Mar Thoma Evangelistic Association
Until renewal took place in the Church, as a result of the reformation, there was very little effort to take the message of the gospel to those outside the Church. With the new life that came into the Church people began to accept the call of the Holy Spirit to present the gospel to others. A small group of 12 persons,(Rev. Thomas Abraham, Kottarathil and 11 laymen) met for prayer in 1888 at Kallissery, near Chengannoor and they were urged by the Holy Spirit to take up the challenge and they obeyed it by deciding to start evangelistic work among non-Christians. The first place that they chose as their field was Othara in Central Travancore. Rev. C. P. Philipose became the General Secretary of the Evangelistic Association in 1890 at the age of 22 and he continued to lead the Association in that position for 50 years. His wise counsel, deep faith and untiring energy have helped to further the cause of evangelism. His Lordship The Most Rev. Thomas Mar Athanasius Metropolitan gave encouragement to the infant Association, although the Church was passing through a crisis on account of litigation.
By 1894 four full time paid evangelists were appointed and four teachers worked in schools belonging to the Association. By 1903 these numbers increased to 20. The work expanded beyond Central Travancore and reached out to the sea coast and North Travancore. By 1926, evangelists were sent to Palghat area. In spite of opposition from some quarters, many received the gospel gladly. At Othara itself, a group of 85 people were baptized in 1892. Gradually the work extended to Wynad in the Nilgiri area and Gudalur. We praise God for Rev. P. I. Jacob, and the untiring work he did in the mission fields of Central Travancore and the Sea Coast areas till he became too old and weak to continue. Rev. C. I. Abraham of Venmony worked with a band of zealous evangelists in North Travancore area. The Palghat Ashram was established in 1924, under the leadership of Rev. P. John Varghese, who later left the Church and became a Bishop of the St. Thomas Evangelical Church. Work was started in South Travancore area under the leadership of Rev. K. A. Varghese. Many people accepted Christ and new congregations were formed as a result of the work in these areas.
Any missionary effort undertaken outside Kerala by members of the Mar Thoma Church is complex due to linguistic and ethnic differences. The first call came from North Kanada (India) in 1909 and the work was started in 1910 in Karwar District.Mr. P. S. Mathai (father of Shri. Samuel Mathai - who was Vice chancellor of Kerala University), Rev. P. Varghese, Mr. K. K. Kuruvilla and Mr. P. O. Philip were among the first to respond. By 1919, the High School at Honavar was, handed over by the Basel Mission to the Evangelistic Association, and Rev. M. P. Philipose took over as Principal. By 1940 the work extended to Ankola and the Christa Mitra Ashram was established by Rev. P. J. Thomas and two young graduates (Mr. Philip Oommen, now The Most Rev. Philipose Mar Chrysostom, Mar Thoma Metropolitan and Mr. P. John Thomas, later Rev. P. John Thomas). The Ashram started a hospital, a home for boys and girls, a destitute home and other services. Now 76 people are working there.
Christa Panthi Ashram,Sihora was established in 1942 under the leadership of Rev. K. T.Thomas, Mr. John Varghese and Mr. M. P. Mathew, who later became ordained ministers of the Church. Now there are more than 40 members, including permanent workers and volunteers. In addition to gospel work, the activities of the Ashram include, hospital work, village schools, destitute home, agricultural work and rural development program. A group of people from Abhani village have accepted the Lord and a place of worship has been built for them. Mr. Juhan Mishra from Sihora area who accepted Jesus Christ is working now as an evangelist in that village.
Christya Bandhukulam, Satna was started in 1952. A Group of 4 people from Kaviyoor, near Tiruvalla, decided to work together in the State of Rewa. Before the independence of India, Rewa was a small native state, into which Christian Workers were not allowed entry. The four workers started work in Satna and surrounding villages. Rev. A. T. Chacko and family were among the founders working there along with others in evangelistic efforts and rural development programs. There is a school up to the XII Standard (Grade) which has a high reputation in the area, and provides means to reach many homes with the message of the gospel. Many villages in the neighboring districts have been reached and some have accepted baptism and membership of the Church.
Saidganj, near Bhopal:
The work was started among the village near Saidganj, about 25 km. from Bhopal city, in Madhya Pradesh. In addition to evangelistic work, rural development work is carried on and a school for village children is being run. Such work is being extended to other neighboring villages also. The Bhopal Mar Thoma parish actively cooperates with the workers in this area.
Tibetan Border work (Suvartha Premi Samithi):
Rev.A. K. George and two lady workers went all the way to Tejam and Munsiari on the border of Tibet and started work among the Bhotia community. The Bhotias used to carry on trade with Tibet till it was occupied by China. The missionaries hoped to reach Tibet with the help of Bhotias.Some from the Bhotia community accepted the gospel and congregations have been founded at Munsiari and Tejam. At present two groups are working here. More workers are needed to take over from the early workers, who are advancing in years. There is much scope for mission work in these villages. In connection with the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the reformation, more workers have gone there to help in the work.
