Mrs. Aleyamma Cherian
Every major event in life’s journey deserves recognition. In my corner of the world, birthday, graduation, wedding, anniversary, bridal shower, baby shower and house-warming are occasions for joyful family and community celebrations. When the Philadelphia Telugu Church of Secunderabad invited me for the Platinum Jubilee Celebration I was indeed delighted. This was not a current event. Platinum Jubilee involves looking up old records and making the past come alive. It is recalling the story of Spirit of God stirring up hearts to obey and launch out , of those who risked their lives for the cross, of being faithful to the heavenly vision. A few reflections on that chapter in church history of the twin cities – Hyderabad and Secunderabad.
The political identity of Andhra and Telangana as states is now clearly defined. It was not so prior to 1956. The Telugu-speaking people lived in what was then known as Madras Presidency and the Nizam’s State of Hyderabad. Major political upheavals and constitutional changes took place wiping out British rule and the kingship of Nizam. However, all along the Spirit of God was at work among the Telugu-speaking people . Church planting of IPC work started in Eluru, West Godavary in 1936. In both Krishna and Godavary districts small fellowships of believers were formed. In 1938 the Lord guided Pastor P.T. Chacko (Appachen) to the twin cities to conduct gospel meetings. A few believers were baptized. It was in 1940 that we, as a family relocated to Secunderabad.
As a seven-year old I remember arriving in Secunderabad by train. Dear Mrs. Mary Naidu was on the station platform to welcome us. The Faith Home was in Regimental Bazaar behind the police station. Dr. Seshadry of Bidar sent financial help towards the rent of the flat in the early years. Jeevaratnam of Karimnagar and R. E. Paul of Gadwal were faithful members of the church. Jeevaratnam, a tailor by profession, attended Zion Bible School. He pioneered the work in Domalguda and Chappal Bazaar. Besides the twin cities, Appachen ministered in Warangal, Devarakonda, Nizamabad, Shakarnagar, and Nagarjunasagar.
Ministry in Mahbubnagar was a memorable experience. New mission stations were opening up. Bro. Shastry had just started church planting there. Appachen was with him for special meetings. The parsonage did not have a secure door. After the evening meeting, when the pastor and family came home, to their dismay, they found the door open. A stray dog that pushed his way in helped himself to the cooked meal. It was hot and humid after the rain drenched the ground along . Just the season for certain insects to spring out of moist earth. By the hundreds these insects swarmed around the lantern. They were instantly roasted. Pastor Shastry convinced appachen that this was fresh-roasted and edible. They all had the roasted morsels for supper that night. Gifted with both a sense of adventure and of humor Appachen enjoyed talking about it. He assured us there was no pollution – sprung from the earth and roasted right away.
Appachen provided ample opportunities for me to develop skills in public speaking. In open-air meetings he would just announce to the crowd, “my daughter will now tell you a story. As an eight-year old, I remember narrating the story of the Prodigal Son. Translating Appachen’s English sermons into Telugu was a great exercise in gaining scriptural knowledge and fluency of expression. Hosting new evangelists from Kerala involved teaching them Telugu and translating their messages.
Running errands and inviting people for special meetings kept me busy. There was no money to print flyers. You just knocked on doors and verbally invited people. The publication of Gospel Herald monthly involved the entire household. Quite often I would go to the printing press with proof-read material. When Appachen was overseas for sixteen months my sister Mary Abraham and I were responsible for editing and publishing of the magazine.
Teaching Sunday School helped me study the Bible lessons and develop ability to communicate with children from a variety of backgrounds. I had the church Sunday School with children from Christian homes. On Sunday afternoons I taught Outreach Sunday School in Pickett and Lallaguda, at different seasons based on proximity to our residence. In Pickett — it was always outdoors – the most idyllic scene I have enjoyed in the suburbs of Secunderabad – under a large shady tree with a pond nearby. David and Deenamma lived in the village. Other than David’s children the rest were all from Hindu families. Their dwellings were thatched huts, small and simple. The Lallaguda Sunday School was in the home of Mrs. Y.L. George. The setting was Railway Quarters housing families of railway employees. I boarded the bus at Mettuguda to reach Lallaguda. Children from Hindu families in the neighborhood gladly attended the classes. At times, a mother needing deliverance from fears would accompany her child, knowing that Jesus would answer prayer.
After years of enduring hardship in serving the Lord, it is not uncommon for ministers to gratefully acknowledge God’s material blessings upon them in the latter part of their lives. Bragging about the financial well-being of their adult children gets to be a chorus, a sure yardstick of divine favor. Preachers visiting believers in cities often cross the lines of propriety asking prying questions to elicit information about the financial worth of their hosts. For eight years, while I was employed and living at home, never once did Appachen ever ask about my income. His parental authority and influence was not used to control, direct or gain information about my finances. That speaks volumes on the highest standards of etiquette and level of ethical integrity that he maintained.
Concerned with the eternal destiny of every soul, Appachen was at ease and comfortable with people of all social levels. I was at an outdoor meeting with him in Secunderabad when a man responded to his gospel message saying, “Sir, today if you give me rice, you are my god.” In another instance, a new believer from a remote village and Appachen were sharing meals in our home. The guest described how they made pickles with pebbles! That was their condiment. Appachen did not react with surprise or disgust. He met people at their level. He truly followed Paul’s admonition in Rom. 12:16 “Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. (KJV) “be willing to associate with people of low position.” (NIV)
The Western Pentecostal Conference was held in Vancouver, B.C. Canada this year. This is an annual gathering of immigrant believers from western North America. Here I had the privilege of meeting a former missionary, a native of Kerala, who served the Lord in Andhra. In her words, “My late husband Raju attended the Bible School conducted in Secunderabad in 1968 (?). Your father taught us the Telugu alphabet. We served the Lord in Shantinagar, a suburb of Secunderabad. Now my son is ministering in the Vijayawada area.” I almost choked up with emotion as I heard her. I thought of the Saturday Night Fasting and Prayer, Appachen’s persistent proclamation of the gospel and Ps. 126 : 6 “He who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed…”
The spark ignited in 1940 continues to shed its light. Thank you Philadelphia Church for hosting the Jubilee celebration.
Remember the days of old; consider the generations long past. Deut. 32 : 4