Report by Pastor Ike Graham
The Rickers and Grahams left for India on Wednesday, May 13, 2009. We arrived into Coimbatore on Friday, May 15, 2009. Following are some of the highlights of this trip.
The purposes of the trip were as follows:
- Continuing theological education for the church planters who have had minimal Bible training. This is per the India written plan.
- It gave the Rickers an opportunity to see if this is where God wants them to serve as missionaries. Janelle has never been out of the U.S.A. so this is an important trip for her.
- Nothing beats face-to-face meetings and fellowship. It deepened our fellowship with our Brethren in India who sacrificed a lot to serve the Lord and to work with us.
- It gave us (the CGBCI) the opportunity to see if we can expand our ministry in India with the men who came from Orissa and Karnatake. We interacted with them regarding the Statement of Faith and all 11 of them are interested in joining with us. However, they were told that they must be baptized by trine immersion as a prerequisite. Their joining with us would give us more direct contact with the greater number of Muslims in the North.
From our visit in 2007, we knew that there are various Brethren groups scattered across Tamil Nadu and the country. In an effort to bring them together under our banner, Brother Paul placed an ad in a Christian magazine which included an invitation to contact us if any Brethren church had an interest in joining with us as Conservative Grace Brethren. He placed this ad in 2008. He received responses from about 5 different States. This represented about 24 elders/churches. The next step was to send them the Statement of Faith. The cover letter asked them to read it and respond if they still had an interest. Eleven men responded. In January 2009, Brother Paul visited them and explained that we would be in Coimbatore in May to teach the Statement of Faith (SoF). At that time, they could meet us and decide whether they wanted to join with us or not. We conducted interviews with the 11 men and the results are below.
May 18-22 was the Practorium time. On Monday, May 18th, I gave an overview of Church History focusing on our historical roots as Brethren. The man from Karnataka said, “Every Christian needs to hear this!” Two of the men commented, “This is the first time that someone has explained when and how the church began.” After lunch, we met with the men from Orissa and interviewed them about joining with us.
Tuesday, May 19th, we continued our study of the SoF focusing much of our time on the Holy Spirit because of the widespread Pentecostal and Charismatic teachings. We covered His Person, Regeneration, Indwelling, Baptism, Anointing, Illuminating and gifts. We spent quite a bit of time showing the importance of the apostles and how they are no longer with us. This included the prophets as well. This led into a focus on the temporary gifts such as miracles. We stopped for lunch. In the PM, we had a question and answer time. This was followed by the interviews of two more pastors. Nancy and Janelle met with the ladies in the afternoon.
Wednesday, May 20th, the morning session focused on the gift of tongues. Then, we covered the remainder of the SoF in the PM. Though we probably spent 6 hours on the Holy Spirit, we were able to work through the entire SoF.
On Thursday, May 21st, from10:00am-11:00am, I explained the relationship of baptism to church membership and covered 7 basic requirements of church membership from Acts 2:41-47 and other passages. After our break, we then had a baptismal service for 5 people: Josiah, Gilbert,Ravi, Esther Rani and Lakshmi. Following the baptismal service, we had communion together with all the Practorium students.
I spent the afternoon with Joseph Surya who held to Arminian beliefs. We spent about 2-3 hours going through the Bible. He seemed to understand. We also talked about how to preach. Some of the men listened in as we discussed things and then we said farewell to each other.
Friday, May 22nd, was a day off for us. We spend the day with the Rajan family and the men returned to their respective homes. Saturday, May 23rd, was a travel day as we took the train to Ponicherry. Pondicherry is a separate territory. It used to be a French Colony. Even today, the police dress in French style uniforms and there are plaques stating their connection toFrance. As a result, evangelism inPondicherry is more open with little threat of repercussions.
