Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Chess with Daniel

Teaching my Granddaughters, Addison and Avery, to play chess over the Thanksgiving holiday this year took me back to everyone that I have ever played with over the many years. It's funny, I'm not an avid player or one who plays well or often, but I enjoy the game because of its quiet and studious nature.

I always enjoy those kinds of moments -- with anyone.

In 1974 I was in the small town of Vuyyurru on the Eastern coast of the country of India (between the Bay of Bengal and the Krishna River). That little village was one of the most interesting places that we traveled to during our ministry there, but it was also our most trying and challenging.

We stayed in what reminded me of a large baseball dugout. One large room with no furniture. A few wooden tables and chairs were moved in for our convenience. Three small army cots to sleep on. As you can see in the background of the photo above, the front of our dugout was just wire fencing. Open-air, almost like camping out except for the three concrete walls and a concrete floor. That building was a part of a complex of similar structures arranged in a horseshoe pattern that had a grassy courtyard in the center that had a community water well in its center.

We stayed in this place for over a week. Vincent, our traveling cook/friend, brought our meals here three times a day. He prepared them in the kitchen at the local village hospital.

Above is the only shot that I took of the Vuyyurru Hospital. I guess that I was not impressed with its cleanliness or its apparent lack of modernity. It was actually the center of the little village an was very important in the lives of everyone who lived there. The Chaplain there gave us a tour of the facility (it was quite different on the inside!) and he and his family attended all of our meetings at the local Church while we stayed there.

I'm sorry that I cannot remember his name. When you meet someone like him, you know that they are important in your life, and you can't imagine at the time that you will ever forget them. But I have learned that 44 years can make even important memories vanish away.

I do remember the name of his son - Daniel.

While in the meeting at the Vuyyurru Church (we led morning and evening services for over a week) we became very close to this congregation of people. I especially got to know many of the kids.

On the far left in the photo above is the Chaplain. Standing next to him is his son, Daniel.

This village was so isolated and had such limited resources that few of the inhabitants could speak English. Ha! This was not entirely their limitation, WE could not speak THEIR language, and we were supposedly highly educated world travelers!

On our third or fourth day service a very little boy came boldly up to me and said, "Hello, Dennis Bain, do you play chess?"

At first his words did not register with me. I knew that he was addressing me, so I looked around and spotted a couple of the Hindustan Bible Institute students who traveled with us as translators. They nodded and smiled, and then pointed me back to the child. He repeated his line, "Hello, Dennis Bain, do you play chess."

I stammered, "Yes, I do! Who are you?"

I was delighted, but this was the extent of Daniel's English. He had asked his Father, the Hospital Chaplain, to teach him this short phrase so that he could recite it to me when he had the opportunity. He had gone to a great deal of trouble to learn to speak this phonetically, and had plenty of courage to step up to me and spout it!

The translators then stepped up and helped us make connection. I learned his name and we set an appointment for after lunch. He communicated to me that he had a chess board and would bring it at a certain time. I looked forward to our time together.

He came to our little dugout home and we sat and played for hours. He came on a couple of other days while we were there, but he always came on his own. We couldn't speak each other's language but we were able to communicate with signs and smiles. We both knew the language of chess. I can't remember how the games came out, who won or lost, but I will never forget him or that experience.

I was not able to keep in touch with many of the friends that I made in India. Language barriers and just the challenge of time and geography.

I trust that this little man has had a wonderful life. He is certainly a wonderful memory in mine. I hope that he has not forgotten me. Perhaps I will see him in Glory!

Daniel, on my back in a game of Chicken Fight with some of the other children
during our daily play time in Vuyyuru

For God So Loved the World - Tell Them

I met Harold King in 1972 when he was serving as the Associate to a Youth Ministry Leader at a work in Nashville, Tennessee.

He came with his group of teenagers to our Church in Flint as a part of a great Youth Revival Emphasis that we were having.

One of the things that the group brought with them was a fervor for witnessing and sharing faith. A tool that they used for making connections with others was a small business card that simply had a single verse of scripture printed on it.  John 3:16.

