Monday, October 29, 2012, Bonnie, Therman Hodge and I traveled by car about three hours from Skinner’s Garden to Visakhapatnam. Our destination was Visakhapatnam. Along the route of travel, we snapped pictures of both the Monkey God and Cobra God idols.
After checking into the Best Western Hotel, we three made the 10-minute journey by car to the Visakha Valley Bible College. Bonnie taught ladies’ classes throughout the day while Therman and I alternated teaching students, alumni and other interested brethren. About 40 ladies attended classes, and men present overflowed the classroom on to the second story balcony.
Over two days, Bonnie taught lessons from her book Living Principles. For three days, I taught Bible Archaeology and Bible Geography. I was even able to show a PowerPoint presentation about Bible Archaeology, though initially thwarted by unreliable electric power. These were lessons from three of my books on the subjects. Therman taught a variety of inspiring lessons from the Bible. I brought a map of Palestine from the USA, and we used a broken piece of plastic conduit for a pointer the first day; subsequent days, we used a broken radio antenna. We have never enjoyed any better attention from our auditors than we had Monday through Wednesday.
Tuesday, October 30, 2012, classes resumed at 10:00 a.m. for we three at the Visakha Valley Bible College. Tuesday evening, we had a meeting at Sawocram with a congregation newly started about a year and a half ago by a recent graduate of the college. The building in which we assembled was a first for any of us. The meetinghouse was comprised of brick and plaster walls maybe three feet high, on top of which was a thatched roof. Therefore, we had to squat or bow low and waddle through the doorway to enter. Therman preached and I exhorted afterward. One man sat outside and could be seen leaning over to peer at Therman as he presented the Gospel. Mostly denominational people made up the 38 persons present in the small interior of the hut.
Wednesday, October 31, 2012, Therman and I taught once more morning and afternoon at the college; Bonnie had no classes that day. We concluded the day at the school with what seemed like endless pictures. The faculty and students also honored us with shawls and garlands. (Each of the congregational settings to which we had gone so far in India likewise honored us with garland wreathes around our necks.)
Shortly after 7 p.m., we left for an evening meeting at Janata Colony in Visakhapatnam. The rain, wind, thunder and lightning from a cyclone hitting India from the Bay of Bengal finally reached where we were. In the wet, coal black night, we climbed our way for a hundred or so cement steps up a narrow walkway between dwellings to an “upper room” where 60 or more saints had gathered. Two women responded to my preaching and requested baptism; they were baptized at 10 a.m. the following morning owing to the severely inclement weather and lack of opportunity that night to be immersed into Christ.
On the way back down the steep steps, which were dissected by a narrow ramp to accommodate cycles pushed up or carefully eased down it, a sister held an umbrella for me. She was shorter than me and one step down ahead of me – consequently, snagging my head and shoulders with the umbrella and pulling me down the steps faster than I could confidently move my feet behind her without stepping on her. I could just see myself falling headfirst forward and sliding face first down the cycle ramp and until I just crashed and rolled all the way to the bottom. When I suggested that I should hold the umbrella, the sister immediately replied, “No problem” and continued to drag me along by my head. “No problem!” That was easy for her to say!
Brother Samuel Raja Muppidi was so excited about my book Bible Geography that he insisted that he would translate it. Brother Therman Hodge immediately volunteered to fund it through money available to his discretion. Samuel’s son Vijaya Kumar accepted the responsibility of translating, typesetting, layout and seeing it to publication. He is talented in English, Hindi and Telegu languages, as well as in layout and publishing.
Bonnie and I look forward to a long and useful relationship for the Lord between ourselves and Skinner’s Garden and Visakha Valley Bible College – namely through our association with Samuel, his two sons Vijaya Kumar and John Dean as well as their wives and children. The wives are no less talented, and their children are precious jewels that we have come to love dearly.