March 2005 : India
The time was drawing to a close for this mission to India. Pastor Timoti and I traveled deeper into the interior and up in the mountains to minister to Saura tribal people in the village of Karem. We conducted a mid-day gathering; what a wonderful time with these beautiful people. It is a clear demonstration of the transforming power of the gospel.
These people at one time were very pagan in their worship practices. They conducted animal sacrifices and in drunken states chanted and carried on for their deities. One of the chief drinks is palm liquor that I understand is extremely strong. They would also smoke some sort of tobacco cigars. Their method of smoking is to turn the lighted end inside their mouths and inhale all the smoke as well as the hot toxic gases goes deep into their lungs. This method has a very strange effect on a person not to mention it shortens their life spans a great deal. But now, after they respond to the Lord Jesus they receive a new beginning and new life. These same people are actively involved in following the Lord and spreading the kingdom of God to other unreached villages. On there own, having been trained by Pastor Timoti they form their own gospel teams and without their pastor they go into deeper parts of the interior and bring the Light of the Lord Jesus even to more remote villages. In these remote areas it is necessary for us to stay in the villages with the people.
For me this is how you truly get to know the people and are able to demonstrate little acts of love to them. We returned to Srikakulam and met with 17 pastors who I was privileged to ordain.
These men have had many years in ministry ranging in age from 29-55 years of age. These men have successful ministries; some pastors, evangelists, missionaries and some have worked for more than 15 years among the Lepers. However because they are not affiliated with a mainline denomination they have not been ordained. During the interview meeting I wept as I hear the testimonies of these wonderful servants of God.
On Friday 18 March Pastor Timoti and I traveled up into the mountains to the village of Rayamanuguda. For the next two days I conducted a Biblical Leadership Training Seminar. More than 90 were in attendance with 65 being tribal pastors. The venue was a very large out door sunshade made with palm leaves and poles. These men of God set on the ground and with paper and pencils they noted down each main point. Each day I would teach from 6 to 8 hours. Pastor Timoti was my translator. Timoti told me that these men would put into practice what they heard and would pass it on to others.
On Saturday we returned to Srikakulam in time to conduct a street gospel meeting in a very crowded area of the city. The street was closed off and a small platform was erected in the middle of the street. 2 and 3 story houses were built right up to the edge of the pavement. The people were so packed into the street you could hardly walk to the front. A city official present stated that there must have been at least 800 people setting in the street, some were standing in back of those setting down others were behind the platform and other people were also standing out on there balconies and roof tops. When the appeal came to respond to Jesus more than I could image indicated they wanted to receive the Son of God and have their sin forgiven. They openly confessed Jesus as their Lord and declared publicly that they renounced all other gods and committed themselves to following Jesus alone and be done with all practices that were not in line with the Christian message. Those in the back could not come to the platform, there was no room. I tell you no one need be ashamed of the power of the gospel for it is the power of God.
On Sunday I was blessed to baptize and give the new believers Christian names. Pastor Timoti and his family gathered and we shared the Lord’s Supper together before I left for Hyderabad. What a joy for me to leave India knowing that not only has God shown Himself to be mighty and gracious but that within a few months three established Elijah School of Ministry International bible training centers will be operating in Tenali, Srikakulam, and Hyderabad.
The train ride that I thought was to be 6 hours or so from Tenali to Srikakulam actually turned out to be 12.5. The ride is always an adventure. I am blessed to see the countryside and meet new people. On the train there are vendors that peddle almost anything you may be looking for. There are always food vendors. The exciting thing is to buy something you have no idea what it is and try it. I have yet to be disappointed the India food is so tasty. When I arrived Pastor Phillip Timoti met me at the station. What a joy to be reunited with him again. I was invited to stay with him in their home. This year however they were a little more crowded, you see Pastor Timoti and his wife Lydia have taken in 11 orphan children. There are responsible for all there needs including their education. The children range in ages from 6-13 years, pastor Timoti and Lydia have two beautiful daughters ages 6 and 4.
If my math is correct that makes 13 children in the house. Pastor Timoti told me that among the tribal groups there are many orphans, he is modeling what he expects the churches he has planted to do. I am very blessed and surprised to hear what has happen since I was here last. Pastor Timoti and the pastors that work with him have planted 40 new churches. He now oversees 88 churches. He has trained 80 pastors in all. The churches have established evangelism teams from within their congregations and they go out on a regular bases to other unreached villages. Pastor Timoti told me that by the grace of God and since my visit to encourage the he and the pastors the work has been very blessed.
