An India Report
I returned from an extended preaching trip on November 6th. I would like to inform the readers of 'e Guardian of Truth about three areas of interest.
1. I arrived in Hyderabad, India on September 30th, the day the killer earthquake struck. There was no noticeable damage in Hyderabad and the state of Andhra Pradesh, but to the north and west, in the states of Maharashtra and Karnataka, damage was severe. Before I arrived in India, plans had already been made to go into the state of Maharashtra. On October 3rd, T. Wilfred and I took an overnight train into that state and attempted to visit Killari village, where we knew there were some Christians. After driving five hours, we got to within 12 kilometers of the village, only to be stopped by army personnel. We could go no further, since the village had been completely destroyed. We had no alternative but to turn around and return to Prabhani, five hours away by jeep.
The next day we searched in three near-by villages, where some refugees from Killari had gone. We were able to locate about 280 brethren. This figure is only an estimate, since some had lost their lives in the earthquake. Those who survived lost everything: food, clothing, cooking utensils, housing, and livestock. Most of these brethren were living in livestock shelters. Some were being housed in a school building.
David Watts, John S. Tyler, and T. George Fred (Wilfred's brother) went west into Karnataka. They were able to briefly visit a destroyed village, but were unable to locate many brethren. According to their estimates, about the same number of brethren are in this state as are in Maharashtra. Their needs are the same: food, clothing, utensils, housing, and livestock.
When I called John Humphries in Louisville, he and my wife Pat, immediately got the word out about this great catastrophe and the need our brethren faced. The response was immediate and gratifying. Within a week, $40,000+ had been sent to Wilfred's account to be distributed among our needy brethren. Little did we know that forces were at work which would prevent us from receiving any of these funds. The Foreign Exchange manager at the Central Bank of India called Wilfred to appear at his office as soon as possible. I accompanied Wilfred to the bank the next day. The manager was rude, loud, and abusive. He told Wilfred that it was against the law for an Indian National to receive this amount of foreign currency. "For what is this money to be used?" he asked. We replied it is to be used to help our brethren who are suffering from the earthquake. Our response was useless, he would not allow any money to be withdrawn. We were shocked and angry, but helpless. The only way left open to receive any funds was for Wilfred to be registered with the central government. Such a process would take about a month, if everything ran smoothly. Of course in India, hardly anything runs smoothly.
After consulting with Ed Harrell, who is the Director of the American Studies and Research Center in Hyderabad, we decided that Wilfred does not need to register with the government. There is too much red tape, and someone would be continually looking over his shoulder. His ad-vice, and also that of his financial advisors, was to tell the Central Bank of India to return the money to the donors and we would devise another way to get the money into the country. We immediately notified the Bank to return the funds.
As of today (11-16), the money is still in India. The CBI has moved at a snail-like pace to get the money returned to Citibank of New York, so the donors can get their money refunded. If you sent funds by telegraphic transfer, you should immediately contact your bank and ask for a refund. After you receive the refund, you may send a check to:
Dr. David E. Harrell
Department of History
2227 Haley Center
Auburn University, AL 36849
Ed's secretary will be able to deposit this money into his account and he can draw against it. I believe his services will be invaluable in this regard.
The last reports I have received indicate that about 70 people were converted during the time the three American brethren were there.
Belfast, Northern Ireland
2. After corresponding with John McCourt in Belfast, Northern Ireland, I made arrangements to return to the U.S. through Belfast. John invited me to come and work with a small, new group meeting in that city. I am sorry to report the following about my stay there:
The group is called the "Arches Christian Centre." It is composed mainly of two men and three women (who are sisters in the flesh). The two men are "married" to two of the sisters. John and Tony have been withdrawn from by churches (which have since disbanded) for the sin of adultery. They were previously married, separated from their partners, but they did not obtain a legal divorce. They then married as "common law" their present partners. Most of this was unknown to me when I arranged to go to Belfast.
John has written numerous brethren in the U.S. He usually asks for teaching materials, sometimes re-questing that someone "come over to help us." You need to be aware of these circumstances about John McCourt and the Arches Christian Centre. I will not return to work with them again, and I want our Irish brethren to know that I do not endorse or condone the existence of this group. They have some other doctrinal "peculiarities."
3. Before returning home, I went to Bratislava, Slovakia. I spent a week with the David Diestelkamp and Rick Liggin families. I delivered three "lectures" (otherwise known as "sermons") about the nature of the Bible, its authority, and how to understand it. We had visitors from the community each evening for the lectures. There were other studies conducted by David and Rick in Brno, Czech Republic, on Sunday evening and Monday, which I attended.
It was a joy for me and my wife (who met me in Bratislava) and several ladies (including Fran Liggin, Rick's Mother) to be included in their household. Rick, David, and their families are committed to bringing the gospel to the people of this region of eastern Europe. Remember them.
My sincere thanks to those congregations and friends who provided the funds for this trip. Special thanks to the West Side church and her elders for their "leave" for me to go and do my small part in this great work.
Guardian of Truth XXXVIII: 1, p. 12-13