South India's "Shock Troops"

A report from India.

By R. H. PIERSoN, Former Superintendent, South India Union Mission

During the biennial period ending Decem­ber, 1941, nine new churches were organ­ized, and a little under three hundred souls were hptized in the Tamil local mission. Many of 4 interests which have proved so fruitful were created by our "shock troops." "1 he shock troops of God's advent army in many sections of South India are the lay preachers, whose place in our program of evangelism is fast de­veloping into a very effective technique in soul conquest.

These self-supporting workers, we have found, are able to uncover and to create new interests more effectively and with less preju­dice than our regular mission workers. Since they are not burdened with the care of churches' and mission stations, they are free to roam from village to village, living with the people in their homes ; thus they frequently uncover in­terests that casual visits would not reveal. Then, too, among many non-Christians of India there prevails the conviction that many of their fellow countrymen accept a new religion merely for their stomach's sake. This often leads them to doubt the sincerity of the worker who draws his support from the mission treasury. Free from this suspicion, the self-supporting worker is on vantage ground as he seeks to break down prejudice.

After the crops have been laid by, and while they are waiting for the harvesttime, many of these zealous soldiers of Christ take their drums, cymbals, violins, prophetic charts, and a Petro-max light (kerosene air-pressure lamp), and make long tours at random through the villages of their districts. Entering a village in the evening after the day's work has been finished and the evening meal is over, they play their primitive musical instruments and sing gospel hymns and native lyrics to gather a crowd. Then follows the usual procedure of hanging up the prophetic charts and the preaching of sermons by the various members of the gospel band. This order continues well into the night.

These itinerant, self-supporting workers re­main in one village as long as there is an interest, or as long as the more hospitable homes of the village are open to them. During the day they make themselves generally useful in the village and in the fields, fraternizing with the people as they work and talking with them about the truth. Each evening, they hold meetings in the most strategic place in the village.

Sensing when it is about time to move on, the lay preachers will set out on their tour again. After they have discovered a number of villages where good interests have been aroused, they will make frequent visits to these places and continue to preach various points of Bible truth. When they have reached their limitations, they report to the mission superintendent or to the nearest mission worker, and from that juncture the regular mission program commences to function in co-operation with the lay preachers.

Realizing the inestimable value these unpaid workers may be to the cause, we have worked to bring about a close co-operation between them and the mission. We have sought to. encourage their endeavors by undertaking to. care for the traveling expenses of the more pro­ductive ones, and we have found this to be money well spent.

We have also considered it helpful to invite these untrained workers to institutes and work­ers' meetings at every opportunity, to develop their efficiency. At these meetings we have taken special pains to teach them more of the truth and to help them in methods of presenting it to others publicly. We have also carefully supervised their work and helped them plan just what subjects should be presented and in what order. This has been time especially well spent, and in a field like South India where we are woefully short of men and means to answer the many calls that are constantly coming to us, it greatly augments our working staff at a very low cost.

Thus South India sends out her "shock troops" to dig the trenches and prepare the way for the experienced, trained mission soldier to follow in their wake with a strong evangelistic effort and a baptismal class in which to instruct candidates for baptism and church fellowship.

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By R. H. PIERSoN, Former Superintendent, South India Union Mission

February 1943

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