Summer 2012: India Report
Author: Nettie Gill
Publish date:
Summary: Read about Victor and Nettie Gill's missions trip to India.

Amazing Discoveries speaker Victor Gill and his wife Nettie took a trip to India in November 2011. They were asked to come to India by several Indian Conferences to train Seventh-day Adventist as well as non-SDA pastors so they can better know what they believe and how to lead their congregations. Training sessions were held in several local SDA conferences. In addition, Victor and Nettie were asked to do evangelism in two locations—each consisting of 25 villages—and they also helped at the Balm of Gilead orphanage and school to visit with the children, attend the official opening, run VBS, and encourage the people. Reuben Lorenson, a retired missionary from Canada, accompanied the Gills to give medical care and health talks to the Indian people.

Here is Nettie’s account of the evangelism completed in India and what they experienced on their trip.

Getting There

We left Vancouver airport on November 16, 2011 and arrived in Frankfurt, Germany on November 17. Here we boarded another airline and had to go through security again. I had about 125 pairs of eye glasses with me and security was eager to know what all the wires from the frames were for. I explained that we were taking glasses to give to the villagers in India. Satisfied with that explanation, they let us go.

We arrived in Bangalore on the morning of November 18 at 1:30 a.m. Here we had a 4 ½ hour wait, and then left for Hyderabad, arriving there at 7:30 a.m. From there we flew to a city near our orphanage an hour from Bayyavaram. Pastor Daniel, the director of the orphanage and a local church leader, met us at the airport and took us to the Healing Balm of Gilead Refuge Home where we finally rested after our long journey. The entire journey from Vancouver took about 36 hours.

The Orphanage

We started our work in the Rajahmundry Conference where the orphanage is located. The orphanage has about 70 orphans and semi-orphans. Semi-orphaned children are those whose father or mother has died and the other parent is not able to take care of the children and provide for their needs Our facility has consented to help these families with their dilemma.

The orphanage receives a lot of requests for this service and many of them are turned down. While I was there, a young couple came to see if they could admit their two children. The mother has multiple sclerosis. She is becoming more and more uncoordinated and as the husband is working hard to provide medicine for her and food for the family, they asked if our orphanage could help them by taking in the children. I felt for this couple as it was easy to see that they had some major problems, and I hope their children were accepted as we had to leave before they made their final decision.

I stayed at the orphanage while Victor ministered to the SDA Pastors of the Conference. I ran a Vacation Bible School for the orphans after they were out of school. They loved hearing the Bible stories and coloring pictures that correspond to these stories with the coloring books and pencil crayons I brought with me. I also taught the children a couple of English songs and how to play the bells. It was so wonderful to see the excitement on the children’s faces—they were thrilled with it all.

One evening, we gave each child a beanie baby that we had brought from Canada. How the children loved them! My sister Hilda had a collection and decided that something better should be done with them rather than keeping them stored in a cupboard. There were 157 in total and I left a lot of them at the orphanage so that each new child will receive a beanie baby when they come to the orphanage.

The Orphanage School

While we were at the orphanage, we were involved in the official opening of the Balm of Gilead School—a school that serves not only the orphans but also the community. Located right beside the orphanage, this school can house up to 200 students. The whole community attended this service as they are extremely proud to have this educational facility now in their midst.

After the opening, we celebrated with a delicious meal of rice and curry. Before the meal, I went to the kitchen and saw some ladies sitting on the dirty floor cutting up the vegetables for the curry. They had built a fire in the courtyard between the school and the orphanage, and were cooking the rice in the biggest pot I had ever seen—it was more like a barrel! The food was delicious and everyone had something to eat.

Working in the school was challenging as the method of teaching children in India is completely foreign to our North American system. Instead of using reference books, teaching aids, maps, or any other visual material, the children learn by rote as books and materials are too expensive for schools to purchase. The children do, however, have government-issued workbooks that contain all their subjects, yet the material in these workbooks also frustrated me as many of the stories they study for literature come from the Hindu tradition. We had three Adventist teachers and one Hindu teacher working in this school.

Adventist teachers are hard to find, which I’ll discuss in further detail later. Nevertheless, this Hindu teacher was sympathetic to the Gospel and so when asked to come to church every Sabbath and begin teaching children from the Bible, she complied. Her husband has even started coming to church as well.

