff Harris
August 22, 2000 Part I
Dear Pilgrims and Strangers,
I would like to personally thank each and every one of you for your prayers toward both the efforts in the Philippines, as well as in India, to spread the gospel of grace that we love so well. It is with a thankful heart that I write of the safe return of Elder James Pruitt and Elder Ricky Arnold and the four that went with them to the Philippines from their most recent trip on Aug.10th, my safe return from India on Aug.19th and the impending return of Elder Zack Guess and Elder Herb Hatfied tomorrow, Aug.23. God is indeed merciful to His servants. Due to the interest and many questions that have come to me about the trip to India, I have decided that it would be best to communicate the events that transpired on this trip from my journal over the internet and welcome any other questions that may arise that might not be mentioned in what I write. May God bless this work, as He has the work in the Philippines, for His names' honor and glory! Amen.
I would like to give a little background to this effort, before I begin my journal account, to give a little historical view of Christianity in India. If you have the opportunity, I would encourage you to read the following books that concern India;
An Introduction To Indian Church History; by C.B. Firth (1961 edition)
The Indian Church of St. Thomas; by E.M. Philip
India and The Apostle Thomas; by A.E. Medlycott
These books and many others indicate that the dear Apostle Thomas labored for some twenty years and suffered martyrdom by the hands of Brahmin pagans near modern-day Madras, the place we flew into before going in to the interior city of Salem by train. Fourth century historian Origin, quoted Eusebius (A.D. 185-254) as stating, "When the holy apostles and disciples of our Savior were scattered over all the world, Thomas, so the tradition has it, obtained as his portion, Parthia (which included Northwest India)." Ecclesiastical History; Vol. III, 1. Of course, there were many subsequent priests, monks and Jesuits that came to India over the centuries, but it was also here, that a young man named William Carey brought his family in November of 1793, arriving at Calcutta. Here he lived and died, along with his family, but in the wake of his death (in 1834), God had used him to plant seven Calvinistic Baptist churches and the scriptures translated into nearly 40 languages! The influence of Carey is still being felt in India today. We need also to remember that India was under British rule for nearly two centuries, granting them full independence following World War II in 1947. Great Britain built their road systems, railway systems, Shipping centers, Hospitals and Postal operations.
August 8, 2000 After months of planning and praying, the day finally arrived for the very first delegation of Primitive Baptists to travel to the distant land of India. Three ministers felt the burden to answer the call for assistance from brethren in the Southeastern State of Tamil-Nadu; Elder Zack Guess of Memphis, TN, Elder Herbert Hatfield of Columbus, MS and Elder L. Jeff Harris of Tifton, GA. Like Paul, Barnabas and Silas of old, each minister brought a unique element to the effort involved in bringing the gospel of sovereign grace to a land dominated by Hinduism, Buddhism, and Muslim beliefs. I am personally thankful for the opportunity that God has granted us in our generation, to share the unsearchable riches of a risen and reigning Savior to His people in India. Paul felt himself to be a "debtor" (under holy obligation) to preach the gospel, "both to the Greeks and to the Barbarians, both to the wise and the unwise" (Rom,1:14). If beloved Paul felt the weight of such an obligation with all the challenges that he faced in his day, should not we, withal the conveniences of our day? If Paul did not shrink from such a task without the use of the printing press, radio, television and modern transportation, how can our generation justify not evangelizing, even though we have these and other tools at our disposal? Paul did not make excuses, but simply stated, "So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel" (Rom.1:15). He was bankrupt in himself, but recognized God's sufficiency (II Cor.1:9, 3:5, 4:7, 12:9) to accomplish His holy purposes (Eph.1:11, 3:6-13). Paul surrendered every faculty of his being to the service of the Lord (Gal.2:20, 6:15, Act.27:23) and could therefore say with evident sincerity, "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ (Rom.1:16). If so dedicated a servant as Paul could willingly suffer a martyr's death for such a glorious message (II Tim.1:8), how can we live in silence when so many liberties to proclaim the gospel prevail in our generation? Are we being faithful stewards of what God has entrusted us with? Are we ashamed of Paul's message today? We need only to return to the primitive pattern that is grounded in that primitive passion of that primitive preacher Paul; "I am debtor", "I am ready". and "I am not ashamed". My desire is to be numbered among those, whether many or few, who bear in their bodies "the marks of the Lord Jesus Christ" (Gal. 6:17) and who are more concerned about conformity to God's word than they are about conformity to man-made traditions that shackle the feet of evangelists and sow seeds of division among the flock of God! My God bestow mercy upon us in this challenging hour and grant us the ability to love, when we are despised; to understand, when we are misunderstood; to forgive, even when un-forgiven; to comfort, even when un-consoled; to be faithful in a day when faithlessness is admired as a virtue; to be instruments of peace, when wars are on every side; and to be ready to preach Christ, though all powers of earth and hell would oppose! Amen.
Following the sad farewells of our precious families, we boarded the crowded plane in Atlanta, GA on schedule at 5:15 pm. EST. The most difficult part of a ministers' task is when he must bid farewell to a weeping wife and sorrowful children. In this way, we become the sacrificial lamb that they are called upon to offer up to the Lord in a sacrificial manner. Very few think about the sacrifices incurred by a ministers' family. We parted one another with prayer in accordance with II Thess.3:1-5, which is prayer request made not only for the success of the message, but also the safety of the messenger. We also read the Book of Ephesians together, which both comforted and challenged our hearts. Following a parting prayer at gate E-11, we boarded the Air France Flight 0045, bound for the De Gaulle Airport in Paris, France. Bro. Zack and Bro. Herb sat together and I sat three seats behind them. We were able to rest, study and pray on the 81/2 hr. flight that was blessed to maintain it's schedule, arriving safely at 2:00am (EST), which is 8:30am in Paris. I did not even attempt to sleep in the cramped position I was in. We were served cokes, followed by a good rice and chicken meal (the gospel bird). I tried to share my faith with the man that sat beside me. Even though he was raised in Massachusetts, having lived in Paris 12 years, he spoke fluent French.
