by Timothy Arnold
SINGAMPALLY, India (BNc) — I came to India a month ago to work with the Fred O’Neal School and Children Home in Rajahmundry, Andrha Pradesh. It has been a wonderful experience and I think my co-worker, Harry Anderson, would agree that it has been a fruitful mission.
I have seen the faith of people who have no social advantage to being Christian go against their culture, government, communities, and families to obey God’s Word. I have witnessed the baptism of a lady from a strong Hindu family and community say that, “If my soul leaves my body I will still be a Christian,” which means not denying the Savior even unto death. I have met men who are preaching the gospel in and out of season in villages where they and their families are threatened and harassed, but they continue to preach with very little resources and still produce fruit for God’s kingdom.
Of these villages Singampally stands out in my mind because of the faith of brother B. Koteswara Rao. Singampally is a medium-sized village just outside of Rajamundry with dirt streets and three huge Hindu temples.
I preached a meeting in his village on the night of February 13. V. Raja Kumar and his father, V. Sudarsana Rao, have been training and providing some support and assistance to the church in this area which is the reason they scheduled this meeting for me in Singampally. We met on the front porch of his little home where he conducts his meetings before we went to the rented meeting place to preach.
Koteswara, his family and a church were persecuted for over a year by a radical extremist Hindu group called R.S.S.
One of the three temples is practically next door to their home where Koteswara conducts services on his porch. The Hindus regularly blasted vulgar blasphemies at them when they were worshiping, they cut their water lines, they banned anyone in town from allowing them to buy food, and they came to their worship services and screamed in his face to intimidate him.
They also advertised that drugs were put into the wine for the Lord’s Supper and that their women were being forced through drugs to convert to Christianity.
Koteswara finally persuaded the political man of the village to work with the only authority in the town to intervene. They covertly investigated for six months and found that the church was being terribly harassed. One individual who the Hindus brought in from another town to cause trouble for the church was jailed for 12 days and the authorities demanded peaceful relations. While the investigation was ongoing, brother Koteswara was working.
Through all of these trials he continued to teach the message of Christ as our redeemer to anyone he could get to listen. He baptized a man from one of the extremists’ families, then that man’s wife and children. He has baptized some of the persecutors’ wives as well.
When their husbands would not give them permission to go to worship, they went anyway. That’s a big deal here, because wives must ask their husbands’ permission to go places. They respect Koteswara more than their husbands. It’s his humble nature that makes him a valuable leader. It wouldn’t surprise me if he converted the whole village.
Once, a preacher for a denomination was taken by force and held in one of the temples, manhandled, and forced to denounce God. Our brother Koteswara went to the temple and fought for the man’s release, and won. That took considerable courage — for all he knew, he could have been next.
Brother Koteswara and his family live a physically poor life, but a spiritually rich one. Koteswara’s wife makes a few ruppees tutoring and each of the church families, about 12, who bring a ball of rice for the preacher’s family on Sunday and this is mostly what they live on. Brother Raja gives him $30 a month out of his pocket for expenses. We brought kits from Healing Hands International for drip-irrigation gardening to help the preachers in this area with food and possibly some extra to share or sell.
After the meeting I couldn’t sleep until I emailed my wife Debbie and told her about this amazing man and the little congregation who endured the trials and grew out of persecution. I ended with this:
“Deb, as poor as he is, still preaching and teaching, he doesn’t ask for anything. He is a man of faith. What I have discovered, however, is he needs a bicycle. Raja hopes to raise funds to provide all the area preachers with bicycles because they walk everywhere. Brother Koteswara walks miles between villages to preach every Sunday for two congregations and to visit, teach, and evangelize all week. I want us to provide one of the bicycles and I want this man to have it. The bicycles here cost $70. I love this brother for his amazing display of faith and evangelism and I’m humbled by his love for God and his people.”
I am in Chennai, Tamil Nadu tonight on my way back to the U.S., but before I left Rajahmundry and the Fred O’Neal School and Chidren Home Friday night, Feb. 25th, I had the honor of presenting a new bicycle to one of my personal hero’s of faith. I think we both wanted to cry, or at least I know I did. I told him to ride the rubber off the tires in the Lord’s work and I’ll buy him more tires! I would have bought him a motor scooter if I could afford it! Several offers to purchase bicycles came to me last week from people who read my blog, so I presented another five bicycles to worthy village preachers on the same day. Forty-four more to go!
Praise God for such men who show us the Way of Christ!