In the early 1900’s Canadian Baptists brought the gospel to Gajapa, Odisha State in the beautiful tropical mountains of this region of India. There were challenges in bringing the gospel to the jungles. Sadly, a missionary was killed by a cheetah and the decision was made to move the mission to the village of Serango. The first church was established in 1917, and a bit later in 1928 an Eye Hospital was built and opened. The village of Serango was the setting of the 3rd Odisha Youth Advance Conference from May 16-19, 2023. As we journeyed from Bhubaneshwar out into the country and on into the beautiful mountain region, we were secretly hoping to see a bit of jungle wildlife like an elephant, cheetah or monkey. However, later we learned, that although at one time they were there, there are no longer any left. But there were beautiful rice paddies and water buffalo and misty mountains. As we arrived at the guest house at the New Hope Hospital compound, it felt as though we stepped back in time to the early 1900’s with peaceful echoes from the past welcoming us to continue the Lord’s work in this region of India.
For the work is continuing! There are now 50-60 villages of Christians in this region and most of them have a church. There are 960 Baptist churches in the state of Odisha. We quickly sensed the grace of God restng here on the Christians continuing the Lord’s work. Doctor Apollos is an insightful young Indian missionary doctor living on the hospital compound. He and his staff run the hospital, now just for general care. He graciously took time out of his busy schedule to visit with us and answer all our questions about the region. His mastery of English enabled us to have very satisfying fellowship. In the first century, the Apostle Thomas brought the gospel to India. Then also missionary William Carey sacrificed much in service unto the Lord to serve the Lord to translated the Bible into Oriya which is being used in this region unto this day. His legacy lives on and enables dedicated young people like Dr. Apollos to gain a good education and answer the call to serve their people. We were taken to the Centenary Baptist Church where the conference was held.
Long before the service started, music was broadcasted through the village on loud speakers. 225 youth registered, with more coming that didn’t normally attend church. It was a joy to observe their energy and enthusiasm. They did an outstanding job in instantly jumping to their feet to read Scripture verses whenever a reference was given. What a blessing! The pastors on the MTM Odisha commitee (Pastors Binay, Prabas, Suresh, and Pranab) who planned and organized the conference are trusted partners with MTM and are good friends of Raymond. They were a joy to serve with, were well organized, and treated us so well. Their commitment to the Lord and the ministry is exemplary and we were inspired by the work happening in India. The sessions would start with a time of worship.
The Serango Village Christians Youth & Families Came out to Hear the gospel Preached in very Large Numbers
Youth leader, Malaya (IGo Asian Bible School alumni) is a talented young man, whose musical and translating abilities played a big part in the conference. The youth could sense his heart for them and responded enthusiastically in learning the new songs and motions ones that were a big part of the ministry week.
The theme of the conference was Pursuing God with a Pure Heart for God. Pastor Jay Hoover and interpreter Malaya opened with sessions encouraging the youth to know God, seek wisdom, and not letting doubt or discouragement keep them from pursuing the will of God. Pastor Raymond Burkholder and interpreter Prabas shared six sessions on the life of Joseph with themes of Dreams & Visons, Purity, God’s Sovereignty, Forgiveness, and Ministry Fruitfulness. When an altar call was given, many responded. The altar was full all for glory to God. Pastor Binay beautifully led the prayer tme during the altar calls. This was especially significant as his father found the Lord at this church and he brought this MTM ministry conference back to his hometown.
His exhortation’s while opening or closing the programs were well received. The second opportunity in traveling the 8-9 hours out into the country, was evening revival meetings. The first evening we stopped at Pastor Prabas’ hometown Cheligath and ministered in the church there with Pastor Raymond preaching and Pastor Prabas interpreting. The next three nights there were revival meetngs in Serango open for the people in the village. Many came out and were deeply touched by the Gospel messages. And on the last evening’s altar call there were also many who responded to the call to allow Jesus to fill them with His living water. Afterwards all were invited to enjoy the tasty food the conference provided. Many plates were filled over the course of several days.
A highlight for us was the privilege to enter into the remote village life in India and enjoy a taste of their culture and hospitality. Shushand Pani and his family opened up their home and treated the whole commitee (including of all the assisting pastors and wives) a delicious meal one day. Shusand is alumni of the 2022 Odisha Bible School, the eldest brother to attend at the age of 65 years. Some of our breakfasts also came from their kitchen. Overall, smiles and greetings were liberally given as we interacted with the locals. Even some who were not Christians wished to have their photo taken with the Americans in town, such as the police department who served us coffee one evening. It was also heartwarming to learn that through the terrible 2020 lockdowns, Pastor Binay was a contact person for MTM partnering with CAM and was able to bring food packages to this very village in their great time of need. We left with our hearts so full and many new friends. We also left with Hope! The work that we do for the Lord is not in vain! It wasn’t in vain for the early missionaries who suffered loss and hardships to bring the gospel to Serango. Hope continues to sustain the Christians and Indian brothers and sisters through current hardships, and Hope will sustain us as well in each of our daily ministry labors.
EDITOR’s Note; The above article was written by Jay & Sylvia Hoover. Jay & Sylvia reside at Elliotsburg, PA. Jay serves as Pastor at Crossroads Mennonite Church. THANK YOU JAY & SYLVIA for your faithful witness for Jesus Christ in faithfully serving thae Lord with MTM!
MTM Founder & Elder Teacher / Team Leader,
Raymond & Naomi Burkholder
A VERY SPECIAL THANK YOU TO EACH OF YOU WHO PRAYERFULLY SUPPORT MTM