The Minnesota Conference helped sponsor a trip to Andhra Pradesh, India, in February. The mission trip was organized by retired pastor Larry Milliken, who has dedicated his life to the mission field, especially India.
Through this mission trip, God used a group of 19 mission-minded believers from across the North American Division to bring the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ to Andhra Pradesh. The group worked with the Andra South Section leadership to conduct two weeks of revival meetings in 45 villages.
The Minnesota Conference sponsored four teams, headed by Barbara Christiansen, Robert Pickle, Mary Jones and myself, Brian Mungandi, each centered on five villages. Our teams worked with translators, along with the local pastors and Bible workers in the villages.
We traveled to remote villages, where we did home visitations and conducted meetings. The evening programs involved showing the Jesus Movie based on the gospel of Luke, telling a children’s story, conducting a health talk and preaching the Word.
A deep longing for Christ
Marususamalli village, the location where I conducted meetings, is about 55 kilometers from Vijayawada, the town where we stayed. In the afternoons, I went into the surrounding villages for home visitations. There I encountered men and women ruled by superstition, but I discovered a deep longing for a power above themselves.
I also recognized that in the West we have a hard time understanding Hinduism. I’m told that in India about 75 percent1 of the population practices Hinduism. It is hard for Hindus to acknowledge only one God. It is easy for Hindus to accept elements of other religions, though, because Hinduism recognizes the manifestation of a supreme being.
The first week, I did evangelistic presentations centered on the power of Jesus to save. I followed Paul’s model, and used his presentation on the “unknown God.” I pointed to Jesus as the supreme being. At the end of the first week, several people accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior, and we baptized 11 people. These men and women were each given a Bible and the book Steps to Christ in the Telugu language.
In the second week, I preached a series on “Pitfalls on the way to the Promised Land” using Psalm 78. I encouraged the church members to be faithful. The six-part sermon series challenged church members to focus their eyes on eternity, encouraging them to always take steps toward Christ. In our last count, we noted 77 souls baptized in all the preaching centers, with many more pledging to follow Jesus.
Christ’s method alone
After several home visitations, the team members reported a need in the villages for medical education and healthcare. Many of the people in the villages suffer from preventable medical issues. The Adventist Church is well placed to do missionary work in these areas thanks to our message of healthy living.
If the church is to do effective evangelistic work, it needs to follow the counsel given by Ellen G. White: “Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Savior mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, ‘Follow Me’” (Ministry of Healing, p. 143).
The Adventist Church has been given a unique message and opportunity to influence people for eternity. The everlasting gospel message, when preached to every nation, tribe, tongue and people within the three angels’ framework, motivates and challenges Adventist church members to live for the blessed hope of our Savior’s second coming.
The goal for the church’s evangelism is making disciples of all people, then encouraging those disciples to make more disciples. The church must, therefore, become proactive in its approach. We should make sure those who come into the faith find it easy to accept the Adventist lifestyle. Our evangelism must include practical approaches. Evangelistic programs must include practical ways for communities who become Adventist to participate in healthful living.
People must see the power of God saving and delivering people from darkness and bondage so they can “prosper in all things and be in health, just as [their] soul prospers” (3 John 1:2).
Our church’s outreach program must not only be intellectually appealing, it must also be practical.
The challenge to the church is to find more effective ways to preach the message. We have been preaching for more than a century, but we must now make it more relevant to a generation living before the close of probation.
1Not a scientific estimate