A fter years in disrepair and closure, 53 churches in east-central India have reopened with the help of It Is Written. Spiritual, health, and social services have been initiated to keep them active.
Earlier this year, the It Is Written Eyes for India program conducted a medical camp for 100 villages including the 53 villages with newly-reopened churches. Medical physicians from the U.S. provided free medical expertise and partnered with local nursing students. More than 2,300 patients were treated, over 4,500 people were screened for cataracts, and 927 were selected for cataract surgery, which began on February 24.
During February 2020, two It Is Written mission teams traveled to India to hold revival meetings at 20 locations covering the 100 villages that also received medical care. Over the course of the month, approximately 4,500 people attended these meetings throughout the sites. God poured out His blessings, and 1,197 people accepted Jesus into their hearts. Dedicated local church leaders, Bible workers, and volunteers were vital to making these events successful, and drawing people closer to Jesus.
Coming Together to Help
In November 2018, It Is Written began an initiative with local church leaders to reopen 50 churches that had been closed due to lack of funding. The initial assessment was not encouraging. In addition to being without a pastor, the churchyards were covered in garbage, windows were broken, and doors had rusted shut. Some churches were used to store tobacco or cotton while others were serving as shelters for beggars, sheep, and buffalo.
To ensure the 53 churches stayed open, new church leaders had to be trained and paid.
Twenty-five Bible workers were selected and began training. They studied the life and teachings of Jesus; Bible doctrines; Daniel and Revelation; the history of the church; world religions; health principle; the gift of prophecy; major and minor prophets; and the writings of Paul. Jack Phillips, It Is Written Bible work coordinator, traveled to India and conducted a special course on practical methods for giving Bible studies and reaching the local communities.
After thorough training, each of these Bible workers were placed in the villages to care for their two assigned churches. They cleaned each church, and professionals made repairs and painted walls. Each church was given a new PA system, a culturally-essential component to corporate worship. The Bible workers faced prejudice from community members because community members’ trust was damaged or broken when the church closed.
Community health workers were hired to help the Bible workers overcome this prejudice. These women created a way for the Bible worker to enter the community with the gospel. Each health worker was given training, a scale, stethoscope, blood pressure machine, and the book Where There is No Doctor in Telugu, the local language.
The health workers checked glucose and blood pressure levels, cared for fevers, and bandaged wounds. They taught about cleanliness and educated the villagers about the harmfulness of tobacco and alcohol. These women visited every home — Hindu, Muslims, and any other religion — praying for the people’s suffering at the end of the visit. Some of the villagers accepted Christ because of the health workers’ invitations.
Newly opened churches began conducting night literacy classes in 26 of the churches. Eight adult literacy volunteers taught basic reading and writing along with Christian songs. They also prayed with the students and encouraged each to come back to the church on Sabbath. Through their efforts, people accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior through baptism.
A United States sewing ministry partnered with the churches to offer sewing classes for local women. The women learned how to make garments, were given a brand-new sewing machine, and were invited to accept Christ as Savior. They left the class spiritually fed and with training to become financially independent.
The health and social services were augmented with spiritual resources. Theology students conducted a three-day evangelism program in each of the 53 churches. Their program helped support the Bible workers in reaching the unreached and gathering the scattered members. These students visited the entire village, prayed with everyone they could, and invited the community to the meetings at the church.
Later, another seven-day revival meeting occurred in 10 of the newly-opened churches. These meetings were targeted to the local youth, who learned songs, Bible stories, and skits. The youth left encouraged to be the strength of the new churches. Many young people gave their lives to Jesus Christ through these meetings.
And the younger children were not left out. Last summer, over 60 days, two college students conducted Vacation Bible School in 20 of the reopened churches. They worked with the village children, taught them new songs and Bible stories, and made crafts. Nearly 800 children participated.
The Work Continues
And the work hasn’t stopped. Ongoing plans include quarterly meetings conducted by a local Indian evangelist to cover spiritual growth topics such as the Sabbath, stewardship, continuous soul winning, children’s Sabbath school, and health. The churches continue to hold youth ministry events and widow prayer ministry activities.
Every quarter, the church will also conduct an eight-day training for elders to equip them to serve the church and community. And 48 more churches have been selected for reopening and have already been cleaned.
In May, the It Is Written Hope Awakens sermons were translated into seven Indian languages and live-streamed in Facebook to the entire local area. Thousands have seen the broadcasts.
The infrastructure is established to help ensure these churches stay open for many years to come and continue growing and serving their communities with the love of Jesus.
This project was made possible through the support of It Is Written donors. To learn more and donate to future It Is Written mission and humanitarian projects, click here and select “It Is Written Missions.”
— Josephine Biegler is the It Is Written India Mission coordinator.