By Zack Guess
On March 14, I left to India with Brother Herb Hatfield. I had been to India several times before with Bro. Herb, our first trip being in 2000. This is my 14th trip to India. We flew on United Airlines to Houston, Texas, had a short layover and then flew Lufthansa to Frankfurt, Germany. This flight lasted almost nine hours. After we arrived at Frankfurt we had a long layover of approximately five hours. Then we boarded a Lufthansa flight to Bangalore, India. This flight was a little longer than the one from Houston to Frankfurt and we were getting pretty tired. We had been gone from home about 26 hours and had crossed several time zones.
When we got to Bangalore we were shocked to find that the Visa HQ people had put the wrong date on Herb’s visa and the Indian immigration authorities would not allow Herb to enter the country. He had to get on the next flight home. I felt very badly for Herb and felt uneasy for my situation, as I had never come to India alone. I always like to have more than one set of eyes and ears to make sure we make all our connections. Nevertheless I was compelled to make it on my own.
I retrieved my check-on bag, which I later discovered was Herb’s bag. The baggage people had sent my bag back with Herb. I felt so relieved when I left the airport and found Brother Guna waiting for me outside. The time was about 3 A. M. We got in Guna’s big jeep and began our approximately 4 hour drive to Bro. Guna’s home at Chettipatty. Even though I was tired I was so keyed up that I was wide awake and we talked all the way.
When we got to Chettipatty, I was taken to the guest house where I had stayed many times before. I took an “Indian shower” (pouring water over myself from a bucket), shaved, changed clothes and had only about two hours to rest till I was to speak to a group of preachers. Brother Guna is the head of the Omalur Ministerial Association, which is an informal gathering of Christian ministers from different denominations who meet periodically to encourage each other. I received a warm welcome and spoke to them from Isaiah 26: 3, emphasizing three attributes of God: Omnipotence, Omniscience, and Love.
Then we went to Guna’s house where Sister Mary, his wife, had prepared a delicious meal. Guna came to my room, we had good conversation, and I gave him some money Grace Chapel had sent to support the work that Brother Guna is doing with the children.
I got to sleep for 3 or 4 hours and at 6: 30 P. M. we drove to the nearby Poosaripatty. Here is the Philadelphia Primitive Baptist Church. They have a nice building which was built with money donated by Brother Jeff Harris from funds received from the church of the same name at Big Springs, Texas, which had ceased to exist. The pastor here is Brother Ebenezer. This church also operates the child care center which receives financial support from Grace Chapel. Here, over forty children were gathered and I gave them a message from Ecclesiastes 12: 1, 13, 14. They were very attentive and Guna told me my message had been very effective, for which I am thankful.
The next morning I went with Bro. Guna to the meeting he has each week with Sis. Mary and his staff of workers at the Chettipatty orphanage. There were three women and three men in addition to Guna and Mary. I brought them a short devotional in which I reminded them that while they were working for Bro. Guna, ultimately they were working for the Lord and must be faithful and diligent. I told them the work they were doing was very important and reminded them of the widow’s mite and of how they would be rewarded by the Lord according to Colossians 3: 23, 24.
I went to my room and was blessed to rest and to study for the upcoming ministers’ seminar.
Nelson picked me up about 5: 15 P. M. and we drove to Salem to the Salem Primitive Baptist Church his is pastor of. There were about 80 people in the congregation. I preached a little over an hour with Nelson translating on “The Practical Implications of the Doctrines of Grace.”
Friday, March, 18
The seminar was held in the church building at Poosaripatty. It was good to see several old friends, such as Immanuel, Robert Kennedy, Boopathy, and Rajendran. It was also good to see some new friends such as Paramanandam, Guna’s nephew, who has recently become a Primitive Baptist and was ordained to the ministry not long ago when Brother Jeff Harris was in India. A good number of preachers and others gathered, more than 50. I spoke, with Guna interpreting, on Ezra 7: 10. This is a powerful verse that emphasizes: 1) Preparation of the heart. 2) Seeking God’s word. 3) Obeying God’s word. 4) Teaching God’s word. After a break I taught again, gleaning from 2 Timothy.
That was the end of the first day of the seminar. I was struck by how many new faces were there. It is amazing how many new people are contacting Guna and want to know more about Primitive Baptists and many of them interested in becoming Primitive Baptists. The doors are opening so fast that it is hard for Bro. Guna to go through them all. He is very cautious when he meets new people and wants to make sure they are thoroughly indoctrinated in the doctrines of grace and in Primitive Baptist distinctives before constituting them into churches and in ordaining ministers.