Pastoral Work

Victor held a training session for the 70 non-Adventist pastors in the area, teaching them the Three Angels’ Messages. This training session lasted for four all-day sessions. The evenings were spent ministering to the people of the village near the orphanage. There were anywhere from 400 to 500 villagers that came to these evening meetings. In the end, thirteen of these pastors accepted the Adventist message.

At the Rajahmundry Conference headed by Elder Paaka, in addition to the work we had already done in this conference, Victor held a pastor’s seminar teaching the pastors the distinct Seventh-day Adventist message. Many of these pastors did not know our message as they should and were not properly for their positions as pastors. The work has grown so quickly in India that people with leadership abilities have been given pastoral roles that they now need to be equipped for. Victor had four full days with them, preaching 6-8 hours every day to approximately 240 pastors.

After the fourth day, they had a worker’s meeting and Victor preached to roughly 275 – 300 pastors, laying a burden on their hearts to be faithful in spreading the Three Angels’ Messages in their districts. I also spoke to them reminding them that God wants them to be healthy not only in body, but in mind and spirit. I also had another occasion to do some preaching myself, on the second Sabbath at the orphanage where I was asked at the last minute to give the sermon. Good thing I had started preparing a talk on the Sleeping Church and the Ten Virgins before I had left home—this was what I spoke on and I hope the people were blessed by it.

From here we went to the Ongole Conference. The Conference President, John Victor, presides over this area. He had a burden for training the pastors properly in our message. And had even arranged for his pastors to come to a seminar where they were to be trained in our core message. They are building a training center on the grounds of the Conference Office and are planning to give the pastors proper training. Victor’s training session lasted four days and again he preached to them between 6-8 hours a day.

It was here we heard the unfortunate news that many of the churches that were built by various teams that came to India to evangelize were now closed. We encouraged the Conference to work longer with the people as we recognized that many had been prematurely baptized without proper discipleship and that is why they were leaving the churches or lowering the standards of the faith to suit their needs. We also learned more sad news by being told that a number of churches were only open on Sundays, which shows how these people are not being properly taught the doctrines of our faith. For instance, if people have to work on the Sabbath, they will hold their church service on Saturday evening or even Sunday morning. Simply for convenience sake, these churches are sacrificing truth to accommodate people instead of firmly standing for truth, no matter the cost. We even heard that some pastors who were Sunday keepers have been hired by our Conferences to fill in for our churches as pastors—this is unacceptable! In addition to these serious doctrinal matters, when we visited many of these churches, we were also deeply saddened by how many buildings needed repairs and painting. The churches were in a very sorry condition—windows were broken, weeds were growing up, and many other repairs were needed.

When we visited these churches, church members would come to see what we were up to. Victor had the opportunity to speak to them and encourage them to be faithful to God and to the truth. On a positive note, many of the conference presidents and church pastors mentioned to Victor that they had never properly understood the Seventh-day message before and were eager to learn it.

In the Ongole Conference, Victor and I hired an optometrist to travel with us to examine the villagers’ eyes and distribute the eye glasses we had brought with us from Canada. We gave out 97 pairs of glasses to happy and grateful recipients.

First-Village Series Evangelism

One of the villages in this area (Pallamalia) had been chosen as the site for an evangelistic crusade Victor had been asked to do that involved delivering talks to 25 surrounding villages. Evangelism in India is different than in the West. The series usually takes place outdoors under tents that have to be rented, and facilities for a large number of people need to be prepared. We were pleased with the arrangements that had been made. A local family had taken care to make sure everything was neat and well planned. They even had port-a-potties brought in for the public. The first evening approximately 2200 people attended. The next evening 2500 people came, and then 3000. On the last evening there were 4000 who came to hear the message. These meetings began with a Bible story and memory verse given by me, followed by a health talk by Reuben Lorenson, and then Victor’s lecture.

