Andrew Smith has reported on a recent visit to Tamil Nadu in south India, where he spent some time with Tamil Baptist churches in an area near Madras. Young people in the churches were observed to be spiritually alert and grappling with issues similar to those faced by their contemporaries in the West – such as worldliness, trends in worship and relationships. Several of them had known great hardship since they were converted, including being shunned by Hindu parents and cut out of the family business. The churches have been active in evangelism near to their own areas and some new churches have been established. There was, for example, one newly planted village congregation which could not obtain land to build a chapel; but they solved the problem by erecting a small chapel on the roof of one of their member’s homes!
One night, after a valedictory service for a young missionary to the Gujarati people (in the north of India), two quite different youngsters were noticed near the church. Their contrasting situation seemed to symbolize the diversity and need of India : ‘one teenage girl sitting in the filthy gutter sniffing some kind of drug, and a lad, probably no more than fourteen, curled up asleep in his rickshaw’.
The report goes on to say, ‘One visit remains in my heart, and I hope will always be a reminder of God’s grace in adversity. The village was Alalgapurai, and the host, Matthew. He is a Hindu convert and had spent some time in Assam as a missionary. Although rejected by his parents when he became a Christian, as the only son he was summoned back to the family home when his parents became too old to manage. Dutifully, he returned and began gospel work in his own village, having been unable to find a teaching post. When I visited Matthew, the church he was pastoring had risen to forty members. On a Sunday, he would cycle to four other villages, taking services in each. In one small community of twenty families, five are baptized.’
Andrew Smith also describes the influential ministry of one of the pastors there, ‘a man in his forties, convinced of the doctrines of grace and pastoring a church of around 300 members. He suffers from poor health, lives very frugally, yet is always cheerful and laughs regularly… He helps many other pastors and has introduced several to the Reformed faith.’