Wednesday, August 9,2000 We had very little difficulty getting to the appropriate gate (54F) in Paris and boarded Air France Flight 134 for Bombay (Mumbai), India on schedule. Thankfully, I got to sit in an Isle seat with nobody next to me this time around. I could actually stretch out and relax. I met a very nice Indian family who lived in New York. Their sweet little daughter, Anika Jain, (8yrs. old) even gave me a picture of the Eiffel Tower that she drew! Fatigue was starting to set in on three weary preachers by the time we took off at 5:15am (EST). The flight was scheduled to take 9 hrs. As we ascended quickly to 29,000 ft., I was extremely thankful for the inner solitude in the midst of all the external noise and chaos. The trumpet sounds of the Reformation period resonated within my heart as I pondered subject matter for the scheduled services; "Sola Sciptura" (Scripture Alone), "Sola Gratia" (Grace Alone), "Soli Deo Gloria" (All Glory To God Alone)! Such a message is the only message worthy of carrying across the oceans or streets of America. These are indeed, "Things most surely believed among us" (Lk.1:1). May we be found faithful to unfurl such a banner upon India soil for the advancement of the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
India 2000--Part II L Jeff Harris
All doctrinal and practical truth must be confirmed by the scriptures (Isa. 8:20, I Thes. 5:21, Acts 17:11) in order to establish the identifying marks of the true Church of the Lord Jesus Christ, that was established during His personal ministry upon the earth (Matt.16:18). The "Rock" upon which the Church is founded is none other than Christ Jesus as He is revealed to us through the Spirit and the word. Christ is sovereign (Jn.5:21), just as the Father (Pslm.115:3, Dan. 4:35) and the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:11, I Cor. 2:11) and these three are sovereignly ONE (I Jn. 5:7) in the work of salvation for poor, unworthy sinners. Therefore, we are given to understand that the sovereignty of God is the only foundation broad and deep enough to sustain the eternal salvation of all the elect in every dispensation (Eph.1:3-12). God's eternal purposes shall stand firm while this world and all it's various schemes will be enwrapt in flames! (Rom. 8:28-36, 9:11, II Tim.1:9, Eph.3:11). God's sovereignty over all things (Rom.11:36) displays a portion of His glory (Phil. 2:11, Rev. 4:11) before which every knee must one day bow. Salvation is not only by grace, but by free and sovereign grace alone (Rom. 9:15,16).
On one end of the spectrum, we see God's sovereignty and supremacy, yet on the other end we see man's total depravity and impotency to rescue himself from his sinful condition. Man does not sin in order to become a sinner, he sins because he is a sinner! The stream cannot rise above it's fountain (Rom.5:12-19). Adam was created morally pure, but he was also created morally accountable to his Creator. When Adam sinned, all his seed were represented in him and came under the same condemnation before God (I Cor. 15:21-22). All mankind possesses the same fallen nature as Adam did (Rom.3 ). In such a state of nature, man is both unwilling (Jn.5:40) and unable (Jn.6:44) to come to God for salvation. How then can ANY man experience salvation, being so vile, wretched and blind? My friends, it must be by free and sovereign grace alone! God sovereignly and unconditionally chose a people from out of mankind (Eph.1:4) before time ever began and marked them out for salvation (II Tim.1:9). He then sent His son into the world to die for their sins (Matt.1:21) and rise for their justification (Rom. 4:25, I Cor. 15:1-4). All the "sheep" of His fold shall be gathered unto the Great Shepherd of their souls (Jn.10:15-18 in both time and eternity, through the effectual and irresistable call (Rom. 8:28-30) whereby God quickens or regenerates them (Eph.2:1) and draws them unto Himself (Jn. 6:44), through His sovereign power (Gal. 6:15, Col. 2:13, I Pet.1:5). God's grace then preserves those that He has chosen, predestinated, called and justified, without the loss of one (Jn.10:28, 17:11-15, Rom.8:1, Phil.1:6). The family of God are nothing more than monuments to the sovereign grace of God, "to whom be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen" (Eph. 3:21).
We made our final approach crossing over a portion of the Arabian Sea into Bombay (Mumbai) about two hours behind our original time of arrival, but this did not affect our connecting flight because of the long layover (about 5 hrs.). Our scheduled flight to Madras was originally 6:00 a.m., but because we are taking a different airline (Indian Air), our departure was moved to 7:15 a.m.
Thursday, August 10, 2000
We were taken from the International Airport in Bombay to the Airport that services Sahara Airlines on domestic routes. However, Sahara Airlines went out of business, yet we were told that India Airlines would honor the same tickets at the same price. What I did not know though, was that India Airlines flies out of a different Airport than Sahara! This sad note meant that we would be stranded outside the airport for the rest of the night in a strange city with a lot of strange folks lurking outside! But, God in His mercy, took care of us because we could rent two rooms for what was left of the night, get a hot shower and catch the first bus to the right airport in the morning. So, we took them up on the rooms. Unfortunately, one of the men said he would "help" us change our tickets to the other airline and we let him! That little act of "kindness" ended up costing us $50. Live and learn, as they say. In any case, we were thankful for the shower and the few short hours of sleep we were able to get there. I thought about our six American brethren that began their long trip home from the Philippines today and prayed that the Lord would bless them with the same traveling grace that He extended to us! As they have completed their work there, we have just begun our work here! I enjoyed our three man prayer meeting at the hotel and what seemed closest to the heart of each one of us was that all we strived to accomplish would redound to the honor and glory of the God that sent us! Amen.
