Evangelism in India
DURING the years 1972-1976 a total of 37,780 were baptized and 3,085 evangelistic efforts were conducted in the territories of the Southern Asia Division; 527 ministerial workers were involved, many of whom had participated in the ten field-training campaigns that were held in various places during this period.
India today can still be regarded as a bastion of paganism in spite of its having a nonsectarian government and an educational system that strongly pro motes the study of modern sciences. Custom and tradition so dominate the attitudes and life-style of people here that it is difficult for anyone to accept a way of thinking other than the one he has been born into. Consequently it takes a great deal of time, expense, effort, and an average of more than a thousand Bible studies each (given by laymen, as well as paid workers) to bring in an average of thirteen souls per year per evangelistic worker.
Recently there have been some interesting breakthroughs in hitherto difficult territories. Evangelist John Willmott reports from Kohima, capital city of Nagaland, that thirteen people have recently been baptized there as a result of an effort he conducted. These thirteen people represent six language areas. While Pastor Willmott was conducting his effort he was overseeing two other efforts being conducted simultaneously by two worker-layman teams. These efforts were blessed with thirty souls won in one village and seventeen baptized in the other, making a total of sixty people baptized in that hitherto unentered territory.
Nagaland is a predominantly Christian state, but there are large areas where primitive people are still headhunters. They have seventeen different dialects, which make communication difficult for gospel workers and others. The animistic Nagas hotly repulse any effort on the part of government agencies to educate or to "civilize" them, thus it was a real breakthrough when a number of them recently took their stand for the Lord.
Pastor P. V. Jesudas, of the South India Union, writes of his experience in a Tamil village. While en route he was impressed to buy sweets, so he descended at the first bus stop to do so. At another stop he was again impressed to buy sweets, so again he bought a good supply of candy. A third time he was strongly impressed to buy more candy, which he did. When he arrived at his destination hundreds of children came running from all directions, but they seemed afraid to approach him. He began distributing the sweets and, of course, the children became very friendly.
On the evening the effort began hundreds of adults came from near and far. They had been urged by their children. After five days of meetings the headman of the district issued a written order for the meetings to stop. Pastor Jesudas spread the letter before the Lord as he prayed. Some of the children were standing around. A boy recognized his father's handwriting. He ran home to intercede with his father. Again after some days the local popular society ordered the evangelist to quit or else they threatened to burn down his meeting hall. When the children heard of this they besieged their fathers to allow the meetings to continue. A third time a warning was given to the evangelist; this time with the threat of death. The children protested to their parents that they would not eat unless the evangelist be allowed to continue his meetings.
As a result of this effort sixty-five people were baptized and a beautiful church has been built in that town.
During the year 1976 a decided evangelistic thrust was begun within the church itself amongst its own members who seemed to be in need of instruction and revival. This work will be continued until it has covered every church company throughout the division. The first instructional part consisted of the preparation of Guide Book to be used with Counsels to the Church, a compilation of the Testimonies; then in conducting a series of workshops where the pastors learned to use these books for Testimony Countdown meetings in their local churches. In connection with this program a filmstrip in four parts on the life and work of Ellen G. White was prepared and distributed.
The second phase of the church preparation program consisted of a series of workers' training courses on health evangelism, nutrition, and ideals for Adventist families. A series of thirty-six health evangelistic filmstrips were prepared. These filmstrips so integrate the health material with religious concepts throughout that one cannot be separated from another. Then church members were organized into visiting teams to go out on Sabbath afternoons in neighborhood outreach evangelism. Wherever a marked interest developed the pastor was notified.
Part one and part two of this program are still being promoted and conducted in those areas of the division not yet covered. The multi-language problem causes slowdowns and sometimes even breakdowns in translation and preparation of materials.
The third part of the Church Evangelism Program will consist of a thorough course in Bible doctrines and denominational history for all workers and laymen so that they will be equipped to give Bible studies and con duct cottage meetings. This is already being done in some areas of the north eastern part of India, where lay evangelists are working with good success.
The section and union evangelists have been using health-evangelism filmstrips in their public evangelistic efforts with very encouraging results (see "Health Evangelism in Southern Asia," by W. H. Mattison). We are grateful that where this method has been tried the tithes have been more than enough to cover the salary of the worker, even though situated in one of the "backward" or poorer areas of the country. It is necessary that this experience be a part of every evangelistic effort in order for a self-supporting church to grow in the Southern Asia Division. This is our goal.
Another goal is for every paid denominational worker within this division to be connected in some capacity with an evangelistic campaign during 1977.
Health Evangelism in Southern Asia
DURING the time that I was president of the East India Section of the Northeast Union of Southern Asia, my wife and I had often wondered how evangelism among the villages was being done in other fields, particularly in the Far East.
We determined to visit the Far Eastern Division on our way to the 1970 General Conference to see if we could learn anything that would help our area. In Manila we were told of an effort conducted not long before by Pastors J. R. Spangler, W. K. Nelson, and Dr. and Mrs. L. H. Lonergan. We were intrigued by what we heard and mentioned it one Sabbath at a home in the States where we were guests. Another guest was Dr. Wayne McFarland. He suggested that if we were really interested we should go out to Loma Linda and enroll in the summer course in public health, which would begin the following Monday.
We enrolled for the summer course and stayed on for the fall semester, taking the audio-visual course, also. Re turning to India via the Philippines, we purchased the visual-aids materials that had been prepared there, and felt that we had something with which we could help our evangelists in East India, who had so little with which to work.
Since most of our evangelists do not have advanced education, we felt that the material we gave them should be something that one man could easily handle by himself in a remote village. Also, it must be something that would make sense to village people in relation to their own surroundings. We felt that the best way to do this was to develop filmstrips, using the Philippine Union method of presenting a health message that introduced a religious topic.
Since our evangelists could not develop a subject like this satisfactorily, we called in our best indigenous evangelists, and having explained what subjects we wanted, we let them develop these subjects as if they were working with village audiences. We then coordinated these with appropriate health topics. After the scripts were prepared and considered satisfactory, we "set" them to pictures. Wherever possible we utilized pictures that we made right there so that the people attending would view their own people in their own surroundings. Thirty-four subjects covering a complete evangelistic series were prepared. All this necessitated bringing in color film and processing equipment, which we had learned to use at Loma Linda, and processing our own color film. One great advantage of this was that at the end of the day we had the pictures we had taken all processed and ready for use.
As soon as we had all the scripts ready and ten filmstrips finished, we organized an evangelistic campaign in a strongly Hindu area where we had never worked before. Our series began with the filmstrip presenting man as a holistic being—physical, mental, social, and spiritual. This led naturally to the topic of Creation. With our presentation of germs we introduced the entrance of sin.
After a few meetings of this kind, some heads of Hindu families came to our evangelist and said, "We have never heard Christians talk like this before." They were very surprised to learn of our stand on vegetarianism, alcohol, and tobacco. Although these subjects had been mentioned only quite casually as the series proceeded, at the end of the seventh meeting these same men said to the evangelist, "We have decided to give up our tobacco and betel nut."
By the end of the series more than thirty people had taken their stand. One family donated some land, and they all pitched in and built a church and a school building. It's true these were constructed according to their own style, bamboo and thatch; nevertheless, they did not ask the mission for any help. They even hired a Seventh-day Adventist schoolteacher, and today a strong church has been established there.
Before leaving East India we furnished each evangelist with a complete set of films and the subjects in his own language, and we believe that these have contributed in some way to the fact that the baptisms for East India are higher than they have ever been. At present we are looking forward to preparing similar material for use in other sections of the Southern Asia Division.