I was the first foreigner to go into some of these villages last year and that meant a great deal to them. On Sunday 13 March I was honored to preach in the church at Kummaragandi. This church was planted 8 years ago and now oversees 16 churches in its district. At one time this was a very hostile village. They were animists, offering animal blood sacrifices and drinking great amounts of palm toddy a local liquor. Now almost every family in the village are believers. I was introduced to the head elder of the church, 8 years ago this man threatened to kill pastor Timoti and the team that was with him. He held them in one place for one full day. He was a powerful man with more than 100 followers. Pastor Timoti and his team began to sing praise and it started to soften this man. Now this same man is a strong and active church elder who regularly shares the gospel. We left this village and traveled further up the mountain to Murthykadaguda. This is the very first church planted among these Sora tribal people. They have built a beautiful church building and it has become the center of the village. I preached in the evening and after spending the night in the village we held another meeting in the morning. In this village all but three families are now believers. I am so very impressed with Pastor Timoti and his structure of church organization. He has three districts and has established head pastors for each district. Under them are smaller groups of churches. Pastor Timoti has captured a revelation of true biblical leadership and the sharing of responsibility with necessary accountability. Tomorrow we will traveling to village of Karem and will be conducting an open-air gospel crusade meeting.
Pastor JohnPaul Pinapati founder of Favor the Helpless Mission has been the host of the seminar.
For the past two days Dr. Steven Losh and myself have been teaching a pastors seminar in Tenali.
It has been my privilege to work with JohnPaul for four years. Each time I come to India I am blessed to see the spiritual growth that has taken place in him. Pastor JohnPaul is a man driven by a God given vision to bring increase to the kingdom of God. His ministry is expanding each year. He continues to plant churches in remote villages, he trains pastors and leaders, he has opened an orphan home for children and continually provides ministry to more than 40 widows. He is a man who even though he is fairly young, in his mid thirties, he is respected by pastors that are much older the he. He had the leading from the Lord to conduct this seminar and together ELIJAH MINISTRIES and FAVOR THE HELPLESS MISSION spent two days teaching and imparting the Word of God into the lives of more than 116 Pastors. Some of these pastors traveled as far as 90 km to attend. What a joy it was for Dr. Steven and I to pass on to those who are faithful that will pass on to others also the words of life. It is humbling to me to know that these men will go out and impact so many hundreds of people with the Word we have spoken into their lives.
There is always more with the Lord. He is so magnificent, so mighty in majesty, so gracious and abounding in mercy. When a person walks with the Lord, each moment there is the opportunity to experience more of the fresh expression of life that flows in the living water of His life. We returned to the village of Kondur to conduct another open-air crusade meeting. As we arrived, I sensed that there was an atmosphere of excited anticipation. Dr. Steven and I casually greeted several of the people gathered in the street. Pastor JohnPaul was making final preparations on the platform. As the musicians moved into place and Steven and I moved to the platform more and more people began gathering. The wonderful sound of the Indian style of praise filled the night air. The street continued to be filled with people. To the side of the platform an excited group of people was huddled together. There was some kind of event happening. All of a sudden from the midst of the small group of people a man was tossing a child up in the air. The child appeared to be unconscious, as it was not responding as a normal child would respond when tossed in the air. The child looked to be about 4 or 5 years of age. The music stopped as all attention was given to this episode. A man excitedly came to the platform carrying the child and motioned for Steven and me to pray. We laid hands on the child and began to rebuke the tormenting spirit that was troubling the child. Under the touch of our hands we felt the child begin to respond. He relaxed from his tenseness and began to breathe with a steady rate. The people watched as the power of the Lord ministered so effectively. The man with the child was delighted and obviously very happy. I remember thinking to myself, “”yes indeed this is the way it is supposed to be,”” Ministering in the power of the Spirit of Christ Jesus in a very natural way. After the worship JohnPaul asked the crowd of people, which by now greatly increased from the night before, if anyone could testify of the healing of their bodies from the night before. So very many raised their hands. You need to know that in the villages most everyone knows of the business of others and would be able to confirm the testimonies. When finished with the testimonies, Dr. Steven Losh preached a simple gospel message. Remember that this is a place that had never before seen a white man until last night, and they had never before had a gospel meeting in their village. When the invitation was extended, people all over the crowd responded by standing up. During a meeting in India the people sit on the ground, and standing up demonstrates their open desire to receive Jesus. Dr. Steven told the crowd that if they received Jesus the night before they did not need to do it again. Some of the people sat back down, JohnPaul made it very clear that there was no need to respond again if they responded last night. Praise the Lord, many many more remained staying. What a wonderful display of God’s grace. As Pastor JohnPaul led those who were standing in the prayer of salvation and renouncing all other gods I felt a sense of heaviness lift off the village. We then asked for those with physical problems who would in faith believe for Jesus to heal them to come to the platform. One half of the crowd present came for prayer. I asked JohnPaul to inquire about the woman who from the night before was cradled in the arms of another in the rickshaw. The people told us she was present at the meeting. She had come on her own without any assistance. I believe she was one of the ones who stood to welcome this Jesus who had brought healing to her into her life and to follow Him from now on. Truly the healing presence of the Lord was ministering to these villagers. Pastor JohnPaul said as we were leaving the village, “”The people will sleep well tonight free of torments and having good dreams.”” He also will be planting a church in the village due to so many receiving the Lord Jesus Christ.