*********************** NOTICE the words: >> all we strived to accomplish would redound to the honor and glory of the GOD THAT SENT US ! Amen. << This sounds to me more than the "Macedonian Call" to come to the Philippines -- which call turned out to be from a False Prophet according to Jeff -- But here Jeff claims GOD SENT THEM. Would not that make him like an Apostle, even like unto Paul who was "sent of the Lord" ?? (ba) ************************
Traffic began to be heavy about 4:30 a.m and where you have traffic in that part of the world, you have a lot of horns! So, I got my wake-up call early and it didn't take long to ready my things, dress and get down stairs to call for our bus to transport us and our heavy bags to the Air India terminal. I am not weary in mind or in body at this point and the only thing I can attribute it to is Phil. 4:13. God is so good to His pilgrims in the earth. We loaded into the transport at 5:30 a.m and experienced no difficulty getting our bags checked in and our tickets changed, for no extra charge.
Our two hour flight to Madras (Chennai) was uneventful and when we landed we were met by a smiling, joyful Indian preacher named "Guna" (short for Gunasekaran).
******************* QUESTION: Who is this Brother Gunasekaran -- whom they met on August 10th -- and would BAPTIZE on August the 12th -- and ORDAIN to the Ministry on August 13th ???? (ba) ******************** This well-organized brother rushed us to the British-built Train Station in order to make the seven hour trip into the interior of India, near a city called, Salem. We hired a jeep-type van in Madras that took us safely to the trainstation, but in Salem we rented a 1947 car that whizzed us through the heavy traffic about ten miles to the village of Chennipatty, where Bro. Guna lives. It amazed me that there were so many similarities between the people, cities and mannerisms (especially driving) of India and those of our people in the Philippines. Both have a large contingency of poverty-stricken people desperately looking for a sense of purpose and relevancy in an unfriendly world that seems to be passing them by! Of course, there are 1.1 Billion people in India compared to the 75 million people of the Philippines. Some appear oblivious to their sad condition, while others have angry eyes that reflect an attitude of bitterness, perhaps even against the God who made them (Job 34:19, Prov.2 2:2). I thought within myself, if they only knew my Master, how different their lives would be! My Master did not come down as a wealthy Shah, or Mogul, wearing gold and silver, but as a poor man (Matt. 8:20) ministering to poor people (Lk. 4:18). My Master was not born in an ivory tower or the marble courts of Tajmah Hall in Acraba, but laid in a manger. He didn't identify Himself with the elite and upper-class of his day, but with the poor and the simple, raised up in the home of a carpenter. I felt a deep desire to tell this people of our Savior who maintains the rights of the poor (Psl.140:12), forgets them not (Psl. 9:18), hears their cries (Psl. 69:33), protects them (Psl. 12:5) and provides refuge for them (Psl.14:6) who call upon Him in faith (Psl. 72:12).
We enjoyed our visitation and fellowship with Bro. Guna along with his good wife, Mary and his only son, Richard (15 yrs. old). They extended to us every consideration and comfort possible, which refreshed us, both in body and soul. The design, structure and clean condition of the compound was surprising and wonderful to us. We were welcomed by 40 very clean and polite orphan children between the ages of 5-10, with whom we shook hands and introduced ourselves. Bro. and Sis. Guna, along with three full time staff care for these children in this compound that includes their home. They refer to it as The Good Samaritan Children's Home. After supper we attempted to call our wives back home, but my family was not home at the time I called. I was able to study and pray a few hours before going to bed. The small bed is made out of hardwood planks, which I can testify ranks with the very firm type mattress. 10:00 p.m.
India 2000-Part III
Friday, August 11, 2000
I awoke at 5:30 a.m. to the laughing and singing of the orphan children outside the window of my very clean room. Each morning, the orphans are included in a short devotion, thanking God for the day that is beginning to dawn. They clap, sing and have prayer before doing their chores and getting ready for their morning meal. As I toured the facility, I observed that the older children are included in the work of cleaning and the preparation of meals. After a good breakfast, we walked to the telephone station again to try a call home, but the family was evidently not back from prayer meeting at Eureka yet, but I did leave a message on the answering machine. We then went to the post office in Omalur before our scheduled 10:00 a.m. Service at the Good Samaritan Compound. Bro. Zack, Bro. Herb and I had another season of prayer together, which I enjoyed very much. I studied a short time before the service and felt led to speak from Psl. 37:15, "My Times are in Thy Hand", in which I tried to show God's peculiar providence in regard to our natural, spiritual and eternal concerns. Even though our "times" and circumstances change like the wind, God remains immutably sovereign in all His designs, so that we can confidently say with Job of old, "He knoweth the way that I take; when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold" (Job 23:10) and also, "He performeth the thing that is appointed for me: and many such things are with Him" (Job 23:14).
Our services were held in the beautiful fellowship hall that was built with funds donated by Bro. Tommy and Sis. Lea Bennett of Ripley PBC in Ripley, Mississippi. It is called, "Eagles' Perch" and this name was a fitting tribute to the Spirit that each of us felt present there. Thank God for generous-hearted brethren like the Bennett family, who seek to be faithful stewards of the material blessings God bestows upon them. After the introductions and "garlanding", all three American ministers spoke through the interpretation skills of Bro. Guna and his assistant, Bro. Victor. We felt blessed to speak to the 42 orphans who sat quietly and respectfully on their bamboo mats laid upon the floor. Also attending this service were young men that hope to be ministers, studying under Bro. Guna; Besides Bro. Victor, there were Bro. Sadhusunar Singh, Bro. Stephen, Bro. K.N. Immanuel and Bro. R. Boopathy Robert, along with their families, which made the total attendance around 60 or 65! Not bad for our very first service on this continent! We were excited by their reception of Biblical truth and ability to understand many of the things we were trying to teach them. God be praised!
After lunch, the children walked about ½ mile to their school and we had our second service, with the five ministerial gifts and their families only. I spoke to them about N.T. Evangelism and our purpose for coming to India. This service went from 2:30 until about 4:00 p.m. We enjoyed answering their questions, having good fellowship and even a little time to rest before going to see Bro. Guna's birth-home, which was a one room mud hut with a thatched roof. I also tried to call home twice, but learned that the long distant operators were on strike and no calls could be placed. So, I'll have to figure out another way to communicate with the loved ones I left behind. We discussed Bible issues until going to our rooms about 9:30 p.m. I finally got to bed about 10:30 p.m. There is so much that I would like to write down here, but the hand that holds the pen is exhausted. 10:30 p.m.