After the seminar I was introduced to some people who had driven from Bangalore to meet me and to attend tomorrow’s seminar. There were two men and their wives. The couples were Rozario and Gloria, and Roger and Lakshmi. The women were sisters and Sharon, their niece was also with them. Gloria’s father had been a Hindu with a high paying job. He had a dramatic conversion to Christianity, quit his job, and established three churches. He died in 2009 at the age of 81. The churches were made up of impoverished people on the seacoast of Andra Pradesh.
After the death of her father, Gloria felt burdened to continue the work of the churches. She desired that they be affiliated with some stable churches. Brother Guna’s son, Richard, has a father-in- law, Rajasekar, who works with Rozario. He told them about Guna. Gloria contacted Guna and he went and preached to some people she had gathered. She became convinced of the doctrines of grace and wanted to become affiliated with the Primitive Baptists. Brother Guna is working with them and making sure they are sound in the faith and practice before proceeding further. These people are wealthy but very humble and it was good to get to know them.
Saturday, March 19
At the second and last day of the seminar I reviewed a little of what I had talked about yesterday for the benefit of those who had not been there for the first day. Then I continued to glean from 2 Timothy, getting through chapter two. My translator was Jebaveeran who did a good job, with a little help from Guna. What made this touching to me was that Jebaveeran was just a young lad the first time I went to his village of Veerinthenda, about 14 or 15 years ago. Now, he had applied himself and knew his English well enough to translate.
After a break, I continued to glean from 2 Timothy. In closing I exhorted the ministers to greatly value their calling and to keep close guard on their lives so that they would not disqualify themselves from the ministry. I was blessed to have great empathy with the congregation and told them that in heaven, when we would all speak the same language and have no limit on time, we could really have some fellowship.
I exhorted those who were not preachers to be sure to support their pastors in every way and to hold their hands up.
That night Guna and I and Rozario and Gloria and the folks who had come with them from Bangalore went to Reddiyur, and saw the church building and the child care center overseen by Paramanandam, Guna’s nephew. There were about 50 children there. Rozario and Roger gave them some exhortations. Then I brought them a message about four boys and four girls from the Bible who had been used by the Lord. They were very attentive.
Sunday, March 20
Brother Guna and I drove to Salem to the church pastored by a brother Sam. I had met him last year. He had had a very lucrative job in Chennai. He had felt a strong burden from the Lord, had left his job, come to Salem and established a church. He became acquainted with Bro. Guna and wants to become a Primitive Baptist. Brother Guna says he is close but has a few more things to learn. He already calls his church the New Hope Primitive Baptist Church. I preached to a very attentive congregation with Guna interpreting on “The Love of God.” After the sermon I was asked to pray for two young women who were soon to be baptized and for a mother with a small baby. The mother is married to an unbeliever.
In the evening we had a very pleasant time with the orphans at Chettipatty. Guna decided to have an outside service. The wind was blowing and it was fairly cool. The orphans were sitting on mats on the grass. The girls were dressed in beautiful and colorful dresses. The boys were all well-groomed. All the children were obviously very happy. Sister Mary served them snacks. They sang some songs. Then I brought them the same message I had brought to the children at Reddiyur. They were very attentive.
I went to my room, did my packing, and was blessed with a good night’s sleep.
Monday, March 21
Guna and I got in Richard’s Toyota and began the several hour drive to Andra Pradesh. I was impressed at how much the Indian highways have improved since my first trip to India in 2000. Almost all the new, improved roads are toll roads. When we drove through Bangalore on our way, it was surprising how long it took us to get through this huge city of about 6 million people. Brother Guna and I had very good fellowship and conversation on this long trip.
We finally reached the city of Anantapur and checked into our hotel. We were met by the very capable preacher, Sake Prasad. We were blessed with a good night of rest, even though I was awakened by a call to prayer from a nearby Moslem mosque.
Tuesday, March 22
On this morning Guna, Sake Prasad, and I picked up another Brother Sam, whom I had also met last year. He also is not a Primitive Baptist but is very interested. We all drove for about 45 minutes until we reached the Good Samaritan Primitive Baptist Church at Gooty Anantapur. The pastor is John Paul, a very able brother and a good leader. The church building is made of concrete blocks and is in the middle of a barren field with no shade. Thankfully the building is equipped with ceiling fans or the heat would be unbearable. In fact, the temperature reached 45 Celsius, which is 113 Fahrenheit. When we got ready to leave I reached for my sandals, which I had taken off when we went into the building. They had been left out in the sun. They were hot to the touch, so I decided to carry them as I walked barefoot to the car. As I walked in the hot sand, it was so hot I almost cried out. Thankfully some of the Indian brethren saw what was happening and quickly got me in some nearby shade. If they had not done this it is certain that the bottoms of my feet would have been badly burned.