Many decisions were made at these meetings. There was a small baptism of 37 people on the last day of the meetings. The reason for such a small number in comparison to the number of people who attended is due to the fact that we interviewed the candidates before baptizing them as we wanted to ensure the converts were grounded and sincere in their faith. Many Indians were interested in having "a holy bath,” but Victor refused to baptize them if it turned out they were seeking more of a euphoric experience or acceptance from us rather than a genuine, public declaration of their faith in Christ. A common problem when evangelists come to India to build churches, gain converts, and baptize hundreds of people is that these churches soon become vacant and new converts fall away because they have not been properly grounded in the truth. Victor and I hoped to reduce the likelihood of this occurring by spending more time building the people and growing them up in the Word.

By the time the meetings were completed on December 21, 2011, the Christmas season was drawing near and everyone’s thoughts were on the holiday season. So we had some time off and then waited for the New Year celebrations to be completed before we began to work with the people again. On the Sabbath, we went to various churches and Victor preached to the people there.

In the New Year, we moved on to the Guntur Conference region. Here Maranatha has built some beautiful buildings to be used as a school. How I wished that I was 10 or 20 years younger! I would love to be part of the school’s development. I thought of the young people in our schools in North America and could envision them working as student missionaries in these villages and schools. What a wonderful work they would be able to do! How they could cause the work in India to grow and flourish! There are many things that I would like to see changed there, but what can one do in just a few months?

The challenge with the Maranatha ministry, however, is that while Maranatha builds great facilities for churches and schools, it is up to the locals to fill these schools with teachers and the churches with pastors, and there is often a major shortage. In the schools, we do not have enough SDA teachers and, as a result, many of the children are being taught by Hindu teachers. These Hindu teachers bring with them their own philosophies, giving the children mixed messages. As I mentioned earlier, we had a Hindu teacher working at the orphanage school with us.

We had the same program in Guntur as we had previously in Ongole. Pastor training sessions were held, 6-8 hours a day with the pastors of the region. We also had a few non-SDA pastors who attended and who were very appreciative of the messages. With tears in their eyes, they thanked Victor for his talks.

Read a letter from a Guntur Conference pastor thanking Victor and Nettie Gill for their work in India

The Untouchables and the Caste System

The caste system is a major problem in India. This social hierarchy consists of rulers, priests and academics at the top and the “untouchables” at the very bottom. The untouchables get their name from the low nature of their jobs that make them “impure” and therefore “untouchable” to the rest of society. Victor and I visited one village of untouchables (that had an SDA church but no pastor) where we saw them sifting through garbage and collecting bottles and paper for recycling to try and earn a meagre living.This was their only job. None of them can read or write and they have no money to see a doctor. The need to help these people is so great here, as they live in shelters made of tarps and rags and many of their villages lack wells. Children who grow up in these villages have no possibility to overcome their situation and forge a different life than their parents’. The upper classes are not willing to help them out either, as from what I gathered about Hindu beliefs, they believe the untouchables must suffer in this life now because of karma in order to rise to a higher level in the next life.

It is very difficult to watch how the lower classes are treated. Many times when we drove by, we saw people lying on the side of the road near death, and yet no one was taking care of them. In fact, they had been carried out there to die because they were of a lower class and this is their lot. I would encourage some daring young person who wants to make a difference in the world to come to India and live with these people, teaching them practical skills such as reading, writing, and sanitation, as well as feed their spiritual lives with a message of hope that God loves everyone no matter his or her socio-economic status. The Lombardy people are one tribe of untouchables. There are 120 villages amongst the Lombardy people who have never heard the name of Jesus. One young non-Adventist pastor who works with the Lombardy tribes asked if there was any way that we could come and teach them the way of salvation. Incidentally, when we were working with Elder Paaka, he had told us the same thing and wanted to know if there was anything we could do for these people. He has a real burden for them. There was nothing we could do right then, as we did not have any more time and our money was all tied up with the programs we were running. We actually had to send out an SOS for more funds so that the second program could become a reality. Much to our gratitude, you, our supporters, were very generous, and within two weeks, the money came in and was used to pay for the second 25-village series as well as to train another group of pastors and help with church repairs.