Saturday, August 12, 2000
Similar to yesterday, I woke up for the first time at 3:30 a.m. I tried to pray, meditate and ponder the various aspects of the work God has opened to us here. I am made to rejoice in the soundness, character and administrative skills that are evident in Bro. Guna's ministry. He shared his tremendous experience of grace with us yesterday and it caused a knot to rise up in my throat. His father and grandfather were both devout Hindu priests, who actually helped construct the Hindu Temple in their village that still stands and even has the name of his grandfather engraved within the altar table inside the Temple! The name of the small village is R. C. Chennipatty. His older brother was the very first Christian convert in this village, which happened over thirty years ago through the efforts of a Strict Baptist Mission of London. This Mission is no longer active, but that is how Bro. Guna and his family were brought to the teachings of Christ. His brother is now a Pentecostal Minister in this same village and has a Church and orphanage with about 250 members. In fact, we visited their new sanctuary, which is now under construction. Bro. Guna worked two or three years in an orphanage making $15 per month with food and lodging. The Lord then called him into ministry and he preached in a mountain village for over five years before attending Seminary Training in Madras for nearly six years. He has a Masters and Doctorate degree in Theology and Education. He was offered a high position in this large seminary, but felt the Lord calling him back to his home village of Chennipatty to minister to the "poorest of the poor," as he calls them. He has been back to this village about seven years. He was offered an assistant pastors job in a large city that paid a high salary and had a large parsonage, but his heart was back with the people of this small village. Due to his move back to Chennipatty, he was removed from consideration to a post in the seminary or to pastor any Church of the Nazarene congregations. This Church sponsored his education in their seminary. So, he decided to join the Southern Baptist Mission in his area and through their generosity, was able to start his orphanage in 1997, calling it "Good Samaritan Ministry." In September of 1999, he came to Ripley, Mississippi in order to speak at several Southern Baptist Churches about the needs of the orphanage and his desire to expand, and it was here that he met Primitive Baptists for the first time.
**************************** BA -- IT seems to me the NAME Primitive Baptist needs defining. IF these men represent the Historical Position of Primitive Baptist then I pray the Lord will introduce me to the True Church -- BUT if these men have departed from the faith and have determined to CLING TO and TRASH the name Primitive Baptist then I pray the Lord will give us a NEW NAME so we can truly COME OUT FROM AMONG THEM. ********************************
The Bennetts desired to help the little orphans and agreed to sponsor three of them They introduced him the doctrinal positions of Primitive Baptists and he was immediately affected in mind and soul, because these were principles that he had long held to be true in his own experience. He was able to meet with Elder Mike Strevel (pastor of Ripley PBC), Elder Hassell Wallis, Elder Zack Guess, Elder Bobby Poe and Elder Herbert Hatfield during his visit in Ripley. He returned to India with arm loads of study material and tapes and became convinced that this was the people that God would have him to live and die among. This is how initial contact was made with Bro. Guna and which, in God's providence, led to us coming here to come and minister among the poor saints of India. I have personally enjoyed rich and meaningful correspondence with Bro. Guna since March or April of this year. I have found him to be very sound in the faith and feel blessed to have been enabled by God's grace to come to witness his labors in his home land. I think Bro. Guna and I both can relate to the sentiment of the hymn writer, "Thus far the Lord the Lord has led me on, thus far His power prolongs my days; And every evening shall make known, the rich memorials of His praise."
After some time in the word and prayer, I showered and prepared for the challenges of the day. I walked around the compound and observed the precious children in their morning devotions, accomplishing their daily chores and playing with one another. Joy filled my heart with much thanksgiving to God for His provision of such a facility as this that provides such a secure and healthy environment for the fatherless in their afflictions in the earth! Expansion is definitely needed as more and more orphans are becoming available, with very few alternatives, but to live as street urchins, exposed to every conceivable danger. Bro. Guna and his good wife are wise managers and I have found them to be people of prayer. He does not solicit funds as such, but simply shares the evident needs of the orphans with fellow-Christian people. I highly respect him for the manner in which he conducts the affairs of the flock and the orphanage. Each orphan is sponsored by a Christian family for $25 per month and the family receives periodic letters and pictures of the children they sponsor, as well as updates on their development. This fee helps provide the food, clothing and educational expenses involved with the training of the children and the salaries for the three full-time employees of the orphanage that assist Bro. Guna. May the Lord add His blessing to this worthy endeavour. Amen.
India 2000-Part IV
After breakfast, we drove into Salem for supplies and to see if the remainder of our luggage made it in from Madras, which, of course, it had not. We were blessed to be able to call home. This is the first voice contact that I had with my dear wife since leaving the Atlanta Airport on Tuesday! Even though it had to be a brief exchange, it meant a lot to me. We also tried to see a Doctor for Bro. Guna because he has developed a problem with his eyes due to a blood sugar dilemma of some sort. The Doctor was not in his office, so we drove to a hotel to eat a meal there. It was a very good meal and only cost us about $5.00 per plate! We came back to the compound in Chennipatty to study and rest before going on to several appointments that would fill out the rest of the day and night.
We left the compound about 3:30pm. And stopped at a Lake Reservoir near the mountain village of Veppamarathur, where the Good Samaritan Primitive Baptist Fellowship began and now meets together for worship. At this reservoir, we baptized Bro. Guna and Bro. Victor into the fellowship of Eureka Primitive Baptist Church in Chula, Georgia. This was a moving and joyful time for all of us. We then went to visit two of the three tutorial school outreaches of the Good Samaritan Fellowship, which are set up as an outreach to educate impoverished Hindu children in the rudiments of reading, writing, mathematics, and science, with a little English as well. Each school has from 30-35 students in regular attendance and the primary reader is the Bible. We were very impressed by the manner in which the school was conducted for two hours every evening and the brilliant idea behind introducing these children to the teachings of Christ without the opposition of their families. Bro. Guna asked me to speak to the children through his interpretation, which I enjoyed very much. The children recited the 23rd Psalm of David in Tamil and a few could even recite it in English. I spoke to them about the importance of education and the glory of the Shepherd their memorized Psalm portrayed.