After a late night we had an early wake up 0400 to catch the train to Tenali. The 6.5-hour train ride is a pleasant experience. The landscape slowly begins to change as you approach the coastal region. The vegetation increases and the flatter the landscape becomes. The blessing of the train ride is that you can see the villages along the way and get a better understanding of the culture. We arrived in Tenali at 1300 or so. Once on the crowded train platform I saw JohnPaul walking towards us. What a joy to see him once again. We embraced and shared greetings. We moved through the crowd and made it to the vehicle and drove on the house through the very crowded streets. I was blessed to see all the improvements that were done to the dwelling. The second level was finished and a room set up for Steven and I. We sat for a while and talked exchanging information of family matters, the work of ministry and personal well-being. JohnPaul is such a gracious man. We ate a little; I must tell the India food is some of the best in the world. I enjoy the spiciness, the exciting flavors. After bathing we prepared to head off to a remote village about 50 km from Tenali. I am reminded that although there are many villages in an area that seem close to major cities the local people will not travel into a city to attend a gospel meeting especially those who have no idea about the gospel. That is why once again it was confirmed to me that ELIJAH MINISTRIES’ mission is to go to these utter most places. Thank you all you supporters and prayer partners for your continued involvement with us. As we headed off into the night traveling down very narrow roads all the scenery was swallowed up by the darkness and all you could see was what the headlights lit up in front of the vehicle. Turning and twisting along we stopped and asked for direction to the village from several people walking along the road. This always surprises me, that out in the middle of no where people are walking going somewhere. JohnPaul had never visited this village before, there have never been a white person in this village before and there has never before been a gospel crusade in the village of Kondur. THIS WAS A FIRST. When we arrived people started to gather. We set up on a corner of a four-way junction on the porch of the municipal building. Pastor JohnPaul has musicians that work with him and as they started to play more and more people gathered into the streets and junction. Before we officially began I raised the Shofar to my mouth and sounded out the blast of the Trumpet of the Lord. No one had heard this sound before and it certainly drew their attention. The Worship began with JohnPaul making an introduction. The people crowded into the open areas, some setting on the ground others standing, maybe they came just to see the white men maybe they came out of curiosity, no matter they were gathered. During the Worship a man leading a rickshaw with a woman stretched out and being cradled in the lap of another passed by. They motioned to Dr. Steven and I to come to them. We moved off the platform and went and laid hands and prayed for the woman. The woman cradling her and the woman began to weep. I believe the Lord was actively doing a work in them. After the Worship, I preached a message on Jesus giving victory to live by. When the invitation was given for people to respond, all over the place people acknowledged their desire to receive the Lord Jesus Christ. So very many, more than 70 percent of the crowd even those who were beyond the circle of light came and moved toward the platform.
Pastor JohnPaul led them in the prayer to receive new life in Jesus and to renounce following all other religions. The night air was filled with the sweet sound of people repenting and confessing Jesus Christ as Lord risen and alive. We then began to minister by the laying on of hands to those who were sick or diseased. Many demonstrated that the Lord was healing their bodies by exercising their faith in moving parts that they could not move before or truly showing by their actions that the Lord was present to heal. We were engulfed by the crowd. We were pressed upon on every side so by God’s grace we ministered to all who came. Praise the Lord Jesus. I wonder, what if no one ever came to that village to bring good news how many would have to go into eternity without hope and headed to a devils hell. Jesus is the only answer for all men everywhere. God bless you and more to follow.
Our time in the Hyderabad area is about finished. Not before we have witnessed once again the wonder of the grace of God as He lovingly transformed the lives of so many people. We visited several rural villages. These are villages that rarely see any foreign visitors, let alone those who come to preach the good news. On Thursday Dr. Losh and I conducted a Pastors and Leaders Seminar in the village of Medipalli. We spent the day sharing biblical truths concerning the plan of God to use anyone who is willing to follow Him and His Word without hesitation. God does not respect persons; He will move in power through a person who is completely given over to Him. These village pastors are such men. They are fully committed to following Jesus. After the long day with the pastors we ate in one of pastor’s homes and held a house meeting with family members and few a neighbors. On Friday 4 March we traveled to Bhongir this is the community that Pastor Ashrivadam has the orphanage.
