9 With Bakht Singh

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The next year, 1939, I had jaundice, rather severely. I was in the Nilgiri Hills and Lady Ogle at that time was in charge of the Missionary Guest House. I was staying there and while being looked after and recovering, Bakht Singh came to Coonoor for a gospel campaign at the YMCA. I was well enough to go to the meetings. I thought, “This is it. This man has an astonishing knowledge of the Bible and a true basic ministry—this is the man that God is going to join us to.” Raymond and I met with him and had a chat. We told him what we believed. He said, “Yes, I believe God has sent you; we shall work together.” We did not have a big discussion; in fact, we did not discuss anything really except that. From that time, we started to move with him. There was no local church or assembly at that time. We started to move with him to different places all over India. He would take us along during his gospel campaigns and, after these, leave us to follow up his ministry with Bible teaching for the new converts. We didn’t have a team to follow up with. And it was somewhat individual.

Sometimes there had been an evangelistic campaign conducted by Bakht Singh and then after a year or so he would come back and find many people had back slidden. That was what really provoked us to start something local. People had fallen away who seemed to be very promising, and so we did feel responsible to do something, provide something more permanent for them. That is how the church in Madras began. The other assemblies all over India came up more spontaneously, because they already had the idea that evangelism was not enough in itself; there needed to be a follow up.

Sometimes Bakht Singh went ahead and we followed. And as it were, we followed up a bit what had gone on through this servant of God in that place. But now we knew that we were in the yoke together with this dear man of God and we were so thankful the Lord had answered our prayer. We had waited and I was sure we were never meant to be what we call ‘free-lancers’, just making our own program or getting our own ideas and asking people to pray and then going forth. Free-lance ministry in my idea was not right. We do have to wait and be patiently waiting for the Lord to really make things plain. We did not step out on our own. I thought we were members of the body and we must function as members of the body. The church is the body of Christ with many members and a great variety in that membership as we have to learn together, be disciplined  to learn together, receive from one another  and not to be the boss in any sense. I knew that I was never meant to be a missionary with a bungalow, in charge of the work. I was to be a servant and so in that capacity I was related to these dear brothers in Madras where the work began. The Lord gave us many blessings.

I remember there was a young man who couldn’t read but he wanted to have a Bible. He went to Bakht Sing, “I want a Bible.” “But you cannot read, what’s the use of giving you a Bible?” was the response, but he persisted; he must have a Bible. Eventually, Bakht Sing gave him a Bible. And what did he do? He used to take it out into the street, sit on the pavement and opened the Bible. He learned to find a few portions that would be suitable and next he would turn up the portion though he couldn’t read. He would then beckon some boy to come and sit with him or stand with him and this boy would read the passage, and he himself instructed. He evangelized in that way–very precious. This folk who had now an appreciation of the Bible and the love to the Lord were only beginning, but it was a real beginning. And they were witnessing. If they could they would witness directly, but in this way, this young man who couldn’t read, he witnessed through a partner and of course the boy was always pleased if he could read. He would read out loudly and the people would gather. People gather in India very nicely, very easily. It is wonderful to see the influence of the word and the Spirit upon the youngest who believe in the Lord. The Lord makes use of the most unlikely and uses it in unlikely ways. His wisdom is beyond our understanding.

After some time, the pastors of several denominations in Madras, whose buildings Bakht Singh had been using for his big meetings, became jealous. They felt something was happening that was not quite under their control. There were by now several groups of keen believers within the various denominational churches, who wanted to pray, even pray all night, and evangelise. All this was a direct result of the ministry of Bakht Singh. So, a crisis had now arisen. Since they could not use their buildings, the local people decided they had to find a building of their own.

Bakht Singh came up to Coonoor, the hill station where Raymond Golsworthy and I were at that time. We had opportunity to pray together.

The people from Madras said, “We will get a building, but you must fulfil the ministry until we are able to stand on our own feet.” We had to face up to that, because it meant that all other doors would be shut if we appeared to be starting a new work. We thought, nevertheless, that we had an obligation to those who had responded to the Word. That was not just our feeling; it was Bakht Singh’s feeling too. So in 1941, Bakht Singh and Raymond went back to Madras. There was a building the local believers had found; a big bungalow with a large central room and several other rooms in it. However, it was declared unsuitable for human habitation, and the tenant was moving out. So these believers asked the Muslim owner if they could rent it. I am not sure if they introduced Bakht Singh to the owner at that time, but he agreed. Whenever he met Bakht Singh later he had to pray with him on his knees. He realised there was something special about him and he was very respectful toward him. One day he said, “I will build you a baptistery if you like and you can put the place in repair and deduct the cost from the rent.” We agreed on that and now there was a local church in that building. The local believers called the place ‘Jehovah Shammah’.