We found that anyone could share the Good News about Jesus with their friends, family, and even with total strangers in an unobtrusive and nonabrasive way by simply giving a card. We discovered that many people were looking for good news or a reason to smile. The card helped them connect with something from their past, from their childhood, or with something about which they had never heard.

This is a copy of one of those very cards!

We learned from our friends from Nashville that we could share good news and great hope with anyone and everyone that we met with this little gift.

Our pastor at the time was John Hamilton. He picked up the thread that was created and went to the printer's and had thousands of these little cards made for the members of our Church to use and distribute. I don't know how many of them we gave away or how many smiles we caused, or how many people's lives may have been changed by reading those few words.

When Harold King, Doug Anderson, and I had the opportunity to travel to India together in the Fall of 1974, Harold brought along a box full of the John 3:16 cards. We had heard that most of the Indian people could read and speak English, so he decided that this little gift might be as successful in a foreign country as it had been in his own. He was right!

Wherever we traveled in India, people of all ages wanted to talk to us, to hear our messages and about our faith -- and they all wanted a card to take with them!

We found that the Indian people were very friendly and were open to speak with us about their faith and to hear about ours. It was a thrilling time for us and God blessed our efforts as many of the people that we made contact with wanted to know more about Christ and about how they could become a Christian.

I am not certain about the public climate today in the land of India. I do read statistics that say that Christianity is growing there, but I also hear that many in the country have responded to that growth and expansion with anger and intolerance. It is the same in our own country.

Today a small business card might start a riot or stir an angry mob. We are living in tumultuous times. But we are also living in times where, more than ever before, people need good news, hope, and words of salvation and life.

God still loves the whole world, and He is doing His greatest work in all of human history right now, in our present day.

There are people who WANT to know, who want to hear.

Tell them.

Friday, November 16, 2018

I Surrender All

In the Fall of 1974 I was traveling over Southern India with two of my friends: Doug Anderson (20) and Harold King (22). I was only eighteen years old, myself. Freshly graduated from Morgan County High School in Hartselle, Alabama.

  I lost count of how many cities, towns, and villages we traveled to. We rode on bicycles, rickshaws, Three-wheeled cabs, buses, taxis, trains, and planes!

We slept in what I called The Crow's Nest (the guest quarters at the Hindustan Bible Institute), in hotels, motels, missionary guest quarters, and even in what looked like a large baseball dugout with wire-covered open windows.

 The Crow's Nest at the HBI

We preached and sang on the streets, in chapels, in churches, in homes, hospitals, orphanages, and public meeting halls.

Our personal Cook (Vincent) traveled with us everywhere that we went (Bless HIS heart ---- Bless OUR hearts!!) and a group of the students from the Institute also traveled with us to guide us from place to place and serve as translators when we preached.

 Our dear Friend, Vincent, shopping

The official state language of the nation of India is called Hindi, but our journeys took us up and down what is known as the Andhra Pradesh in Southern India -- where many of the people speak an ancient dialect called Telugu. Our student companions could speak English very well, but their native language was most often Tamil or Telugu.

India had been under British rule (much like the United States) for many years, so many Indians speak English, and most of them drop everything that they are doing in the late afternoon to have Tea! (It is a custom that I enjoyed and came to look forward to every day the same as they).

In most of our engagements, Harold King and I would sing hymns, songs, and choruses to begin, make any comments that we wished to our group, crowd, or congregation, and then Doug would preach.

Doug enjoyed music and singing, but he was a gifted preacher -- a singer -- not so much.

Harold and I were both preachers, and we had a burning desire to be used of God in sharing a verbal message that He had given us. But, I could play the guitar, a VERY mobile instrument that permitted us accompaniment wherever we went, and both Harold and I were pretty decent singers.

In MOST of the unusual locations where we found ourselves I was grateful to have my guitar with us. It was the same 12-string Gibson that my Dad had given me when I was twelve years old. The Flint Baptist Church had bought me a very heavy-duty guitar case to house it. I still use that guitar often and carry it in the case that has borne and protected it around the world.

BUT, in some of the churches that we entered we found that they had organs, sometimes a piano, a guitar, and tambourines. My favorite instruments in the churches, however, were the little Harmoniums.

