Chapel in the Forest

Kerala church

Southern India | January 22

The car turned onto a dusty road leading out of the city. The road curled into the hills where trees hid the simple mud-brick or tin-roofed homes from view. The driver stopped the car and opened his door. 

The passengers stepped out of the car and looked around. A narrow trail led to a simple mud-and-thatch building that stood near the top of a hill nearby. The little group walked toward the simple building. A row of decorative concrete blocks served as windows, and palm leaves lay on a blue tarp that helped protect the people inside from tropical storms. 

Two men appeared in the doorway and greeted the visitors. Inside the building light filtering through crisscrossed wooden slats that served as windows revealed several other people sitting inside. The little group began singing a familiar hymn in their mother tongue. They didn’t seem bothered that they had no musical instrument to accompany them.

Young children sat on their mothers’ or grandmothers’ laps and stared shyly at the visitors. Several had come from other villages some distance away while others live within earshot of the simple chapel. 

Faithful Believers

Sheeba first learned about Adventists just after she completed high school. She suffered when she took her stand for Christ and joined the church. Today she and her husband have two children. Her husband works as a tailor. It is honest work, but the couple struggles to provide for their children. Sheeba and her husband work hard to have a proper church where others can come to worship and learn about God’s wonderful truths.

As George read his Bible he discovered that the Ten Commandments forbid idol worship. George had been taught to pray to statues, and this commandment troubled him. His priest refused to answer his questions about praying to statues, so George stopped attending that church. 

George attended some evangelistic meetings and was baptized into the Adventist Church, along with several others. The new believers built a simple mud shed with a thatched roof in which to worship. The original building has been rebuilt several times, for members can’t afford a more permanent house of worship worthy of their great God. Every family in the church struggles for their daily needs, and there’s never any money for their prayed-for church. George, now the head elder, prays especially hard for a church. He knows that many in the neighborhood will come to worship if they have a better church in which to worship. 

Jacob is an old man who works as a rubber farmer. He taps rubber trees and sells the sap to earn a living. Several years ago he prayed that God would send someone to teach him. His prayer was answered, and a pastor came to study the Bible with Jacob and several other families. Following Bible studies, 45 of them were baptized. They have remained faithful, worshipping in the mud shed and repairing the thatched roof when it leaks. Jacob lives seven miles away and walks through the forest to worship in the little church. He doesn’t wish for a nicer home or more comfortable sleeping mat. He wants a church in his village where people will come to worship God.

Thirteenth Sabbath Hope

After a short worship together the visitors and church leaders walk to the top of the hill where the members have cleared away trees and marked out the foundation for their new church. They pray that God will help them build a simple temple to God that will honor His majesty and lift up His name among the people in the hill country of southern India. They thank God together when they learn that this quarter part of the Thirteenth Sabbath Offering will help provide the materials they need to build their church. They are eager to begin working, for they know many of their neighbors still haven’t heard the message of salvation in Jesus.

This quarter our Thirteenth Sabbath Offering will help several congregations scattered across India build simple churches in which to worship. Many who aren’t Christians feel that any god who doesn’t have a lovely temple isn’t important enough to worship. We can help provide simple churches that will attract others who can learn that our God is mighty and loves them. 

As the visitors prepare to leave the hillside, the church members ask them to relay a message to believers around the world. “Tell them thank you. Thank you. Thank you,” they say through smiles as the children cling to them and smile shyly.

K. J. Varghese is Sabbath School and personal ministries director in the Southwest India Union Section located in the state of Kerala. 

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