The high level of commitment of Christians he met in India and the power of testimony were two big takeaways from a recent short ministry trip to the Hindu-majority country, said Port Elizabeth evangelist and church elder, Allan Verreynne.
The importance of testimony was illustrated when he and a local Christian visited a sick man in an overcrowded hospital in the metropolis of Mumbai. Verreynne shared the Gospel with the man, using a booklet which he then gave to him. A Hindu woman nearby then asked him to come and pray with her husband who had jaundice.
Verreynne learned that the couple’s younger daughter had become a Christian. The family disapproved of her conversion but they also saw a positive change in her life. The younger daughter influenced her older sister, who was curious but not convinced. When the older daughter became ill her Christian sister prayed for her and she was healed instantly, prompting her family members to acknowledge that her God was powerful.
The woman told Verreynne she had, therefore, become interested when she saw him handing over a booklet and praying for another patient.
With the interpretation help of his local Christian companion, Vikram, Verreynne said he taught the jaundiced man and his wife “the four spiritual laws”, which he illustrated by sketching on a packet, and led the couple to Christ in two minutes before they had to leave because the visiting hour had expired. He said Vikram undertook to return to the hospital to bring the couple a Bible — a mission that would require him to take a bus, a taxi and a walk.
Verreyyne said the experience impressed upon him how evangelism is a process. “The person who digs the soil is starting the process. The person who puts the seed in and who waters it, continues the process. The people who take care of that little vine growing and prune it — they’re involved in the process.
“Now, here comes a guy like me and I pick the fruit. Am I the big evangelist? No, if anything I am just reaping what others have sown in the process. If anything comes out of talking about the experience, I want to encourage people on the power of witnessing — the power of testimony. Doing anything that you are able to further the Gospel will pay dividends in the long term,” he said.
Verreyne’s 16-day trip on behalf of his local church, Oxygen Life Church and the Four12 group, also took him to Gilgal Theological Seminary in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala which has a vision to plant churches and to equip people to do likewise.
He said the seminary was founded in 1990 by Rev Labert Valsalam who clung to the Gospel in the face of extreme adversity to carry out his calling. Several of the students he met at the college came from the north of India — a six-day train journey away. They were committed to returning to the north to spread the Gospel in a part of the country where violent persecution of Christians by Hindu extremists is on the rise.
The 30 students he saw at the seminary spoke 12 of India’s hundreds of different languages and had to learn English on arrival in order to understand each other and their lessons.
Gilgal Mission, which is headed by Pastor Robinson Valsalam, has seven churches in Kerala and 18 in the north. Verreyne visited some of the Kerala churches with Valsalam. Some are in jungle areas inhabited by elephants and tigers and built with bamboo and palm leaves. One of the dedicated pastors he met — a married man with two children — earns just R124 a week.
At the seminary Verreyne met two faith-filled pastors from Odisha, an area on the east coast where 120 languages are spoken. The pastors reach out to tribespeople who don’t wear clothes and have never heard the Gospel. Gilgal would like Verreyne to return to India to join a team to visit this challenging mission field.
He said he was overwhelmed by how many people in India appeared to be bound by satanic deception. He spoke of a Hindu holy man whose temple is full 24/7 all year with people who worship him — some of them walking hundreds of kilometres to reach him. Human life to many in India was worth less than animal life and if you hit a cow with your vehicle you could get killed. People drank cow’s urine and wallowed in cow dung in the hope of receiving blessings from Hindu gods. A man thought to have been eating beef was stabbed to death on a train in north India.
“I was deeply affected by these things. And then I got to Matthew 24:14 — and this Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to the nations and then the end will come. And so I, in my small way, would like to be involved.”
He was positively impacted by observing that while the deeply discriminating caste system is alive in India there is no caste system in the Church.
“We are all one in Christ. That really made a big impression on me. Another thing I was struck with was that even in most desperate situations where Christians have virtually nothing, faith in Christ was alive.”
He said being sent to India by his church was “a 25-year-old dream come true”.
“I am thankful for the experience. And all I have to say is I am RFA (ready for anything), I will go where I am sent.”