New Life at 100
by Rob Weingartner
A number of years ago I had the privilege of traveling to India with my friends and mentors Bill Young and the late Harold Kurtz, each of whom led the work of Presbyterian Frontier Fellowship for a time. One of the places where we visited with partners was the state of Bihar. Bihar was, and some say still is, the poorest and most corrupt state in India, a place that used to be called the Graveyard of Missions. It is 80% rural and 80% illiterate.
We witnessed how God was at work in Bihar, particularly among those who refer to themselves as Dalits, those called Untouchables who are below the castes and live as outcasts in their society. That work continues today.
We traveled to the Fatua District outside of Patna where we met a young pastor named Dinanath. As is typical in so many places around the world where the church is growing by leaps and bounds, Dinanath Kumar was responsible for many congregations, 62 village churches at the time of our visit.
He had an itinerant ministry, visiting the churches as he was able and helping to equip the evangelists and church leaders for their ministry. When he visited a church, there were often new believers to be baptized. At the time of our visit, he had baptized 1,110 new believers in five years.
Late one evening we visited a village church. Following a prayer service on the roof of a very modest home, we went with the church to a small man-made lake outside the town. A 100 year-old man had declared his faith in Christ and was ready for baptism. We gathered beside the shore as he and the pastor walked down into the water. The pastor held and helped the man bend down into the waters of baptism. I suppose that it had been awhile since he bent down that way, and we weren’t quite sure that he was going to make it back up, but he did! There was a group of kids not far away, and when the man emerged from the water they cheered. The pastor motioned to them to be quiet, to be respectful. But I have to confess, I wanted to cheer too!
What an amazing thing. This man who for a century had been told by the world that he was nothing, worth nothing, good for nothing, found in Jesus Christ new hope and purpose. I will never forget his smile. I will never forget his joy. I will never forget my joy.