In Travancore the Truth is spreading rapidly; the Lord is opening the way. Everywhere people are flocking to hear the Gospel Truth! The majority of the poor people are unable to grasp the details, but a large number among them, who are the leaders of the community and can read and write their vernacular language (Malayalam) are able to understand the Plan of the Lord; and I am glad to tell you, dear Brother, that they are appreciating the Truth, and gladly preach it to others.
In my last letter I wrote the details of the work in Travancore. Before I left India, or rather Travancore, fourteen years ago, I spoke Malayalam and Tamil fluently. (These two are the languages spoken in Travancore.) But when I came back I was not able to talk either Malayalam or Tamil. But now I can talk both fluently; they have come back without much trouble. So the language difficulty in connection with the work in Travancore is no more.
Until a few weeks back the work was not systematized. From experience, the Lord has shown me that the work among that people must be carried on in a thoroughly organized form, and that no hope of material help should be given to them in any way. This is quite new to them, as all the missionary societies start their "Christian" work on the basis of "rice" Christianity. It took some time and much hardship to convince the leading men of the wisdom of the method we have adopted. The Lord has opened their eyes to see the beauty of Christianity and the principles upon which the Lord and the Apostles carried on the work. I am glad to say that they understand a great deal now of the Secret of the Lord. Their lives, their enthusiasm and zeal explain it.
Just think, these poor people going about and visiting the people at their houses and teaching them the Truth, and also making arrangements to hold meetings in several places! We have in all now sixteen congregations holding meetings regularly in fifty different places hereabout. Thirteen of the brethren are working regularly among these people. The fact that they have been doing this work for the last two months (some of them for five or six months) without receiving any financial help, shows the interest and the devotion they have for the Lord's work. We have fourteen temporary shelters for the purpose of holding meetings. In each of these places from 100 to 350 people attend the meetings regularly—not simply attend the meetings, but they have learned much during these days; and even those who were once baptized in the London Mission Church want to be immersed again since they understand the real import of baptism as set forth in the Scriptures.
As large numbers of the people are illiterate, we have to teach the Truth orally. But as there are quite a good many who are able to read and write, it is best to have some tracts printed, setting forth the main points of Present Truth.
As we have thoroughly consecrated men with us now, as far as I can judge, we would have no difficulty in entrusting the work of teaching to such. Many people have come to me to start work among them, but I have not yet seen my way clear to begin the work and carry it on effectively.
You will be greatly surprised, dear Brother, when I say that among all the "Christian" people in these parts, the Present Truth is the subject of discussion. Some are for, and others against it, even in the sectarian pulpits. Last week there was a conference of the London Mission people, where the main discussion was about the Lord's work of our Society in these parts. So there is much interest either directly or indirectly.
The elders and deacons hold two class meetings each week; about thirty are attending and studying the Lord's Word to preach to others. Some walk from twelve to fifteen miles to attend these meetings. We hold these from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. I find that this class study work is very helpful. They all have their note-books with them and take notes when I discuss each subject from the volumes and the booklets. It is wonderful how these poor ones go to the Reverends and tell them about the Truth, giving Bible references for every statement they make.
It is best to have some booklets printed for the use of these Pilgrims, Elders, etc., as well as for those who are able to understand the Truth somewhat. It will cost too much to have the volumes translated either into Malayalam or Tamil. We shall have to circulate the literature free, as the people are unable to pay. I would suggest that extracts of certain chapters of all the six volumes be printed. We must have also some tracts in Malayalam and Tamil. We can distribute these tracts among the denominational church people whom we cannot reach otherwise. These are the reasons why I put $500 for printing purposes for this year. The tracts could be used in all South India, among fifteen or twenty millions of people.
I am sorry to say that some of the teachers have to work in the fields at least a few days each week to earn their bread; the rest of the time they spend in preaching the Gospel and holding meetings. Last Sunday morning 450 people attended the service in one place, and in the evening 850.
Your welcome letter of March 21 is before me. I am [R4814 : page 143] glad to have it. If you can get into right line with our ideas of the work we will be glad, and believe that a great blessing may result. We are praying for you and the work in India, and believe from the tenor of your last letter that you now understand our program better than at first, and will follow it.
Our plan is not to trust to oral instruction of teachers, but to co-operate specially with those who are able to read English, and who will take the printed matter with them in their preaching and translate to those who are unable to read. We do not mean by this that none may be accepted as teachers who cannot read English, but that those able to read English should be given preference.
You are quite right, dear Brother, in understanding us not to wish to purchase either teachers or hearers with rice. The Gospel must be hungered and thirsted for with a spirited appetite. As for the teachers being obliged to labor a part of their time, we think it the very best way, except for a very few whose entire time as overseers might be necessary, like your own and that of the pilgrims. We favor this very same course in every land. For the teachers to be so separated from the people that it would be thought a shame for them to make tents or do other work for an honest living, is neither good for themselves nor does it have the proper influence upon the people with whom they should be in close touch as "brethren."
We feel that the money sent you thus far has not been unwisely expended, and you may count on upwards of two thousand rupees for printing during the ensuing year, also an allowance not to exceed five rupees per [R4815 : page 143] week for the teachers who are giving all their time, and something less for those giving part of their time.
Please make monthly reports, which need not be lengthy, but which should contain distinct statements of amounts expended for literature and the quantity it purchased, also number of teachers and pilgrims, and briefly the work being done.