We then proceeded to a small house in the Veppamarathur Village for our scheduled service there. This village, like so many others, is filled with Buddhists and Hindu practitioners. We met outside the humble home of a converted Hindu who has a great degree of influence in this village. He serves as the Magistrate Counsel and is known for his wise advise. He had around 50 souls awaiting the arrival of their American visitors, most of whom were children. As we tried to preach to this attentive gathering, following several Tamil Hymns of praise, an older gentleman kept walking around and through our gathering mumbling something in Tamil. I noticed each time he did that, the people would snicker and grin. On our way back to the compound, I asked Bro. Guna about it and he told me that the man was somewhat deranged in his mind. He had a knife under his arm and said that he was not afraid to kill these white men and would fight them all at the same time. Bro. Guna did not take his threats seriously and I'm glad that he wasn't serious. It took us about an hour to get back to the compound and after a light meal we headed off for bed, without very much resistance. I showered and got to bed by around 10:00pm.
Sunday, August 13, 2000
After a peaceful night's rest, I arose with the singing and clapping of the children about 6:30am. It brings a special sense of joy to my heart to see the importance of worship and praise being instilled into the lives of these children through the teaching ministry of the Good Samaritan Primitive Baptist Fellowship. ************************* QUESTION -- WHEN and HOW did this Nazarene/Southern Baptist Orphanage or School known as the Good Samaritan Fellowship suddenly become the Good Samaritan Primitive Baptist Fellowship. ? Does Jeff Harris have Apostolic Authority to misuse and abuse the NAME Primitive Baptist in this manner ?? ********************************************************
Following our breakfast, we went to the small church building in Veppamarathur, which has been gathered for only two years. They were blessed of the Lord to complete the construction of this building on April 16th of this year. Bro. Guna made us aware of their need for a water well and an extension of their building. It is here also that he hopes to build another orphanage. The church met us with warmth and hospitality. After introducing us and singing several hymns from their Tamil song books, we were asked to speak briefly and then surrendered the rest of the time to Bro. Guna, who preached an able discourse on the subject of "Preservation", using as his text, the last two verses of Jude. He had shared a mental outline of the discourse with us as we drove to the meeting house. He explained that he has been working through a series on the doctrines of sovereign grace with them since his return from America last September. The congregation was respectful and attentive to his message and he included parts of his sermon in English so we could keep up with where he was in his presentation. He spoke extemporaneously for about 45 minutes. I noticed the congregation was made up of about 30 young children and 30 adults, with only two or three older Sisters. Even though most of the message was in Tamil, we observed Bro. Guna to be an excellent and well-organized speaker. We also noticed that the men sat on one side and the women on the other upon bamboo mats placed on the floor, with the exception of two small benches in the back. The garlands they placed around our necks were expressions of their love and hospitality toward us.
Following a delicious fish meal served at the church building, we assembled ourselves into a presbytery for the purpose of ordaining Bro. Guna to the full work of the gospel ministry. This ceremony lasted 2 hrs. because every part was translated for the benefit of the people. I was asked to serve as the Moderator and Recording Clerk, while Elder Guess was called upon to examine the candidate and Elder Hatfield to preach the charge. After Bro. Zack thoroughly examined Bro. Guna, I was asked to offer the ordination prayer. Bro. Herb then charged Bro. Guna and Sis. Mary before the church. We all felt greatly lifted up in the Spirit and the Indian brethren reflected a great joy as they extended the right hand of fellowship to Elder and Mrs. Annamalai Gunasekaran. ***************8 QUESTION - Can a candidate be "thoroughly examined" and proven to be qualified for ordination in a service such as this ? Does this mean Bro. Guna is going to NOTIFY the Southern Baptist and the Nazarenes who support his Orphanage that it is NOW the Good Samaritan Primitive Baptist Fellowship ?? Or is he going to be a "Secret" primitive Baptist ? **********************
We made the 35 km drive back to Bro. Guna's home in about an hour. The rough roads made me reminiscent of the terrain of the Philippines. We had time to rest and prepare for the scheduled 6:30pm. Service at the compound with the orphans. This was a very blessed service indeed and was completed before 8:30pm. We went back up to the telephone office and each one of us was able to make contact with our wives, thank the Lord! We caught each of them before they left for the Sunday morning services at home so they can report that all things are going even better than we expected. We had another good meal and fellowship time with Bro. Guna before getting back to our rooms by 10:00pm. It didn't take me very long to hit the sack! I quietly thanked the Lord for the events of the day and the many brethren in North America who are standing with us through prayer. Several good brethren called Donna to check on her and the family and to keep updated on our work. I am also thankful to be the pastor of a church who has come to see the importance of evangelism in our generation. It is a very humbling experience to know that so many prayer groups are mentioning your name before the throne of grace, gathering here and there! May God be praised for His goodness.
Monday, August 14, 2000
I awoke at 6:30 a..m. Hearing the children joyfully carrying out their assigned chores and preparing for breakfast. I did my writing and morning devotion before breakfast at 8:00 a.m. and the Lord brought to my mind Psalm 127, which expands the teaching on the sovereignty of God in all our labors (vv.1,2) and in our family life in this old world (vv.3-5). Whether we strive to build any house, protect any city or earn any reward, the sovereign intention of God is more vital to the outcome than all our combined efforts will ever produce. Apart from God's blessing, all is vain (Eccl.1:2, 12:8). May the God of heaven be pleased both to build and protect the Church in India, sending many laborers into His white vineyards that are ready unto harvest. Amen.