Vapi is a developing industrial area, located in Valsad District, Gujarat. A hospital which was started by an American Mission was handed over to the Evangelistic Association, in 1968 as they could not carry on the work. The medical work is being continued with the cooperation of the parishes of the Mar Thoma Church in Gujarat and Bombay.
Hoskote is a Taluk headquarters, 25km. from Bangalore city. The work was started there in 1946. Now there is a good congregation in Hoskote, a chapel and medical work. Over 700 leprosy patients from the nearby villages are given treatment. Six congregations have been developed in those villages and many more people are showing keen interest in the gospel. The work was started by Rev. A. C. Zachariah and Mr. M. T. Joseph. It developed further when Rev. E. J. George went there and Dr. Mrs. Sophy George took over the medical work. One of the notable feature of the work was that two Hindu Swamis accepted the Gospel and were baptized and they spread the gospel with zeal and in a purely Indian Style. The villagers responded to them freely, as their life style and way of preaching appealed to them in a special way.
Santhi Mandiram, Secunderabad:
The only mission center of the Evangelistic Association in Andra Pradesh is at Santhi Mandiram situated about 10 km. from Secunderabad city, very near the military center.A school for the children in the village nearby was conducted at Santhi Mandiram and the Gospel was presented to the community. Medical help for the villagers also was given by doctors and medical personnel from the Mar Thoma parish in the Secunderabad Hyderabad cities. AndamansThe mission work in Andamans is done mainly among the colonies of settlers from the mainland, who live in the scattered islands. Without proper attention and spiritual leadership many of them were open to all types of temptations. By presenting the gospel to them many have come to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and they now live in fellowship and brotherhood.
Nepal is the only country in the world today ruled by the Hindu ruler with the declared intention to keep it as a Hindu country. Preaching of the gospel is publicly prohibited by law and anyone leading others to conversion from Hinduism may be punished with imprisonment for six years. In spite of such rigid laws, work was started there by a small group of young men of the Mar Thoma Church under the leadership of C. K. Athiyal, who was later ordained as a minister of the Church. The group approached people personally with the gospel and many were attracted to Christ. The first Christian Church in Katmandu, the capital of Nepal, was constructed by this group. Later the United Mission to Nepal was started by missionaries from various countries, who made an undertaking with the Government that they would do only social service activities. Now there are more than five centers of Christian worship in the city, in spite of the legal restriction still in force. The last worker there of the Mar Thoma Church, Mr. K. S. Eapen, was held in jail for 27 days when it was found that baptism of Nepali citizens have been conducted in our Church. He was however released from jail and he had to return in 1984, and since then there is no worker from our Church there.Still the believers come together for worship and Christian fellowship in the Church building there. Other workers have to be sent to help those who have accepted faith in Jesus Christ.
Port Swettenham in Malaysia:
A mission center has been started in Port Swettenham near Klang in Malaysia, by the Diocese of Malaysia - Singapore of our Church. The work is done mostly among Tamil speaking people and the Chinese, as Gospel preaching to Muslims is strictly prohibited by the Government. Many young people come eagerly to study the Bible and attend Sunday School classes organized by the Mission Board of the Diocese. Sunday School classes have been organized for the workers in many rubber estates where the Evangelists and those interested in the work go as a team with musical instruments and audiovisual aids in a van bought for the purpose.
The work through St. Thomas School in Singapore:
The Secondary School run by the Mar Thoma Parish in Singapore has provided occasion for teaching the Bible to the kids in the School. More than a score of students every year accept Jesus Christ as their Savior and are baptized. They join the different Churches conducting worship in their language in the city. It is mostly the Chinese young people who are coming to the Lord in this way.
A group was sent to Rajasthan in 1980 and when they started work they were stationed in the capital city, Jaipur. In 1983 a property was bought near Bhambhori village, 25 km. from Jaipur. A mission center has been established there and work has been started in the villages nearby. The villagers come to help in the agricultural work of the center and thus contact with them is established. Literacy work is done among the illiterate people. Gradually the gospel message is being presented to them. In 1985 the work was started in the villages near Rawalpetta with the cooperation of the Parishes in Rawalpetta and Kota.
Shadol and Siddhi:
Special effort has been made in 1986 to reach more villages in North India in connection with the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Reformation. The work has been expanded to the districts of Shadol and Siddhi in Madhya Pradesh, with Satna as the center.
Congregations formed by Mission Work:
As a result of the work of the Evangelistic Association, 117 congregations have been formed in various parts of Kerala. These remained under the care of the Evangelistic Association. Under this arrangement, the congregations could not get adequate pastoral care. So the Evangelistic Association decided to hand over the congregations to the Dioceses in which they were situated. The Church gladly gave them recognition as parishes in the Dioceses and appointed pastors in charge of them. This was an important step taken in the year 1980. The new Parishes have already shown signs of steady growth under the new system. The parishioners are taking keen interest in the development of the parishes. The Dioceses have resolved that each parish must have its own place of worship by the end of 1986 as there are even now a few parishes who worship in schools and other places since they don't have church buildings of their own. This project is progressing satisfactorily with the help of the Evangelistic Association and members of the Church.