The one great cure for any ills in a church is evangelism." With these words Andrew Fearing set the keynote for the ten ministerial institutes held during the summer of 1967 in the Southern Asia Division. He challenged ministers "to do that which they were ordained to do; that is, win souls and not be content with just turning the little wheels of a church program." He showed how every activity and service of the church could be used in a positive way for the winning of souls to Christ. Pastor W. H. Mattison associated with Elder Fearing in these institute programs.
For the 450 ministerial workers who assembled in India, Ceylon, Pakistan, Nepal, and Burma, classes were conducted in the skills of evangelism, personal and public ministry, the art of obtaining decisions, preparing and holding converts, money and how to get what is needed, worship, developing an evangelistic atmosphere in the church, basic messages that make Seventh-day Adventists, health principles as a strong-arm in soul winning, practice preaching, the Christian approach to those in the Southern Asia environment, and many other practical themes for a more effective ministry. It was emphasized that if we are to reach the people of these lands with the gospel, we must adapt our methods to Eastern thinking and customs.
At each institute outstanding reports of evangelistic activity were given. The workers reported 1,300 baptisms for the first half of 1967. The South India Union ministers' and lay preachers' reports have set the pace for Southern Asia in 1967. With a working force of 200 ministers they had held 150 evangelistic meetings in the first six months of 1967, and they have baptized 915, which has resulted in a tithe increase of Rs. 38,000 in the union for the same period.
The largest single baptism thus far in 1967 was sixty-seven, which came as a result of meetings held by P. R. Israel, the Sabbath school secretary of the Tamil Section. The practice is followed in South India, Ceylon, and Burma that one cannot be an officer or departmental secretary of the union or local section unless, he is willing to hold at least one series of meetings a year.
Mr. Monickam, an eighty-five-year-old lay preacher, with a long white beard, added much color and interest to the India institute. For the past forty years he has gone from village to village, preaching the Adventist message. He has done this in more than three hundred villages of the Tamil Section. As a result, he has seen more than three hundred believers baptized as a re ward for his ministry. During the past year he inspired and led eighty men to follow his example. They have pledged themselves to finish the work of heralding the message throughout their local area. Recently, while walking to preach in yet another village, he fell into a blind well, thirty-five feet deep. A woman had fallen in that same well the week before and was killed, but God miraculously preserved the life of our brother. Not a bone in his body was broken. He was rescued, cleaned himself as best he could, and began to preach to the people who had gathered to see what had happened.
Our institutions have been closed in Burma, so the teachers, nurses, and insti tutional workers have become preachers. Burma now is the second highest in the division for baptisms. Last year there were 394 baptized in Burma, and this year the number has been doubled for the first six months! Twenty-four Buddhists have been baptized. This marks a new day for Burma. Eleven new churches have been erected to house the rapid growth in the past two years.
Preceding the Ceylon institute, the annual camp meeting was held at the Lakpahana Training Institute. This camp meeting had in attendance more than half the total membership on the island, a fact which in itself indicates the vitality of the people there. Naturally, these meetings were evangelistic, and to Andrew Fearing's appeal at the last meeting, thirty came for ward indicating their desire to join the church. Also twenty were baptized after the closing Sabbath service. This brought to eighty the number baptized this year in Ceylon and doubled their baptisms over last year in the same period.
During these meetings eight laymen and all the mission workers dedicated their pledge to enter some new area with evangelistic meetings in the next year.
One of the bright spots in the Pakistan Union is in the area of the great waterways of the mighty Brahmaputra, where our Kellogg Mookerjee High School and the Gopalganj Hospital are situated. Here Pas tor N. D. Roy has preached to thousands. Last year fifty-one were baptized in this area and seventeen have been baptized so far this year. This was the greatest disaster area of the world in 1965, but whatever the circumstances, evangelism lights a light when men are on fire for God.
Another troubled area, because of political strife, is the Assam Section of the North east Union. We conducted the institute in the beautiful city of Shillong. This high, cool place was indeed a welcome relief after the steaming heat found almost everywhere else in India at this time. In this section we heard how God had blessed our workers with 108 baptisms so far this year, and 100 more are ready for baptism. Most of this work is accomplished in the interior of Assam and in hard-to-reach places. There is also much political strife in this area. The lay tithe expected for the whole year has already been received at the half-year mark. The first church ever to be built in the Assam Valley was recently dedicated with a membership of twenty-nine. The people are of good courage.
The Northwest India Union Ministerial Institute was held in conjunction with the North India Section's silver anniversary celebrations. Here president I. M. Chand gave us the good news that there have been more than 1,500 baptisms in the past 15 years from 1952 to 1967. The Ingathering has risen from Rs. 3,000 to Rs. 48,000 over the same period, and the lay tithe has in creased fivefold to Rs. 15,000 this year. Delegates from the villages, former presidents, Pastors Faqir Chand and W. H. Mattison, were also present, along with many other pioneers in the work.
There are now fifteen church buildings completed to house the membership, and six more in the planning stage. The church school income rose from Rs. 184 in 1954 to Rs. 61,000 in 1966. This area has also been troubled with the conflict of war, and so it was with a sense of urgency that the Northwest Union workers gathered to at tend the ministerial institute in the New Jullundur church. It is also here that the Ruby Nelson Memorial Hospital has been started.
The high light of the occasion was the opening of the new section office building. Pastor Andrew Fearing officiated in cutting the ribbon for the opening of this fine office building. He also presented service buttons to the workers of this section, stating the number of years they had labored in behalf of souls. Pastor Harnam Dass, with forty-one years of service, was the senior worker of the group.
From the constant cool rain of the Western India institute near Poona, where we heard of hundreds studying the truth in the cities of Poona and Bombay, to the muggy heat of the great plains of South India, we found the workers eager to launch out with the new challenge and methods presented by Andrew Fearing. Regardless of weather, political strife, flood, famine, or any other adversity, they pledged themselves to God to work for the people of India. Sharing the angels' feeling of "almost impatient eagerness" (The Desire of Ages, p. 297), they determined to join in the task of winning souls as never before.