Marriage Customs

In addition to their hierarchical caste system, India has many customs that I would dearly like to see discarded. In the poorer, uneducated villages, it is still the custom for young girls, 13 or 14 years of age, to be married. I was told that many of these young girls die in childbirth within a year or two of being married. How my heart aches for these girls! We were called upon to pray with two young women that were pregnant. One was 19 years old and had a child that was 3 years old, and the other was 21 years old and had two children, 4 and 2 years old. Neither of these two young women were able to read. They had never been to school and had never had the opportunity to learn. They had both been married at a very young age, and they were some of the fortunate girls who made it through their first childbirth experience.

Second-Village Series Evangelism

The village where we held the second 25-village series was in Garnepudi. We heard an interesting story about the grounds on which we were to hold our meetings. When the village was first started, all the people were Hindus. They decided that they would build a temple for a ferocious goddess who drinks human blood. They set aside a half acre of land for this temple. But before work on the temple could begin, some Baptist Christians came and told them about Jesus. Now the village was divided and the temple was never built. Instead, the Baptists built a nice church that seats about 300 people just a short distance from the half acre.

Along came the Seventh-day Adventists a few years later who built a church that would seat about 150 people. For some reason, a lot of the people in the village decided they preferred worshipping with the Seventh-day Adventists and now the Baptist church sits nearly empty and there are very few Sunday services being held.

The village decided that they would give this half acre to the Seventh-day Adventists. They want us to build a school for their people on this land as there is no school in the area for their children. They told us we could set up our large meeting tents there so we could seat between 2000-4000 people. But before that could happen, dirt had to be brought in to build up this low-lying area, which collects water when it rains. Once this was done, our Adventist people set up for our meetings.

The day of the opening of our meetings, an unexpected cyclone came through the area. Torrents of rain poured down in the Bapatla area. We prayed the rain would not come to the area where we were having the meetings. All day the clouds did not drop rain in that area. We arrived at the site for our first meeting and it was still dry. When the trucks came to bring the people, however, it began to rain in torrents. We prayed that the Lord would stop the rain, but it didn’t happen. We had to cancel our evening meeting and sent the people home.

An old lady in the village explained that the reason why we had the cyclone and terrible rain storm was because the Hindu goddess was very angry with us for using the grounds where her temple was to be built for Christian meetings.

Now we faced a big problem. Where would we have our meetings because the ground was so wet? The answer came from an unexpected source—the village elders said we should use the Baptist church for our meetings until the ground was dry again. That is what we did. The people added a lean-to on the side of the church and put chairs for the people to sit, and the next evening the meetings began. We used the church for two meetings and then the ground was dry enough for us to continue the meetings on the temple grounds under the canopies.

The attendance at the second 25 village meetings was not as good as the first set of meetings. We had anywhere from 800 to 2000 plus people who came out to hear the messages. At the first series, many attendees had been illiterate. In fact, when we visited the villages and the people gathered at the churches, Victor often asked how many of them could read, and often there wasn’t anyone who could. But for this second series, many people came with their Bibles and were diligent in looking up the Bible texts.

When Victor made calls at these meetings, many hundreds of hands went up indicating they wanted to follow the Lord. Thus, despite the old lady’s warning about the Hindu goddess’ anger, the Lord bestowed his blessings on these meetings and the many people who attended.

Again, we did not baptize all those who were interested as they required additional follow-up. Instead, we asked the Gunter Conference to send Bible workers to disciple those who indicated interest in further Bible studies.

Health Talks

Reuben Lorenson helped us deliver health education talks in the villages for the 25-village series. Many people in India have health struggles with beetle nut, alcoholism, and drug addiction.Reuben discussed AIDS, cleanliness, eating right (unrefined foods), burying feces, washing hands, and other helpful and practical sanitation tips. Since Reuben returned to Canada by the second village series, we had to find someone else to give the health lectures. It so happened that we attended a wedding before the meetings began and met an American couple, the Senners. Wayne Senner had a health program that he had used in India before and he consented to come and help us with the health messages. We were so thankful the Lord supplied someone for the second series.

Final Thoughts

There are many more stories I could share, but I hope what I have selected has given you a small taste of what God is doing in His churches and people throughout India. He works in big and small ways and we hope these stories of His faithfulness recorded here encourage you in your own relationship with the Lord.

We would like to express our deepest appreciation to all those who helped make this mission venture possible with your financial and prayer support. God bless you all and be assured that souls will be in the kingdom because of your sacrificial giving.

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