We left Bro. Guna's house after breakfast in order to go to Salem for the main purpose of retrieving our six heavy suitcases, full of cloths, Bibles, song books and other materials for Bro. Guna and the children of the orphanage. We allowed these bags to be transported by truck from Madras so that we would not have to carry them the long distances through the train station, but I never thought it would have taken so long to get them here! Live and learn, as they say. We were glad to pick up the luggage and procure other materials that are necessary to repair Bro. Guna's roof. We ate lunch at Kevis Restaurant for less than $1.00 per plate! We took Bro. Guna back to the Doctor for an examination and then he drove us back to the compound. about 4:30 p.m. We had plenty of time to rest, study and empty the laden bags of their contents and found everything present and accounted for. We met again with the orphans and three or four other families that came for the evening service. Bro. Hatfield spoke upon the subject of "The Gift of Tongues", ably proving that such a gift was restricted to the apostolic era and no longer needed because the scriptural record is now complete. The message was enjoyed by all the adults present. We had a very good exchange session afterwards, which seemed to be fruitful. So, our service time tonight went from 6:30 p.m. until about 9:00 p.m. It was good to have candy to distribute to the children following their evening meal. I could not help but think about Bro. Wiley Puckett, who is known all over the Philippines as the "candy man". Maybe one day he will introduce himself to these children also!
After supper, we walked again to the telephone office and were able to contact our loved ones again. Everyone received good reports and this made us all light-hearted. We got tickled over Bro. Zack's phobia about Cobras. A large cobra had been sighted by the children outside the compound gate earlier this evening and this made Bro. Zack jumpy. I comforted him by telling him that he was too old and too thick-skinned and too salty for one little ol' eight foot cobra to try to eat for supper! Of course, I have heard that they sometimes hunt in pairs! Bro. Herb didn't help any by telling him that they would only bite the hand that held the flashlight. From then on, Bro. Zack was trying to give the flashlight to us, but we wouldn't accept his generosity! Ha!
The Lord blessed my meditations from Matt. 21 and I took advantage of the quiet time to write a few letters to the folks back home and study some before turning in. Loud thunder sounds the same in South India as it does in South Georgia and the gentle rains are just as welcome. Of course, I wish the electricity would come back on. 11:00 p.m.
India 2000-Part V
Tuesday, August 15, 2000
The electricity continually kept going on and off all through the night and morning. I awoke before 7:00 a.m. and had to go outside in order to read my scripture. I went and sat on the top of the well in the lot next door to the compound and it wasn't very long before I was surrounded by precious little boys and their caretaker, Rajah (which means, "King" in Tamil). We had an enjoyable visit before the breakfast bell rang at 8:00 a.m., which consisted of freshly boiled milk, boiled eggs and good old Kellogg's Cornflakes, along with Bro. Herb's good coffee. Through the generosity of our American brethren we were able to give funds to Bro. Guna for the minister's cottage at the church house in Vepparathur with a bathroom and pay for the new bunk beds that are needed for the extra children that have lately come to this facility, as well as the material and tools needed to repair his roof. I believe the supporters of this work will be pleased about the manner in which their funds were used. The freshness of the air and the beauty of the Javadi Hills made the lack of electricity bearable, even though it also affects the telephone service and we cannot call home any time soon!
The little children at the well were the first to inform me that there would not be school today because it is India's National Independence Day. On August 15, 1947 Great Britain granted full independence to India after nearly 200 years of domination. Of course, England built and maintained the road and railway systems, hospitals, schools, postal system, etc., and lent them the support and substructure of a secular democratic constitution. However, there is now a growing Hindu extremist party that is gaining acceptance in India who seek to revise this constitution to prohibit any non-Hindu people from living in this country. This party uses Hitler's swastika as their party symbol and seeks to ethnically "cleanse" India of all minority groups, which include Muslims, Jews and Christians. The Muslim could easily flee to Pakistan and the Jew to Israel, but where would the Christian populace flee to? In North India these radical groups are already burning down Church buildings and synagogues, as well as assaulting Christian leaders. These are a f ierce people and, like Hitler, should never be underestimated. With Hinduism, rather than Catholicism, the dominant religion of India, the church here will not expand with the same rapidity as the Church in the Philippines. ************************** QUESTION -- What CHURCH here will not expand with the same rapidity as the Church in the Philipinnes ?? In the last paragraph of Part VI it is made clear that NO church has yet been constituted !!! Does this mean a Primitive Baptist Church in India is determined ? ***************************
We drove again to the city of Omalur in order to pick up more supplies at the people's market, where food and fruit are sold in abundance. We also were able to visit a government infirmary that was filled to capacity and the local police station. Everywhere we went, we were treated courteously by all. It was a learning experience and we had a deeper perception of this culture by the end of the day. When we returned to the compound, we had a recorded interview with Bro. Guna concerning his experience of grace and the events that brought him to this station in life. The interview reveals the passion and earnest devotion of this, the very FIRST Primitive Baptist of India. After a late lunch at 1:30 p.m., we rested and studied until about 3:30 p.m. I then helped Bro. Guna to assemble and disassemble the new three-man tent that Bro. Zack brought him from the States. His whole face was covered by his smile of approval and thanksgiving. We then met with the orphan children and distributed the gifts and cloths that we brought to them from America. We were thrilled by the children's response to the gifts that they were not expecting at all. Two boys (9 or 10 yrs. old) said through an interpreter, "No one has ever given so much to so many at one time." In my whole life, no one has ever given to me myself a toy of any kind. Thank you and this I will never forget." We gave thanks to the Lord for the bounty he provided these children through the generous hearts of brethren back home. I just wish that those great givers could have been able to witness the twinkle in these children's eyes, the uncontrollable smiles and chuckles, as well as the teary eyes of dear pastor Guna! Then, they would receive a double reward that we experienced in their place.
We had a very special service tonight which, in my opinion, was the best one so far, at least, the most spiritual and responsive by the people. I spoke to the children from Prov. 3:1-6 on the subject of "Being good children", which was very easy to do because I have observed so many of these orphans manifesting such a good demeanor and attitude. I believe their conduct is a direct result of the training that they receive from Bro. Guna, Sis. Mary and their staff. May God continue to bless them one and all. Bro. Herb is trying to teach the children how to sing the doxology in English. It is interesting to watch and try to help everywhere I can. Following the good services, we attempted to answer more of the questions from young ministers now studying under Bro. Guna. Their questions were well thought out and sincere. Their questions were not about Adam's belly button or the color of Jacob's dog, but real questions from a mind preoccupied with God's word. Following these discussions, Bro. Guna drove us to the telephone office and each of us received positive reports from the home front, for which we gave thanks unto the Lord! After having prayer together, we returned to the solitude of our rooms for the night. 10:30 p.m.