The place was packed night after night. We had an intense program—everybody was keen to hear from the Bible—from five o’clock in the morning until eleven o’clock in the evening. We had private prayers for ourselves, and next we would have what we called ‘family prayer’. After that we had ‘tiffany’ (breakfast), as we called it. After breakfast we had Bible study from eight to nine o’clock, followed by one hour of street preaching and one hour of prayer. After lunch, during the hottest part of the day, we rested, and met again for Bible study from five to six o’clock. Evening worship was from 6.30 to 8.30 p.m. Our evening meal would follow after this meeting.

I said to the Lord, “Lord, I don’t think I can stick it”; because we were not used to having long gaps between meals, such late nights and early mornings. I was used to early mornings, but not to that extent. That is why I said to the Lord, “I don’t think I can stick it.” But the Lord said to me distinctly, “If you’re in my will it will be alright.” Well, I did believe I was in the will of God so I accepted what He said; that He would look after it, He would enablee will look after it me to adjust or He would give me the strength necessary to fulfil the program. I had quite a long time in Madras with the believers who were so hungry for the word and so ready to gather.

When Billy Graham came to Madras, it was Brother Dorairaj of Jehovah Shammah who was the contact person, because he was in the local administration office. He had an access to the mayor. He was the one who really organized the preparations for Billy Graham’s campaign. That is the seating accommodation and so on. The meetings went on and there were the after-meeting’s inquiries. The new converts were instructed to join a believing body, a Christian church. And suggestions were given to them. But the fabric of the booths in which these meetings were conducted was thin and one could hear the other. When some people heard, “Join the church meeting at Jehovah Shammah”, some said, “Oh no, you cannot join them, they are not a proper church.” So, while the counsellors directed these believers to the churches, after some movement of the Holy Spirit, we didn’t have any ‘advantage’ of that, because we were not a proper church, according to their definition. But the elders of Jehovah Shammah said, “We’ll go house to house to find out who has gone to Billy Graham and if they made any decision, we will see what happened to them.” So they did. They went house to house and asked, “Did you go to the meeting?”
“Did you sign a card?”

That is how they inquired and they found about 40 people. They were just evangelising. They didn’t say, “Come to Jehovah Shammah.” They just introduced them to what they themselves thought was right.

When the Lord joined us to Bakht Singh and company in India, I didn’t expect what followed almost immediately. Bakht Singh and I shared the bedroom, the upper room, in Madras. There were three beds, so that there was room for somebody extra. Bakht Singh had his corner and I had mine. Sometimes when other people came they suffered from the mosquitoes and other bugs; I didn’t. I suppose they didn’t like me. I even never noticed they were there. The upper room in Madras was a very nice room. It was a place where we met regularly with leaders for prayer. Sometimes it was just Bakht Singh and I. At times he was so tired that when I was praying he had a little nap. But that was understood. I don’t remember I ever had a whole night of prayer alone with him. He did pray frequently, but I don’t remember he had a whole night of prayer himself. We always prayed on our knees.

There was an adjacent room where he could take visitors aside when the upper room was occupied by myself or others.

Bakht Singh and I often travelled together; always third class. I don’t remember I ever travelled by air with our brother. We always got where the Lord sent us. Sometimes I would get a suggestion in my heart to go to certain places and share it with Bakht Singh and he might agree to that or he might have an alternative. We worked together in our movements if we weren’t actually working together. We knew that we were in agreement with one another. We didn’t have communications by telegram or phone. I don’t remember using a phone in Jehovah Shammah, our communication was by letter. I never elected it or chose it, but I think I was Bakht Singh’s first co-worker. We were together on and off for a period of 37 years. We did spend most of the time together in these years. Of course he would go frequently by himself to places where he had been invited. It was a very lovely partnership although he did most of the deciding and in conversations he would do most of the speaking; people would mostly gravitate to him, because he was the leader and a man with outstanding gifts. When he was in Madras or we were in Hyderabad we had many dear visitors that joined us for the general meals.

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