For this seminar there were over 30 preachers present. I spoke to them on “The Practical Implications of the Doctrines of Grace” with Sake Prasad interpreting. Sake liked what I taught so much that he asked for a copy of my notes. When I got back to the hotel, I hand copied them for him.
When I had finished, Bro. Guna taught a lesson on “Eleven Marks of the New Testament Church.” He did an excellent job, with Sake Prasad interpreting. In Andra Pradesh the language is Telugu. The language in Tamil Nadu, Guna’s home state is Tamil. Since Guna does not speak Telugu, he has to preach in English when he is in Andra Pradesh. After he talked about this, he also gave a compendium of church history. Brother Guna is very knowledgeable in this subject, and covered a lot of territory in a short time.
He pointed out the good that was done in the Protestant Reformation, but also showed that the reformers made some major mistakes and did not get rid of all the baggage of Roman Catholicism. They retained infant baptism, sprinkling instead of immersion, the union of church and state, and unbiblical forms of church government. The reformers, themselves, engaged in persecuting the Anabaptists, who were the forerunners of the Baptists.
Guna stated that the Lord had preserved a remnant to this very day and that he believes the Primitive Baptists are part of that remnant. He stated that because of his education he had received many offers to go with larger denominations, but that he was very glad to be a Primitive Baptist.
After the seminar, we went back to our rooms at the hotel. The hotel rooms are fairly comfortable, but the electricity periodically goes off and then it becomes very hot, and we do a lot of sweating. It is also true that many times there is no hot water and we must take a cold “Indian shower,” which consists of pouring water over your body from a bucket. This is quite a challenge when the water is cold.
Wednesday, March 23
We were blessed with a good night’s sleep and drove back to the church building. I really enjoyed the drive through the Indian countryside, seeing all the mountainous topography, the rivers, the flocks of goats and sheep, the crops, etc.
I began the seminar with Brother Sam interpreting. I gleaned from 2 Timothy and the men paid rapt attention. Then Guna taught some more on church history and on Primitive Baptist distinctives. Guna asked me to take the final session and teach on Ezra 7: 10 as I had done in the Tamil Nadu seminar. The people were very appreciative as we prepared to leave. The language barrier is always frustrating.
After the seminar, we drove back to the hotel in Anantapur. We said our goodbyes to Sake Prasad and spent a few hours in our hotel room resting. About 5 P. M. we left for the drive to Bangalore, where I was to catch my flight home. It got dark as we drove, and Guna and I had good fellowship and profitable conversation. We got to Bangalore about 10 P. M. and went to McDonald’s to eat fish sandwiches. Then we got rooms in a hotel which was very close to the airport.
I got to rest all that night and much of the next day. As night drew on I began to pack. Guna took me to the airport at 11 P. M. giving me plenty of time to make my 3 A. M. flight. We said our farewells and I went into the airport. After I got my ticket, checked my bag, went through security, and got settled at the gate to wait to board, I called Bro. Guna and told him everything was fine and that he could begin his 4 or 5 hour drive to Chettipatty.
I got on the plane and made the approximately 9 hour flight to Frankfurt. At Frankfurt I had a 5 hour layover. I passed the time by reading the entire book of Numbers. Then boarded a United Airlines flight of about 12 hours to Houston. I was getting very tired, but finally got several hours of sleep.
We finally arrived at Houston. I had to hurry to pass immigration, get the bag from the carousel, pass customs, recheck the bag, and go to the proper gate for the flight to Memphis. The Lord blessed me to reach home and be met at the airport by my dear wife, Judy, and grandson, Kendall Guess.
Judy drove me home and I slept for 17 hours, got up and did a few things, got back in bed and slept another 8 hours. Then I felt refreshed and ready to get to work.
I thank God for His mercies, for the privilege of ministering in India, for safety in travel, and for so many other kindnesses. I thank our Lord for the many prayers the saints offered in my behalf.
I am pleased with the work among the Primitive Baptists of India. Brother Guna and many of the other brethren are faithful men of God. The Lord is constantly opening new doors for the gospel. It is true that the government is growing somewhat hostile to the gospel in India, so our brethren need our regular and fervent prayers.
In closing this brief report I would like to echo the words of a song written by Fanny Crosby: “To God be the glory-great things He hath done…”