A Harmonium is a little keyboard wind-driven instrument which is played with one hand while the other hand pumps an air-baffle on the back.  It produces a very sweet organ-like sound. A number of the churches where we ministered had these with several talented people in the congregation who could play them.

An Indian Harmonium

Harold and I were always delighted to join in worship with a congregation or village where we were not the only musicians or music worship leaders.

Wherever we went, Believers wanted to learn the songs that we sang. They often asked me to write down the words and chords to the songs that they heard us sing that were new to them.

AND they would teach us to sing some of the songs and choruses that were popular in their circles of worship. I can still remember a few of them and can sing them. (I just can't remember where I put my glasses!).

When we were in churches that had their own music leaders, or choirs, or musicians they always sang during the final song -- the altar call or invitational hymn.

It was strange to see that they had many recognizable customs in their worship and church work. Music, the reception of an offering, the offering of prayers and personal testimonies, the preaching of the word, and then a closing invitational hymn for response to the message and God's leading.

As we went from place to place I noticed that in every different location, the congregation was singing the very same invitational hymn in Telugu.

Now, if you are familiar with the long ministry of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, you know that Cliff Barrows has only ONE hymn that he has used as in invitational hymn over the years.

Just as I Am.

No search for variety, just simplicity. It conveys the message that Billy wanted the decider to hear. I can come to Jesus: Just as I am.

I recognized the song that our Indian brothers and sisters were singing almost immediately. And they were singing it everywhere that we went.

I Surrender All.

I knew the melody and the words of every verse, in English. Soon both Harold and I could sing most of the verses and the chorus without fail -- in Telugu.

I can still remember the words of the chorus, and I can hear us singing that song and watching so many people come forward to give their lives to Christ!

Na Samasthamu

It was only years later, in memory and reflection, that God showed me why these Christians were using that particular hymn to call their families, friends, and fellow-countrymen to Christ.

We knew at the time, but were not fully aware, of what persecution any Indian faced when he or she gave their lives to Christ. To become a Christian there is very dangerous.

We had learned that through listening to Dr. and Mrs. Gupta's conversion stories. Dr. Gupta's father had tried to kill him, Mrs. Gupta's family had completely disowned her.

Many of the students at the Hindustan Bible Institute were so happy to be able to live and work at the school, because their profession of Faith in Christ had made them homeless outcasts.

In our preaching and singing we were not only inviting souls to Christ. We were challenging them to surrender everything to come to Him.

Not just church membership, or getting religion -- surrendering all.

It made my preaching and singing -- from that time until now -- a little more earnest.

I Surrender All

All to Jesus I surrender
All to Him I freely give
I will ever love and trust Him
In His presence daily live

All to Jesus I surrender
Humbly at His feet I bow
Worldly pleasures all forsaken
Take me Jesus take me now

I surrender all
I surrender all
All to Thee my blessed Savior
I surrender all

All to Jesus I surrender
Make me Savior wholly Thine
Let me feel the Holy Spirit
Truly know that Thou art mine

All to Jesus I surrender
Lord I give myself to Thee
Fill me with Thy love and power
Let Thy blessings fall on me

All to Jesus I surrender
Now I feel the sacred flame
Oh the joy of full salvation
Glory glory to His name

Lone Star Telugu Baptist Church, Nellore, India

In 1974 I was blessed with the opportunity of engaging in a mission trip to the country of India with two of my Friends in Ministry.

I had met Harold King in 1973 when he came to our church as a part of a Christian Youth Ministry that was based in Nashville, Tennessee. He was the associate to the Evangelist that was leading our church in Revival Services and he brought a bus load of Nashville teens who were all very enthusiastic young Christians. It was a great revival and Harold and I became friends from that first meeting.

After that, our church young people went to Nashville several times for Youth Rally events, so I had a chance to work with Harold on those occasions.

Later in the Winter of that same year (1973) our pastor invited a young Evangelist named Doug Anderson to come to our church to lead us in a week long revival. I remember that Friday was to be the last night of the revival and that I was going to have to miss the service because I was in the hospital after having my wisdom teeth removed.

