Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Visit to Gopalapuram

Several weeks ago, I received an email message from a Church member in the United States, stating that he had been in communication with a Christian pastor working with several small congregations located outside Rajahmundry, India. According to the Church member, Pastor Santhi Swaroop was interested in learning more about the Church.We had plans to be in Rajahmundry for several meetings, so I contacted the pastor and told him that I would come and visit.

On a recent Sunday afternoon Terry and I, accompanied by the District President, one of his counselors, and another Church member, made the one hour drive out to the village where the pastor and his family live. Being aware of Indian customs on greeting guests, I advised Pastor Santhi Swaroop that we desired a simple meeting with he and his family, and that a grand reception was not necessary.

When we arrived, we received a most warm and somewhat overwhelming reception. A large sign marked the driveway leading to the home where Pastor Santhi Swaroop lives.

Pastor Santhi Swaroop, District President Mummidivarapu, and me
We were welcomed by Pastor Santhi Swaroop and his family, receiving beautiful flower garlands often presented to show great honor to the guests. We learned that the pastor leads three small congregations of humble Christians. One of the congregations meets on the roof of the pastor's rented home. For their meetings, a blanket covering is erected for shade.

A potion of one of the congregations
We also learned that the congregation had remained assembled so that I could offer the benediction on their service. I was humbled at the kindness being shown. Following a closing song, I offered the prayer in English, which probably was not understood by most of those present, as they speak Telegu. 
Pastor Santhi Swaroop and his family join us in listening to the closing song.
We learned that most of the congregation are very humble people who have great faith in Jesus Christ. They face significant opposition from the other residents of their communities who are not Christian. The pastor and his family hope to be able to construct a combination meeting hall and living quarters. I subsequently learned that they have purchased the property and now are seeking funding for building construction.

Following conclusion of the service, we were invited downstairs to their home. "Breakfast" was served, even though it was about 2:00 pm. We had an opportunity to visit with Pastor Santhi Swarrop and his family. He works full time with his congregations, but because the people are so poor, he takes no collection or salary from them. His wife works, so they can rent a home, and pay other living expenses. In addition, they provide food, clothes and some other necessities to the members of their congregations.

During our visit, we introduced the family to The Book of Mormon and obtained a commitment from them to read it. We left a copy in English and one in Telegu. A few days after our visit, the Pastor and his wife visited our Chapel in Rajahmundry. They spoke for about an hour with President Mummidivarapu. They discussed more about our Church and how we function.

We have made wonderful new friends. We anticipate that we will continue from time to time to be in contact with them.

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