Wednesday, August 16, 2000
Following our early morning prayer meeting upstairs, we came down for breakfast about 8:00 a.m. We went back to Salem for more supplies and I thought it would be interesting to video tape some of the trip and actually caught some good footage of the common people and their cultural background. As I tried to study the relevance of their Idol deities, which are many, I found that the promises of these idols fall into three primary categories; 1) Prosperity (wealth), 2)Power (or influence) and 3) Protection (or health and safety). These are surely common pursuits of all men by nature in all pagan societies. I was so glad to finally locate a store that had tin snips and hammers in order for me to be able to fix Bro. Guna's leaky roof. All the roof needed was some flashing, but nobody here has ever heard of flashing, so we'll have to make our own. We also bought Bro. Guna and his wife a toaster, which delighted them very much.
After lunch at about 1:00 p.m., I studied for the services tonight in another village by the name of Tinnepatty. Bro. Guna asked me to preach on the subject of "Spiritual Gifts in the Church", so I tried to prepare my mind and heart for such a critical message all afternoon. I gave him a god study sheet on the three types of gifts in the New Testament; Sign Gifts, Support Gifts and then, Service Gifts. This particular congregation is the largest group that Bro. Guna is helping (about 75 people), but before we left Bro. Guna asked me to help him baptize four, possibly five converts in this village church. I told him that it was not necessary for me to be in the water with him because now he was fully vested with the same authority to baptize as I have through Eureka Church, but he insisted that I assist him, so I took extra cloths. We drove about ten miles to this village and was met by most of the congregation at the meeting house. We then walked about a mile or so through their sugar cane fields and baptized four converts; two men and two women. I counted it a privilege and an honor to assist Bro. Guna in this way. I spoke to them at length upon the subject of gospel baptism before we performed the sacred rite in an irrigation vat. They sang "Nothing but the blood of Jesus" in Tamil and then Bro. Herb offered a sweet prayer. We walked back to the Meeting House a shorter way than that which we had taken to come to the vat. The first way was right through the middle of the village, which is 95% Hindu and Buddhists. We passed by several of their pagan shrines erected as a mute testimony to the darkened understanding that, as a fierce storm cloud, covers the whole nation! Then it occurred to me what had just happened.
These poor, persecuted and despised soldiers of the cross wanted their tormentors to know that they were not afraid of their curses and threats, no, they will follow Jesus, no matter what the cost might be! It was an experience I will not soon forget, especially when I read Phil. 3:10 the next time. Our services were greatly blessed of the Lord at this place. After a good and harmonious song service, Bro. Zack brought an excellent message on the subject of "unity" and I followed, using the subject of "Spiritual Gifts", then Bro. Herb concluded with a brief exegesis of Isa. 45:22. It was a lengthy, but good service. We got home about 9:30 p.m. and I had a person of another order call for me just as we drove into the yard. It was Pastor Joshua, with whom I have had limited contact, and he wanted to explain to me why he was not able to attend any of our services here. First, he stated that he has been sick the last week and secondly, he stated that the great distance he would have to travel would be cost prohibitive. He called to reaffirm his invitation for us to come and preach for his congregation if our schedule would allow, but because of the distance involved, we did not feel it would be possible to go for even one service. Pastor Joshua has been listening to the Baptist Bible Hour and I contacted him about our meetings in the Salem area through Elder Bradley. Maybe next time we can plan some services with him, Lord willing.
After our calls home, we retired to our rooms with thankful hearts and exhausted bodies. I finally went to bed about midnight pondering in my heart the exciting events of this day.
Thursday, August 17, 2000
I awoke to the now familiar sound of the children's singing and prayer service, which always reflects an attitude of thanksgiving to God for His provision of another day. The small compound comes alive with activity as the children go about their chores and preparation for school. I wanted to install the new flashing on the roof that leaks every time it rains, so after breakfast, I began the difficult task. Bro. Herb elected to stay and help me while Bro. Zack went with Bro. Guna to town to have the vehicle serviced. Bro. Herb and I cut and bent the flashing and began to install it after lunch. Dear Brother Rajah pitched in to help us after lunch. We finished the job up about 4:00 p.m. at the very time Bro. Zack returned with Bro. Guna from town. We had plenty of time to clean up and prepare for our Communion Service at 5:00 p.m. with Bro. Guna and Bro. Victor. We felt it was important to demonstrate the manner in which we perform this sacred ordinance among our people at home, in the bonds of Christian love. The electricity and phones have been off all day and I found that it is very difficult to shave with a flashlight in one hand.
