Pastors Ike Graham and Don Farner met with 30 men from Odisha (formerly Orissa) January 9-14, 2012. Seven of the 30 are CGBCI endorsed church planters in India. The other 23 are men who have come to Christ recently, or have joined the endorsed church planters. One of the men is leading a Lutheran church. However, he wanted to come and hear the Bible teaching. Of the 23 newer men, 12 of them had been baptized in May of 2011 in Coimbatore. On Friday, January 13, 2012, 9 of the men who attended this Practorium requested baptism after learning about trine immersion. Two other men also want to receive trine immersion, but chose to receive baptism after returning home so that their families could observe.
Pastors Ike Graham and Don Farner covered the topics of baptism, communion, the church, salvation, prophetic themes, and the Bible. There was a lot of discussion regarding related questions which the men asked. Near the end of the week, we spent time discussing what it means to be a Fellowship of Churches. We exhorted the men to commit to their own Fellowship based on common belief (doctrine), common mission (church planting), Fellowship and the same hermeneutic. It was exciting to hear their plans as they committed themselves to each other and to working together to plant churches in Odisha. The three team leaders, Nehemiah Bardhan, Joseph Surya and Peter Sipka were all presented with DVD players so that they can begin their own Practoriums and continue teaching the other men who are working with them. Dr. Whitcomb had provided a number of Theology courses which the men will use to teach the other men as 2 Timothy 2:2 commands us.
We were made keenly aware of the persecution in Odisha which reached its height in 2008. Coverage of this persecution was given by “Voice of the Martyrs” and “Open Doors.” Brother Nehemiah shared with us that during that time, his sister and brother-in-law’s house was burned to the ground and his uncle was burned alive. He was also threatened, but said, “If I die a natural death, only my family will know. But if you kill me, the villages will know, the state will know and the nation will know.” God protected him and his family.
One of my personal highlights came during one of the teaching sessions. There was considerable discussion over a particular issue. The room became quite noisy as men were engaged in talking to each other. It almost seemed like an Acts 19:32 situation. I called for a “time out” and asked someone to read Proverbs 18:13. As the men heard the verse, they became completely quiet. Then I asked for someone to read James 1:19. There was a period of silence after this verse was read. I was so impressed because of their respect for the word of God. After that, we had complete order and very orderly discussions. May all of God’s people have such high regard and obedience to His word, amen?
With the rapid forming of CGBCI (Conservative Grace Brethren Churches of India), our role will be changing. More information will be sent about this later. I would also like to mention that since we were with our Brethren in May 2011, the church (total number of believers) has increased by over 100. Praise the Lord! Continue to pray for our Brethren in India.