by K. Satyanarayana
K. serves as an evangelist to remote villages in the West and East Godavari districts.
My mother, a widow in the small village of Konala, was orthodox Hindu, worshiping idols and holding to many superstitions. She was in utter poverty. When I was a baby and she was unable to take care of me, she decided to take her own life. As she walked to a nearby well in the middle of the night, her relative, a secret believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, was praying for her. She heard my mother’s footsteps, and at once came out and embraced her. She asked my mother, ‘Why are you doing this?’ My mother replied, ‘Who is there for me?’ That sister said, ‘There is One. His name is Jesus, He gave His life for you on the Cross.’ At once my mother’s heart was opened and she invited the Lord into her heart.
Mr and Mrs Crawford Tilsley heard of my mother’s faith and visited the small village to strengthen her. My mother witnessed to the same village through baptism. Most of the villagers were our relatives who then excommunicated my mother and me. The Tilsleys kindly brought us into their compound in Settipeta.
I was in class at Beulah hostel, Narsapur, when a children’s missionary came to the hostel to conduct Bible classes. On the last day, he preached about Heaven and Hell, and that those who accept the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Saviour would be saved. At once I decided to trust in the Lord. After the meeting I went into the preacher’s room and expressed my desire to be saved. He asked me to kneel and uttered a prayer to the Heavenly Father, which I repeated in tears. The gracious Lord accepted me and that was the moment when I was brought from darkness into the light. My life changed! God gave me new birth and eternal life. All my sins were forgiven!
After my university studies, Dr Edward Short, then the medical superintendent of Bethesda Leprosy Hospital, asked me to join the hospital as the business manager. Later I was asked to be the general superintendent of the hospital, where I was privileged to work for 34 years. When I retired in 2005, the Lord gave me a threefold ministry of writing, visiting village assemblies with God’s Word and sharing the gospel with my Hindu relatives.
Anthony Norris Groves, Sir Arthur Cotton, Thomas Heelis and others comprehended the need to reach people in the villages with the gospel. Pioneer missionaries included Bowden, Beer, Naismith, Tilsley and many other men sent from God, who gave much attention to the villages of India. They travelled in houseboats along the canals and the rivers, staying in each place for some days, giving their attention first to the children’s work. The gospel spread and churches were planted.
Sir Arthur Cotton is revered in India for his construction of irrigation and navigation canals, including the Dowleswaram Barrage, built in 1847-1852. Before this project, thousands were dying of hunger – now, the West and East Godavari districts are called the ‘rice bowls of India’. At that time, Cotton invited missionaries, Bowden and Beer, to work on the anicut dam construction and proclaim the good news. They faithfully preached the gospel and seeds were planted.
The village work is growing and many are coming to the saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Our missionaries made efforts to reach remote places such as Tekuru and Chiduru in the Papi hills, and the Koyas and Lambadis aboriginal people. In these beautiful villages with temples and thatched houses close to one another, among the green paddy fields with small canals, the communities mostly lived in harmony. But they were also dominated by superstition and casteism. The missionaries started schools, clinics and hospitals to meet their needs. Their mission work helped to break the hold of the caste system, untouchability and illiteracy.
Through the witness of a missionary, Miss Hampton, John Paul and his wife were born again, and were shining witnesses for Christ in their village in Godavari. Miss Hampton challenged the couple to pray for a remote area 150km away, where people were very poor. The Lord called this young and illiterate couple to serve. They went, sharing the gospel and the love of Christ in Sattupalli, and other remote places.
Our missionaries started Sunday schools and preached the gospel. Influenced by Crawford Tilsley, I too caught this vision and the Lord called me to visit village assemblies to share fellowship and God’s Word.
Vemchuru is a beautiful village with a sizeable Muslim population. A poor woman lived in a thatched hut and earned a living by selling rags and old cloth. As her husband had left home years before and never returned, she considered herself a widow. One day an evangelist visited and told her the gospel. She was interested and asked the Lord Jesus to help her see her husband again. One night she lit a tiny kerosene lamp, longing to see her husband. A few minutes later there was a knock at her door – it was her husband. He told her how he had gone far away and wanted to come home but did not know how to. He came to the railway station and a train was on the platform. He boarded and, being crowded, he sat near the toilets. He slept and when day broke and the train stopped, he got down. To his amazement, it was near his home. After hearing the story, the woman said that the Lord Jesus Christ Himself had brought him home. At once they both trusted the Lord as their personal Saviour.
Later the husband died, but the woman has continued in her faith in the Lord. Her beautiful daughter got married and, through the mother’s faith, she and her husband trusted the Lord. Her son-in-law and their two daughters sing in the assembly. The family moved to Sattupalli. I was delighted to find this entire, previously Muslim, family are now all believers, taking part in the Lord’s Table.
Tekuru and Chuduru are tribal villages in the Papi hills and valleys. It is a beautiful area with large trees and forests along the River Godavari. To get there, we used to travel by boat up this deep river. Today, we pass through the high hills on a narrow, rugged road with hairpin bends.
A young believer, Devadanam, and his wife, received God’s call to go and witness there in 1973. It involved great dangers, from the river and venomous snakes to tribal jealousies and poverty, but this couple stood boldly. After a year, Devadanam’s wife and child died because nobody was there to deliver her baby, but Devadanam stood firm and continued the ministry. He later married another, Salome. They both continue in the ministry today.
The Call Continues
With joy, I present my testimony for the glory of God. I enjoy travelling to these villages. Bethesda and I visit these places twice a year. Until recently, I walked 4-5km to reach some secluded places; now I take rickshaws or public transport. The village work is growing and many are coming to the saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, even from among Hindu people. We are seeing the results of the Lord’s work. My mother was a great believer until she went Home at the age of 86. John Paul recently went to be with the Lord; his wife and two boys, the formerly Muslim young man and his family, Devadanam and Salome, and others are faithfully serving the Lord. There are now around 400 assemblies in the West and East Godavari districts. Pray for the Lord’s work and for His servants as they share the gospel – indeed the harvest is plentiful!