I really hated missing any of the revival, because Doug was the most dynamic and powerful preacher that I had ever heard. We had immediately become good friends upon his arrival for the week-long meeting and God blessed our church through his preaching. I had been licensed into the Gospel ministry earlier that year and was at that time serving as the Youth Director of my home church.

I became a Christian in 1970 through the ministry of the Flint Baptist Church in Flint City, Alabama. A very short time after my conversion I began to receive invitations from my church and churches and other Christian organizations in the surrounding area to tell the story of my conversion and to lead in evangelistic meetings. Upon later reflection I came to believe that I had been chosen by God to be a minister for Him at the same time that I was saved.

Flint Baptist pastors, members, and leadership had always encouraged my growth in the Faith and gave me wonderful opportunities to practice becoming what God wanted me to be for Him. In 1973 the church formally recognized my call into Christian Service and issued a License in the Ministry of the Gospel to me. They immediately gave me my first church staff job by calling me to work as the Youth Director of the Church.

On the Friday night in 1973 that I lay in a hospital bed, wishing that instead I might be in a revival service at my church, I was alone in my room and feeling sore and groggy from the surgery and medication, but also sad and left out.  Before the gloom could completely overcome me, Doug Anderson slipped into my room and sat down in a chair next to my bed.

It hurt to smile, but I smiled broadly, anyway.

I was thrilled that he took the time to come see me after the conclusion of our church revival and honored that he thought enough of me to take the time. He was on his way back to Hendersonville, Tennessee where he lived.

He told me everything about the service that I had missed, and the exciting conclusion. God had really moved during the final invitation and a number of people made important decisions before the night was over.

Before Doug left, he told me that he was about to embark upon one of the greatest adventures of his life. He couldn't tell me much about it because everything was still in the beginning stages. But he said that when he knew more, he would tell me.

Before he left my hospital room he told me that whatever God was planning for him, he believed that He wanted ME to be a part of the adventure!

I was astounded and speechless.

He had prayer with me and left.

The adventure to which he was referring (I later found out) was that he had been preaching in a Conference with several other preachers when he met a Dr. Paul Gupta. Dr. Gupta was touring the United States telling Americans about the great work that he was doing through his school, The Hindustan Bible Institute in Madras, India.

Dr. Gupta had spoken at the Conference where he and Doug met. Doug was one of the speakers at the meeting, too, and Dr. Gupta was very impressed with his preaching and ministry.

 Dr. and Mrs. Gupta, Daniel, Sam and Sally

He told Doug that he would like to invite him to come to India as the guest of the Institute and to preach all over southern India. He could arrange for Doug to preach in dozens of cities, towns, and villages all across the Andrha Pradesh.

And -- if he had a support team that he could bring with him -- they would be welcome as well.

Doug began praying about the invitation -- when he accepted, he then asked Harold King and me to join him as his team. Doug would preach and Harold and I would sing at every meeting and preach as we were needed.

We departed on our journey in the Fall of 1974.


One of the most memorable places that we were able to minister was in the city of Nellore. We got to sing and preach at the historic Lone Star Telugu Baptist Church.

I have included a link to a written history of that great church if you wish to read it. What an honor it was to stand and serve in a place where God had worked so mightily in the past.

I hope that you will read it (the link is below).

The Lone Star Telugu Baptist Church 
in Nellore, India

The Nellore Town Hall where we held a public meeting

Town Hall Seating and Stage Platform

The History of the Telugu Mission by Dr. David Downie, D.D.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Sing, Elvis!

I grew up listening to and watching Elvis Presley's music and movies.

Even as a little boy I was aware that Elvis was one of us . . .

A Southern boy that made good, made it to the big time.

My Mother must have had an innocent crush on him (I'm sure Dad liked him, too), because we went to the drive in many times to see the newest Elvis movie. I guess that we saw them all.

Elvis was a singer, of course, not an actor. Though he could act  far better than I ever could, if asked or given the chance. So, I have never been critical of his acting abilities. Many have.

I enjoyed going to see Elvis' movies for many reasons. The hokey plot, the exciting film locations, the pretty girls, not to mention being out with the family. Buttery, greasy home-popped popcorn in a big Kroger paper grocery bag and a gallon jug of VERY sweet tea. (We never went to the concession stand, except to use the little boy's room.)