There are now 38 children ages 7-16 years. He and his ministry, Great Commission Ministry are solely responsible for the care and education of these orphans
That evening we traveled on to a remote Gypsy village Raipad-Thunda, their local dialect is Lambadi. I mention the language they speak because I believe what happen there is a notable expression of God being in control and that all we need to do is what he desires and trust Him. We planned to view the “”Jesus”” film and preach the gospel. The equipment along with the films were loaned out to another church ministry the week before. We did not check the equipment prior to setting up for the viewing. What a surprise! No film! Pastor Ashirvadam went to his cell phone and began making calls. It would have been very late to bring the film out to where we were. Then, a man came to Ashirvadam and said I have a cassette, I don’t know what is says but it has the picture of Jesus on it. He brought it to us. It was the “Jesus” movie and in the local dialect! There is no explainable reason for them to have the film. No one in the village has the equipment to show it, but there it was and praise God we viewed the film and many people came to receive eternal life in Christ Jesus. Several we prayed for testified of God’s healing of their bodies. Saturday 5 March we went out again to Pallepadu a rural village and ministered more people came to know the grace of God and the forgiveness of sin through Jesus Christ.
Sunday 6 March we ministered in the Gypsy village Banjara-Thunda. Dr. Steven Losh preached the message. The simple yet so wonderfully powerful message of the abundant life Jesus gives to all who come to him. We spent the day with the pastor and his family, which are gypsies. It was a great time of fellowship and such a joy for believers to come together and laugh together eat together pray together. Even though we are of different nations we are one in the Spirit. We went on in the evening to another village to minister. Always by the grace of God people who are seeking the truth find Him. No place is void of the presence of God. All that is waiting is for some one to come and preach the Word and the Spirit and Word bring forth life.
Jesus is so wonderful, His name be magnified. Dr. Steven Losh and I arrived in Bombay late 1 March and then traveled onto Hyderabad. Pastor Ashirvadam met us at the airport at 5:00 AM and we began from that point to get involved in the work of the ministry of the gospel. On this first day we went to the home village of Pastor Ashirvadam and his family. His grandmother died 8 days ago at age 95 years. Most all her life she was a Hindu. But in the last few years she committed herself to the Lord Jesus. The village is a Hindu village with all the village customs in place. Most all the family members are still practicing Hindus. For two Americans to be present was very uncustomary. I felt very honored to be invited to share in this intimate event. I had been in the village several times before in years past, they know because of my preaching that I am a Christian so to be extended this opportunity was very special. Ashirvadam’s grandmother lived all her life in this village so on this occasion the entire population of the village was present. Now here comes the very remarkable event. I was asked to speak, and I preached the gospel at a Hindu memorial service. WOW! Praise His name. In tradition with the custom all the village gathered at the home of the woman who died and her sons provided a meal for the entire village. During this time the dear lady who pasted was eulogized and once again I was asked to speak along with Dr. Steven Losh.
We shared the Gospel again. By the grace of God no one protested not one became offended or angry. I must tell you, the Gospel fits into any situation. Later Pastor Ashrivadam told us that this could have been a very dangerous event. These are very strongly held traditions by the villagers and Hindus. To come in as an outsider and in the minds of some violate this sacred tradition was in fact unthinkable. However, once again the power of the Gospel is demonstrated. The Holy Spirit is hovering over every place waiting for the Word spoken to activate the grace of God in the lives of people. Continue to pray as we set off into more villages preaching the Gospel.
I recently received a follow-up report from Rev. JohnPaul Pinapati Founder of Favor the Helpless Ministries in Tenali, India AP. dated 14 April, 2005. I was with him 8-11 March, 2005. This is what he found out after the open air gospel meetings and the Pastors training. In the village of Kindur where we were the first foreign speakers: a 14 year old girl instantly healed of a heart defect. A young woman 18 years of age unable to walk and was carried to the meeting was healed and went home in peace and health. A 60 year old woman totally deaf was hearing again after the meetings. A woman 55 was blind, after receiving prayer and receiving the Lord Jesus receive her sight. Several were delivered from demonic spirits and many receive the Lord Jesus. The Pastors Conference: 10, 11 March “”All Pastors who attended testified that they had learned many spiritual mysteries and they felt like they were in heaven.”” JohnPaul Pinapati I encourage you to keep on going with ministry you are making a difference some times you find out and other times you do not but who is keeping score anyway?