While staying in Chennai my kind hosts are Jabez and Grace (Sharmilla’s sister). Today I flew with Jabez to Coimbatore where he grew up and where his father started IBT (Indian Bible Translators). From there we drove up into the hill country to Ooty where he showed me several IBT ministries. One highlight was a visit to the Toda village where a Christian couple have been faithfully translating the Bible into Toda for many years – the NT is being printed and now they are working on the OT. Up the hills it was cold and so it was a rather strange experience to have to take my shoes off to walk in my socks across a field to look at a Toda temple. The Toda people are classified by the government as Hindu but their worship is very different to the rest of India – there are no idols and the architecture is very plain. In the cold, biting wind that greeted us as it turned dusk I had to walk across the field without shoes to view the Toda temple. Below you see me (John) wearing tradition Toda dress. (More of the people of the Nilgiri Hills later.)
While in the village I got to drink a lot of tea and meet many women who have become Christians through the faithful ministry of IBT. As we left I prayed that their husbands will turn to Christ through the example of their loving wives.
One issue kept coming up at all the IBT ministries. For example, in an education centre where local women are taught how to knit, sew or use accountancy software packages so that they can find employment it was repeatedly stressed that the services is for all religions and, indeed, some women were Hindus and Muslims. There is no direct evangelism and no pressure to convert. And yet, when they wanted to ask me questions I was struck by how many wanted to tell me their testimony of how they had turned to Christ. Just like in Colombo there was respect for other religions and no pressure at all and yet (unlike most of the time in the UK) opportunities to share the gospel arise all the time. Yet again this makes me think about the interaction between social action and evangelism. IBT is seen as culture affirming – they do so much to help the physical conditions of the people they work with, and yet their personal faith in Jesus is so strong that they almost can’t help sharing the good news with all they meet. In the midst of great opposition they are so keen to witness for Christ.