But more than all of that, I wanted to see AND hear Elvis sing. And we could do that at the movies.

From the very beginning of Elvis' career, you had to see him to get the whole effect!

Elvis first appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show in September of 1956. The year that I was born. I don't remember seeing him perform that night live, but I'm sure that I was propped up in front of a small black and white TV as Mom and Dad tuned him in. I have seen the video of that performance, it is historic on several levels, not the least of which is that the cameramen only shot him from the waist up!

Elvis Presley's sexy gyrations were a little too racy for American Home Viewing in 1956.

But later, we got to see the King's moves -- in the King's movies.

An amusing observation, however, is one that I made only in reflection as I looked back on those movie memories. It seems odd now that in every movie Elvis would be in a cafe, a club, on the beach, or in a parking lot -- and suddenly break into song!

For the most part, Elvis' movies would be classified as musicals (He did a few dramas that did not involve his singing talent). And, musicals always are a stretch on reality, because life is just not like that at all. But the viewer understands that, there is going to be story line and then the cast or the star will sing a song.

The actors are acting - the plot is progressing - the story is being told - and then someone says, "Sing, Elvis!" And Elvis would burst out into a fully orchestrated song and choreographed dance.

It seemed completely Hollywood to me, until I had my own Sing, Elvis moment.

In 1974 I had the amazing opportunity of traveling with two of my friends to the land of India. I was eighteen years old and had just graduated from High School. Harold Kind served at a Christian Ministry in Nashville, Tennessee and Doug Anderson was a Southern Baptist Evangelist. He was the leader of our trio of Preacher-Singers. He was only twenty at the time. We didn't realize it at the time, but we were just three kids on an adventure.

Dr. Paul Gupta, the President of the Hindustan Bible Institute in Madras (now Chennai), invited us to come to his country as his guests, and to travel all over southern India preaching and singing as Christian Missionaries and representatives of his school.

We traveled to India and visited more churches, schools, and meeting halls than I can remember. It was a tremendous opportunity for three eager boys. I am grateful for the memory of the experiences of that time, many of the things that happened shaped and changed me forever.

In the latter part of our stay there, quite frankly, we were tired, homesick, and exhausted. I had contracted a case of dysentery and had been very sick for a week or two. We all missed the rich southern food upon which we had all been raised, and we were not resting as peacefully as we might if we had been just a little closer to home.

Our mission was complete. We had met all of our engagements and fulfilled all of our commitments and obligations (as well as many stints that had not been planned and were not on the schedule). We had a few more weeks that we could stay, but we had run out of plan!

Shortly after we had arrived in Madras, Dr. and Mrs. Gupta and some of the School administrators and local pastors took us to visit the motel that Billy Graham had stayed at when he led the great Crusade there back in 1956. It was a gorgeous place and was renowned for its wonderful restaurant and dinning hall.

It was all very lavish! We felt like visiting dignitaries! Everything was beautiful and the food was served on a buffet like we had never seen before. 

Well, in our spent and bedraggled state, Harold suggested that we go back to the motel for a meal. Just the three of us for a refreshing and rejuvenating night out. It was enthusiastically received and we called a cab and headed into the city.

Everything in the dinning hall was candelabra lit and white linened. Waiting staff wore formal serving uniforms, the tables were all set with fine china and silverware. A five-piece live band was on a stage to our right, playing and singing popular songs in a variety of languages. We recognized many of the songs that they were singing.

It was all like a dream - as so much of what we had already experienced had been.

We ordered from the menu on this occasion and enjoyed the atmosphere and music as we waited for our food.

We ate as if we were starving and were finishing our desert when the band decided to take a break.

They placed down their instruments - and then came walking to our table!

Their spokesman, the lead singer, spoke to us in English as they approached us. "Are you Americans?" he asked in a friendly tone. We smiled and blushed, realizing how easily we were read by others by our speech and manners. We proudly owned the question, however, and shook hands and spoke with each member of the band. We complimented them for their music and singing and told them just a little about who we were and why we were in India.

