Pastor Discovers "Land of Opportunity"

by John Meador

Editor’s note: The author of this report of a visit to a mission field in India is pastor of Woodland Park Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He was a participant in a short-term mission trip led by Larry Malone, AMG’s manager of International Ministries. and accompanied by Bruce Daugherty, Bible teacher from Woodland Park Church.

The “land of opportunity”—ministry opportunity, that is—is what I’d call India. This nation, soon to be the most populous country in the world, is filled with mystery and darkness. In our recent trip to the state of Andhra Pradesh, located in the southeastern portion of India bordering the Bay of Bengal, we found great opportunity which resulted in great fruit.

Our visit began in Hyderabad, a major interior city almost 9,500 miles from home. The sights and sounds that meet you when you leave the airport are unmistakable. Hordes of people, all rushing in chaos on the highways…poverty and hopelessness at every corner as young mothers look for a way to give their hungry babies the next meal…the feeling of being almost the only Caucasian in the midst of masses of dark-skinned natives of India.

 Add to all this the realization that Christianity is very much a minority religion (3 percent) in this country, helped us realize the potential of our visit. We were here to help train national pastors and evangelists, enabling them to use the Word of God in greater ways, but what we actually ended up doing was far greater. The conference for pastors and evangelists was turned into a large evangelistic meeting numbering 6,000, with nearly 1,000 trusting Christ as Savior and renouncing all other gods.

Traveling to Chilakaluripat, we left the “organized confusion” of the city streets for the very different environment of the AMG Residential School.  On this 26-acre campus we found order, direction, and a wonderful welcome from some 2,000 students, ranging in age from  6 to 20. The vast majority are children of lepers or prostitutes, along with others who simply don’t know who their parents are. Among them are a sizable number of polio victims, many of whom could not walk and who are being rehabilitated on the campus. The AMG school ministry, which cares for 10,000 children in India on several campuses, is one of the greatest investments in the kingdom of God in India. Many of these children will become the pastors, evangelists and other leaders in India during the next decade. They are remarkably well-adjusted, scripturally literate, and have wonderful character traits. 

Over those few days in Chilakaluripet, we saw another powerful ministry at work. That first evening, I was amazed as truckload after truckload of people arrived from the neighboring towns and villages to take part in a “fellowship meeting” held on the school campus. In all, some 6,000 people gathered for the time of preaching and teaching. Later I learned that John David, president of AMG India, had urged the 300 evangelists and national pastors—all supported by donors through AMG—to bring 20 people each. Many hundreds came to know Jesus as Lord and Savior during meetings over the next several days. (ed.’s note: All in all, AMG with the help of partners helps nearly 1,300 national workers throughout India.)

As we moved from location to location in Andhra Pradesh, several things stood out to me. First, the eye clinic that AMG has in Rajahmundry is “one-of-a-kind.”  Over 11,000 eye surgeries were done free of charge last year, and one of the people I interviewed traveled over eight hours by train to take advantage of the surgery, after hearing of the love and compassion given by the clinic staff. 

We had another mass meeting at that clinic, where over 1,000 people gathered for preaching and teaching—all of them lepers from the surrounding areas. I clapped my hands in worship with lepers who had no fingers but joyfully clapped to the Lord. I saw seven evangelists who are lepers themselves, and they minister among the “untouchables” in India.  There, too, hundreds rejected the polytheism of Hinduism in order to accept the One True God, and Jesus Christ, His Son. 

Moving from there to the city of Visakhapatnam, on the Bay of Bengal, we visited the “Valley of Love” leper colony. Here, outside the bustle and filth of the city, is an oasis of beauty and care. Situated in the valley between two 5,000 foot mountains, this compound is filled with beautiful gardens and simple homes on uncrowded streets. It is home to more than 300 lepers and their families. Again, we held services and many accepted Christ. We helped dedicate several new homes for leper families, and experienced the tremendous love, support, and opportunity that the “Valley of Love” gives to victims of leprosy. 

I was able to see what Jesus must have seen when the crowds surged around Him, asking for healing. I began then to regularly pray for these people, asking God to bring them healing and hope. It gave me a fresh appreciation for the compassion of Christ as He reached out to touch the lepers.

I also realized that a dollar can go a long, long way in India to alleviate human suffering, feed the poverty-stricken and hungry people, and help the lepers. It can also greatly help the national pastors and evangelists who work hard reaching people for Jesus Christ, helping to bring light to a very dark nation.

This is a place where we can make a difference. India is open to the planting of gospel seeds. The time to invest in India and the gospel there is now. It is a time to give, to send, and ultimately to go with the message of Jesus Christ.                 

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