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Vara Prasad Jacob, president of the South Andhra Section, showing the field where the Pioneer Memorial Discipleship Training Center will be built. The rest of the church compound is visible in the background. (Photos: Andrew McChesney / Adventist Mission)

Adventist Church Plans First Major Training Center in India

The three-story facility will cater to church leaders, lay members, and schoolchildren.

By Andrew McChesney, Adventist Mission

Construction work is to kick off shortly on the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s first multipurpose conference center in India — a three-floor facility that church leaders say will simplify the process of organizing major gatherings and excited local schoolchildren say will allow them to invite non-Adventist friends to church.

The Pioneer Memorial Discipleship Training Center will house a meeting hall, smaller seminar rooms, a cafeteria, and guestrooms on the sprawling compound of the church’s South Andhra Section in Ibrahimpatnam, a town located just outside Vijayawada, the capital of India’s central Andhra Pradesh state.

It will be available to people throughout the Southern Asia Division, whose territory includes India, said Vara Prasad Jacob, president of the South Andhra Section.

“We do not have a training facility in the entire division,” Jacob, a soft-spoken man with an easy smile, said in an interview in his office. “We do have colleges and schools. But a training center, we do not have.”

He emphasized that the facility would provide three amenities under one roof: a meeting hall with 1,000 seats, guestrooms, and a dining area. Currently, church leaders and lay members typically have to travel between hotels, conference halls, and restaurants when they meet for training sessions and other events.

Construction costs for the first two floors of the 50 million-rupee ($730,000) building are being covered by Manzoor Massey, an Indian immigrant and Adventist lay member in Loma Linda, California, Jacob said. Those two floors are to be completed by late October 2017, when the Southern Asia Division intends to direct a portion of the 13th Sabbath Offering collected that month toward the construction of the third floor with guestrooms. The 6,000-square-foot (557-square-meter) Pioneer Memorial Discipleship Training Center is among five projects in India that will be recipients of the 13th Sabbath Offering in third quarter 2017.

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  • Vara Prasad Jacob working in his office on the compound of the South Andhra Section.

  • The Ibrahimpatnam Adventist School, whose 700 mostly Adventist students include 450 living in dormitories.

The name of the training center commemorates the first missionaries — the first generation of Indian Adventists — who entered the region about a century ago.

“They laid the foundation for the work in this Union and this Section,” Jacob said. “So it is named after them.”

He said the location was ideal for the training center. The South Andhra Section’s compound covers 60 acres (24 hectares) in a part of India that is relatively open to Christianity.

“A lot of evangelism takes place in this part of the country,” Jacob said. “It is easy to preach over here compared to other parts of India.”

In addition, he said, the compound is easily accessible by bus, train, and airplane. It is located about an hour’s drive from the fast-growing airport in Vijayawada, a city of about 1 million people that was named as capital when India formed Andhra Pradesh as a new state in 2015.

The church’s plan is to offer a training center open year-round to everyone.

“We want to cater to all walks of life, be it a doctor, an engineer, a farmer or a laborer,” Jacob said. “They can come here and use this facility.”

But perhaps children at the K-12 school situated on the compound are among those most eager welcome the training center. The Ibrahimpatnam Seventh-day Adventist School — whose 700 mostly Adventist students include 450 living in dormitories — lacks a church building large enough to contain all the children. The compound’s church building seats only 250 people, and a similar number can squeeze into the school’s cafeteria on Sabbaths and for weekday worship meetings. The training center would have room for all the children to worship together.

“I want to worship together,” said John Marapaka, 16, who has lived and studied at the school since first grade.

Marapaka, now in the 10th grade, credits the school for the baptism of his father in 2013 and his own baptism in 2015. He said he shared what he learned at school during his visits home.

He was echoed by Vinutna Methri, 17, who said the size of the small church prevents students from joining the school choir. Methri, a 12th grader who sings in the choir, said only 35 students participate, but the choir director had been forced to turn away about 25 others.

“We are very happy to know that a community hall is going to be built,” she said. “We will be able to have a bigger choir, singing and praising God on Sabbath.”