On Sunday, May 24th, inPondicherry, we began with a baptismal service. A young lady by the name of Devi (17) was baptized. Then, Tom preached on Eternal Security and Brother Paul interpreted. Afterwards, we had communion together. I washed the feet of a man who used to be with Campus Crusade for Christ and another ministry. His name is a combination of “Jesus” and a Hindu name. When he was 16, he had an argument with his mother demanding to know why the “Jesus” was prefixed to his name. His mother told him to go to the local Catholic Church and ask a certain Nun. The Nun told him that when his mother was in labor for him, the Nun was there and asked if she could pray for a safe delivery. His mother agreed and later prefixed the “Jesus” to his name after he was born. When he learned this at 16, he was infuriated. But he was busy in school and didn’t dwell on it. Later, when he was in college, someone witnessed to him and gave him the Gospel. After that, he began to read the Bible. When he came to Jeremiah 1:5… “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you…” he asked the Lord to save him and told the Lord that He would serve Him. Currently, he and his wife and children are helping in the ministry in Pondicherry even though they aren’t members. I counted 46 in attendance on that Sunday (12 men; 34 women and children).
In the afternoon, we visited their outreach site, J.J. Nagar. Some of the believers live in this area and so they are renting a building which has a sign on the front reading “Conservation Grace Brethren Church” (not a typo). Currently, there are 4-5 families attending. One of the families is a Catholic family from across the street. We got to meet them. Munisamy and the other men go door-to-door in the community with tracts, use a loudspeaker to preach outside and advertise the services.
Monday, May 25th: David Selvaraj is the church planter in Cholapuram. About a year ago when he, Paul and Samuel began this outreach, the Gospel had not been preached in this place for about 20-30 years. People were not interested and told David to go away. They came to a poor widow’s home and she listened to the Gospel. They wanted to meet in her home, but it was in shambles. So, they did a complete makeover to her house. She was so thankful that she gave them a piece of property behind her house in order to make a meeting place. They are in the process of building it. Then, they drilled a water well for the community and began providing food for the children and classes to help them with their school work. All of these “good works” were used by God to soften the hearts of the people. As a result, they allowed them to preach the Gospel in the community outdoors. People have been saved andRavi (mentioned above) was baptized. The Hindu priest was also saved. His name is John Steven now. David was giving him the Gospel and he said, “But how much does God love me?” David read John 3:16 to him and led him to Christ! He is the one helping the children with their school work.
On Monday evening, I preached in an open air meeting on “How to be saved.” About the time that the meeting was to begin, it started to rain. To our surprise, no one left. We simply made do with the tarp roof and got wet. There were at least 60 of the people from the village there, maybe more. One man who told David to “go away” in a threatening way, a year ago, was there. We learned from David that sometimes as many as 100 or more children will gather during the week for “help with school work.” At that time, they teach them the Bible and sing songs. This was the most impressive place as it has gone from “closed” to “receptive.” It has gone from zero Christians to 6 baptized church members.
The next morning, we met with 25 of the people from Cholapuram at Ayyanar Falls (however we met on the dried-up riverbed). I taught “Seven Reasons Why We Must Be Saved.” About 6-7 of those attending are unbelievers. Some of the young men who had attended the night before came. A woman from the village at Ayyanar Fall ssaw us appear (who can miss four white people), and tentatively followed us down and listened to me speak from afar. That evening, we traveled to Sankarankovil where Samuel is working. The meeting place is his home. Like Cholapuram, they drilled a well and made the water available to the community. This has opened doors for them.
We had an open air meeting there. Pastor Tom Ricker taught on Genesis 22 and the sacrifice of Isaac (Abraham’s son, not Graham). At first, we had about 19 who were mostly women and children. There was one neighbor man. As the service progressed, people kept coming. We went from 19 to 21, then to 22, then to 24, then to 26 and ended up with 29. Josiah (Samuel’s son and one of those baptized) brought a number of his friends. These six friends are all Hindus who Josiah has been witnessing to. They are now coming to the church meeting with Josiah. Josiah believes he has been called by God as an evangelist. Perhaps this is evidence of this gift. While the Scripture was being read and Pastor Tom began to speak, there was an effort to get a stray dog off the mats. When the meeting was over, the dog left??!!