When the band leader heard that I played the guitar and that Harold and I sang, he smiled broadly and said, "Sing, Elvis!"

Well, he didn't actually say those words, but that is what I heard.

Suddenly we were in a musical, and someone that we had just met was asking us to jump up on stage and perform.

Actually it was not a performance, but another chance for us to minster as we had so many times before. With help from the band we went to the small stage that they had been singing from, I was given use of the guitar that we had been enjoying earlier, the microphones were positioned and Harold and I sang.

The lavish dinning room was filled with some of the wealthiest travelers in the city (it appeared). It was a different time and no thought was given that we might offend one of the guests or that anyone would be angry at our music or our message.

We sang what had been our theme song all across India. We had sung it in churches, at schools, in meeting halls. In thatch-roofed huts, and open-air gatherings. In villages that was home to the poorest people that we had ever met.

And now it seemed in my mind that we were being asked to sing before Kings and Queens.

We sang "I'll Tell the World that I'm a Christian."

The members of the band all smiled and cheered for us appreciatively. (Doug, I think, was waiting to be asked to preach!). And when we concluded, every person in the dining hall applauded for us. 

We will only know in Eternity what seed might have been planted in some wealthy traveler's heart that evening. Something that led someone there to want to be able to tell someone that they were a Christian.

Our night on the town had been Harold's idea, but God sent us there that night.

Sitting at a table just behind us was a middle-aged couple. A man and his wife who were both doctors. And not only doctors, but Southern Baptist Missionaries.

They were on a layover on their way to serve at the Southern Baptist Convention Hospital in Bangalore. They had been assigned there after completing their seminary training and would be there for two years. The motel in Madras was the last stop in their journey before they would be taken by car to south India.

After our musical presentation they came to our table and introduced themselves. They invited us to their table and we had more desert and coffee. We enjoyed the sweetest fellowship, like we had all known each other for years. They talked about their faith and their journey and we shared ours.

They invited us to come down to Bangalore to see the work there and meet Dr. Rebekah Naylor, their Chief Surgeon and Director of the Hospital.

Dr. Rebekah Naylor, the Director of the Southern Baptist Hospital in Bangalore, India
was away on Sabbatical during our visit there in 1974. But her presence and her
influence were still strongly felt by us in her absence.

THIS was astounding -- even more surprising and glorious than our Elvis moment!

As things turned out, we DID travel to Bangalore. We stayed there for nearly two weeks. THAT story is ANOTHER adventure in itself. I will tell it later.

In 1 Peter 3:15 the Apostle says, "Always be ready to give an answer for the Hope that is in you!"

I am so glad that we were ready that night. We were in the groove. By the guiding hand of the Holy Spirit we were where we were supposed to be (thousands of miles from home), in the spot He had ordained for us. We didn't have a guitar - so He provided one. We didn't hesitate when we saw the chance to speak up and sing up.

That was a great blessing with untold Harvest, and our obedience opened up another door that we could not have found if we were looking for it. We couldn't have prayed for it by name or description, but God was leading.

I had already learned, and that night affirmed my belief, to be ready to jump when God says jump, never asking why or how high.

Believers: be ready at all times! You never know when a total stranger might look right at you and say,

"Sing, Elvis!"

I’ll Tell the World that I’m a Christian
Words and Music by Baynard L. Fox
I’ll tell the world that I’m a Christian
I'm not ashamed His Name to bear
I'll tell the world that I'm a Christian 
I'll take him with me anywhere.

I’ll tell the world how Jesus saved me,
And how He gave me a life brand new;
And I know that if you trust Him,

That all He gave me He’ll give to you. 

I’ll tell the world that He’s my savior,
No other one could love me so;
My life, my all is His forever, 
And where He leads me I will go.

I’ll tell the world that He is coming
It may be near or far away;
But we must live as if His coming 
Could be tomorrow or today.   

For when He comes and life is over,
For those who love Him there’s more to be; 
Eyes have never seen the wonders 
That He’s preparing for you and me.  

O tell the world that you’re a Christian,
Be not ashamed His name to bear;
O tell the world that you’re a Christian,
And take Him with you ev’rywhere.