The Lord blessed the communion service in the upper room of Bro. Guna's house. We sang appropriate hymns of praise from the #10 Old School Hymnals that we brought with us. I officiated and served the elements to the brethren gathered. We used unleavened wheat bread (sordi) and grape wine (from Bangalore), stressing the scriptures related to them. We then used a bucket (rather than a basin, that was not available) and washed one another's feet as our Master showed us by His own example in Jn. 13. It was a sweet service indeed and especially precious to witness Bro. Guna and Bro. Victor was one another's feet. We concluded the service about 6:30 p.m. singing Amazing Grace. We then left for our 7:00 p.m. appointment at Pottiapuram, near the village of Tinnepatty, in the home of Bro. Ramasamy. Bro. Ganesan, his wife and one son also came to the special services in this home that followed a delicious supper. All of Bro. Gunas' family was present, including his daughter (Angela) who is in her final year of studies to become a nurse. Sis. Mary went ahead of us to ensure that all the food was prepared properly for the benefit of the American stomachs that are always at risk in a foreign country. Sis. Mary is a great blessing, both to Bro. Guna and to us. We were greatly blessed through the related experience of Bro. Ramasamy and Bro. Ganesan, which stirred our hearts with praise and adoration to the God who calls men from all walks of life. Both of these men were delivered from Hinduism in a mighty way. Bro. Herb read the first chapter of I Thessalonians and asked them if this could describe their experience, to which they answered, "100% correct"! They were so hospitable, kind and genuine in every respect. I felt led of the Lord speak from II Cor. 5, mainly upon the love of Christ. I felt good liberty to speak to this small group through the translation of Bro. Guna. It appeared to be well received, even though it was about 45 minutes long. We left soon after the service as it began raining again, which means "no electricity" again tonight, which means "no ceiling fan" tonight, which means, "no sleep" tonight! Even though it was dark, the cold shower was a welcome reprieve from the humid heat. I smiled all the way back to the compound because I knew that the roof would no longer leak water upon the sleeping children inside. Sure enough, we were told in a joyful voice upon arrival, "No more leak, no more leak!" The storm clouds even covered the light of the moon, so Bro. Guna gave me a candle and a grin before I went to my room for the night. It was too hot to rest very well, but my meditations were sweet and my prayer time spent, "in the secret of His tabernacle". God has been so good to me. 12:00
India 2000 - Part VI
Friday, August 15, 2000
I heard the first pan rattle and the first door open and shut about 5:30 a.m. this morning. Sis. Lydia and the other sister were stirring about in order to begin the long process of preparing breakfast for everyone.
Not long after this familiar sequence began, I heard Bro. Herb stumble through the darkness of his room above me toward the shower. I followed suit and hopped into my shower, fumbling for the faucet that released the cool (actually very cold) liquid, refreshing my mind that seemed numbed at the prospects of so many events that are now happening in India. I found my flashlight and tried to shave the best I could, leaving only a few clumps of whiskers here and there to laugh about later. Sis. Mary prepared our table and we ate together before loading up and heading for the Airport in Madras once again, about 7:00 a.m. Bro. Guna wanted to take a member of his congregation that was a mechanic by the name of "Good Man", to help him drive the seven hour trip and take some of the risk factor out of such a long journey (300 km). In fact, it proved to be a wise decision to take Bro. Good Man because we had to stop in Salem to put on a new alternator (dynamo), which delayed us about 11/2 hrs. We left Salem about 10:30 a.m. and stopped for a good lunch nearly half way to Madras. We arrived safely at the Airport at 5:00 p.m., which gave me plenty of time to change my ticket from Sahara Airlines to Air India. The flight from Madras to Bombay (Mumbai) left on schedule at 6:30 p.m.
We enjoyed a good season of fellowship on the long drive and again was able to observe many villages and poor people in their normal routines of washing cloths with a rubbing stone, cooking meals on an open fire and hauling building materials and produce on their ox-drawn carts. We observed the excellent National Road which runs from the east coast to the west coast of their country and the many workers required to build and maintain it along the way. The people were all very courteous and the women were dressed modestly and reserved. The men were not dressed so modestly and were quick to give the visiting Americans a wave and a smile. We passed by a huge Ford Factory outside of Madras and noticed the presence of several American businesses there. Another rain storm slowed us in our journey and we noticed four accidents that occurred ahead of us on the road. God blessed us with traveling mercies all the way! It was hard to leave my comrades and say good bye to Bro. Guna, but I am looking forward to seeing my family and getting back to my familiar pulpits and labors in my little section of this big, big world.
I had a good conversation with a Hindu man and woman in the Airport on the two hour flight from Madras (Chennai) to Bombay (Mumbai), arriving at the International Airport via a bus transport about 9:30 pm I wanted to call home, but the telephone system was not operational (surprise, surprise, surprise!). The custom agents went through all my bags thoroughly this time around, but did not hinder my passage to the terminal.
Saturday 16, 2000
Following the long lay over that seemed to last a life time, we finally boarded our Air France Flight 135 for Paris at 1:45 a.m. and left on schedule at 2:15 a.m. for the 9 hrs. flight. The Lord blessed me to sleep about five hours on this leg of the journey. As they displayed the flight course on the giant screen in front of us, it was interesting to consider the part of the world over which we were flying at 33,000 ft.; Thessalonika, Athens, Rome and other places that we find written about in the Book of Acts. I also noticed the dot on the screen named Warsaw and wondered about the welfare of the Polish family Elder Bradley is working with. Wouldn't it be grand to be able to preach the gospel in all those ancient cities as Paul and his companions did so long ago. A knot came to my throat when I noticed on the map the little, seemingly unimportant land of Israel and there, right before my eyes.........Jerusalem, where it all started nearly two thousand years ago! With men, these things are impossible, but with God ALL things are possible.
They began to serve breakfast to us at 10:30 a.m. (India time) and we landed safely in Paris an hour later. I only had to walk down two gates to catch the bus that would transport us to the terminal for American flights and only had to wait two hours before boarding. It was so neat to hear people speak English with a southern accent once again! We boarded our flight and was some delayed in our departure, but the trip to Atlanta was very peaceful and I was left alone with my reflections for the first time on this trip. I was just happy to be headed home.
I was able to study and meditate most of the nine hour flight and rejoiced at the appearance of Donna, Timothy and Ashley at the Airport. We drove to Athens in order to see Jefferson, who is in his senior year of College at UGA. After an enjoyable visit and supper, we came on to South Georgia, arriving home about 11:30 p.m. thanking the Lord for His gracious watch care over us.
Sunday, August 17, 2000
The Lord blessed our services at Eureka Church today and I was welcomed home by all but one of our families because they were away from home. In our regular conference meeting, the church voted unanimously to accept the six converts we baptized in India as members of our body and to recognize the ordination of Bro. Guna and his future baptisms, as well as to assist Grace Chapel, Ripley Church, and Aberdeen Church in the future constitution of the first Primitive Baptist Church of India, Lord willing. May God be glorified! Amen.