We have a very challenging situation in India, challenging because of the problems of great Oriental religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Mohammedanism, and a score of other religious philosophies. Non-Christian peoples are not easy to impress, and as a denomination we have not made much headway among them.
The majority of our converts come from the already established Christian churches. This poses a real problem, and while we rejoice in the success the Lord has given us, yet we are not surprised that prejudice has been building up over the years causing us at times to be labeled "sheep stealers." We have not set out deliberately to win members from other Christian groups, but some seem to feel that such is our aim.
Early in our ministry my wife and I decided that we would embark on the plan of public relations that is outlined for us by the messenger of the Lord. We have been explicitly told how we should meet with Christians of other denominations, as well as those of no church affiliation. First make friends with them; get into their homes, study with them, pray with them, get to know them, help them to understand the meaning and the significance of our program.
The fruitage of this public relations program with other churches was demonstrated in our experience when we went into one town in Southern India. We could not find a place anywhere to put up a tent. Nor could we find a hall, but because we were friends with the Lutheran church, they offered us their cemetery. That may sound amusing, but even that takes on a new significance when you can get forty or fifty baptisms out of a Lutheran cemetery! We could say that these were raised from spiritual death and are among those who are looking for the coming of the Lord.
An evangelist is fortunate whose wife mingles with the Dorcas Societies and Ladies' Aids of other denominations. It paves the way for him to get into the homes of the ministers of these different groups. Because of that, the pulpits of almost all the churches open up to us. I have preached in the Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, and even the Plymouth Brethren churches. We never abused the privilege. We always sought to preach the love of Christ, and that binds the hearts of all. We won their respect, and they love us today in spite of those who have been baptized into our church from their churches.
When we went into the city of Madurai, so great was the esteem of other churches for us that when they were placed under an interdict by their bishop for enabling us to raise funds for our new church there, nine hundred of them turned up at the meeting. Think of it! Nine hundred people of another denomination raising money to build a Seventh-day Adventist church in their city! Strangely enough, the bishop's church was called the Church of the Divine Patience. It bears that name because it took twenty-two years to build. Its members helped to build our church in eight months!
Right opposite our little church in Madras is the headquarters of the Salvation Army, and I made it my first business to make friends with these good people. We went over there and had some wonderful times with Colonel Booth Tucker, granddaughter of General Booth, founder of the Salvation Army. The American leader, Commissioner Allan, came to ask whether they could borrow our truck. When I came on furlough this time I was asked to preach from the pulpit of the Salvation Aimy in London. As you well know, that is an unusual privilege, especially in Britain.
In one town we had tremendous opposition, and I was determined to break this dislike for Seventh-day Adventists. I followed one of the ringleaders into a store. He eluded me and escaped, but I chased him into another store. When at last I managed to get him in a corner, I said: "Friend, I understand that your wife is very ill. We have been praying that God will heal her. In fact, we brought her name before our church for prayer." As we talked, the- tears rolled down his face. Immediately we were friends, and for two or three hours, until closing time, we talked about the great truths of our message—the atonement, the 2300 days, and the Sabbath. Three months later at an Anglican conference he gave a fifteen-minute eulogy on the work of Seventh-day Adventists in India.
There was another minister in that town by the name of Jerry Hayes from Australia, and he was really angry because Dan Harris had baptized some of his people. Dan Harris had left the town, and this man demanded to see me.
Actually, I was not too sure I wanted to see him, for he had given me to understand what to expect. He was in a great rage and started in on me. When he had finished, I said, "There are a few things I would like to say, Brother." Then I talked to him for four hours. We had prayer together. I left his house at twelve o'clock that night. As I passed through the door he put out his hand and said, "Good night, Andrew, God bless you." That week I received a letter from him which said: "I am asking you and your wife to join the Council of Anglican and Non-Conformist ministers in this town. I believe this is God's way." We have been members ever since.
A terrible tirade about Seventh-day Adventists had been written to be presented at a council meeting. We were in attendance and had to listen to this report. At the conclusion Mr. Hayes stood up and nominated us for membership. One man, a Canadian Baptist minister, asked, "Are these people here?"
"Yes," was the reply, "but they understand."
After it was over, Jerry Hayes said to me, "Something happened this afternoon that has never happened before in this meeting!" Because we had shown a Christian attitude, the sixty august ministers present burst into a round of applause. From that day on we had their respect and esteem.
We do not compromise in our public relations. We never hesitate to declare our identity. On the first night of our meetings we let people know that we are Seventh-day Adventists. We tell them: "When we get through with this series some of you will keep the Sabbath, and some will not. However, we are glad to have you here. We have a message to share with you for these times." In spite of this method, or possibly because of it, we keep our crowd until the last night, even after we present the Sabbath. The place is always packed to the doors, and in stating this I am not using any evangelistic license. There are men from the General Conference in this audience who know this to be true because they have been there.
When the bishop arranged for a conference in the town of Madurai and it was decided to have a procession of witnesses, we joined the procession. He nearly fell down with fright. "We have come to join the procession," we said. "We believe in Christian witnessing." He put us at the end of the procession, and he followed behind us with all his pastors.
I believe we have much to learn in interrelationship or public relations that will make friends. It was Christ who said, "Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness." He was not talking so much of affluence as influence. These men are rising in our defense. Many of them are accepting this message because of the love and kindness and understanding that has been demonstrated in our ministry to them.
It was just the same with our relationships with the police officers of each town to which we went. I always made it my business to get to know the commissioner of police. We go into the commissioner's office and say we want to get acquainted. Sometimes these men are more scared of us than we are of them. I am not naturally a brave man, but this is something the Lord wants us to do. Our intimacy with the police department bore fruitage when the Central Government decided to hold a general election in India. An order came out that all public meetings, political and religious, were to close down. I was in the middle of an evangelistic campaign. That would have spelled ruination to our program. I went to the commissioner, and he said, "I know what you have come for. Your meetings can go on." We went on preaching the Advent message.
When I was in his office one day an under-officer 'was trying to be very officious. "My friend," the commissioner said, "there is no need for you to talk to Mr. Farthing like that. Seventh-day Adventists keep the Ten Commandments." That came from a Hindu—a wonderful testimony to the standards we have.
We got to know the family of the Nizam, the king of Hyderabad, the second richest man in the world. How does that help us? It helps a lot. I have just received a letter from Pastor Peter Beach, who is stationed in that city. He said the Nizam had just given him a donation that was equivalent to the entire amount we had ever raised in the whole of the city for one year.
It was our privilege in Madras to baptize the daughter of a Captain Azaria of the Indian Army, and through him we were invited to army functions and came to know other officers. We went out to hold some meetings and were able to meet a major in the army who knew many of the people we knew. I was telling him about our program and that we were going to put up a tent. "How are you going to put up a tent?" he asked. I said, "We will manage somehow." He ordered a detachment of soldiers to put up the tent for us!
We have been called to such an hour as this, and God expects us to utilize every possible means that is going to be an aid in the saving of souls for the kingdom of God. We are men of the hour, men of destiny.
When Napoleon was planning his Middle East campaign and was looking for a cavalry officer, a young man, twenty-eight years old, named Murat, came into his office and said, "I understand your excellency needs a cavalry officer. I am the man." Napoleon appointed Murat as his cavalry officer. He served Napoleon faithfully throughout his career. He became one of France's greatest soldiers. He never betrayed Napoleon's trust. God needs officers in His army. Do not let us betray the trust of the God of heaven.