The American Advent Mission (AAM) has ministered in the State of Tamil Nadu in South India for 129 years – since 1880. It has been based in Madras (recently renamed Chennai) and has been involved in Christian evangelistic and literature ministries as well as medical and educational ministries and the care of underprivileged children.
During that period churches were established and the Advent Christian Conference of India was established in 1973, with the Fellowship of Blessed Hope Churches following in 1988. These two Conferences, which are now autonomous and independent, now administer more than 90 Advent Christian churches in and around Chennai and in the south of Tamil Nadu State.
Since handing over governance of the churches to the Indian nationals, the role of the AAM in recent years has been one of encouragement and advising, and acting as the means of communicating details of the ministries in India to prayer and financial supporters in the United States, New Zealand and other countries of the world.
In late 2008/early 2009 the last of the international workers left Chennai, having handed over responsibility for the day-to-day operation of the Mission’s activities to Indian Christians. Under the guidance of Mission Manager M. M. Immanuel the renamed Mission – Yeshuway Jeevan Mission (Jesus is Life Mission) – continues the role of liaison with and encouragement of the two Indian Conferences and liaison with the Advent Christian General Conference in the United States. Ernie Schache, formerly Field Leader based in Chennai, is now based in Auckland, New Zealand, and continues to have responsibility for oversight of Yesuway Jeevan Mission on behalf of ACGC.
As well as working with the two Advent Christian Conferences, Yesuway Jeevan Mission continues to be involved in spiritual and social ministries through financial support and the encouragement of a number of independent Christian organizations involved in the care and nurture of underprivileged children and the rehabilitation of those involved with drug and alcohol addiction and HIV/AIDS. It is presently in formal partnership with these organizations in an endeavour to reach out in practical ways to show Christian care and compassion, in the name of Jesus Christ, to some of those who suffer socially in India.
Detailed History courtesy of Beryl (Hollis) Ching,
New Zealand Missionary to India 1954-1995, and current Trust Board member of ACMissioNZ
Back in 1880, an English military captain, Capt. Spence, who was retired in India, received Advent Christian literature from America. He accepted their beliefs, and a couple of years later they asked him to find a good translator. The very next day an Indian pastor with the right qualifications came to see him. They fell to their knees to thank God for bringing them together. Literature publishing began immediately.
By 1886 evangelistic work had begun, and when a printing press was sent out toMadras (Chennai) many tracts were printed.
Two schools were opened in 1892. In 1898 Capt. Spence´s daughter was appointed as a missionary, and later his other daughter and also his adopted daughter.
The Women´s Home and Foreign Mission Society of U.S.A. – a ministry of what is now the Advent Christian General Conference of America – took over the responsibility for the work in Velacheri, Madras, in 1898. Then in 1900 there was a terrible famine in India. The women took into their care many orphan or destitute children, and orphanages for boys (in Velacheri) and girls (inGuindy) were opened.
In 1901 the printing press (at that time situated in Bangalore) was printing tracts in seven languages! The first missionaries from America – William Edwards andJess Saunders – came out in 1901. William Edwards started industrial training to enable Indian boys to learn skills, and some of this work continued into the 1960s. Since then missionaries have come from America, Canada, and New Zealand, about 35 of them, many of whom worked long years for the Lord in India. Two of them, and one missionary baby, are buried in that land, having given the supreme sacrifice.
One can imagine the rejoicing when the first church was established in 1902, in Guindy, Madras. Through the years many, many people have accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour, and many churches have been established through the hard work and ministry of Indian workers. In the early days these workers carried two responsibilities – as headmasters of the schools that were established for the people´s learning, and as pastors or evangelists in the churches. Women were appointed as Bible-women also, so that the women confined in their homes could be met with the gospel. Those Bible-women were hard workers.
The orphanages became hostels for children wanting to go on to higher education beyond fifth standard, but gradually intermediate schools were established in villages, and the hostels became unnecessary. Many learned of Christ in these hostels.
Theological education was given to the pastors and Bible-women in different ways, often in private tutorials. But in 1955 a Bible School was established inVelacheri, and in this school many pastors have been trained through the years. Other important activities that helped in Christian growth, were the Sunday School curriculums that were developed, and the young people brought together in Christian Endeavour Societies. A Conference of churches was established – the Advent Christian Conference of India – and the work was completely put into the hands of the nationals by 1978.
The missionaries saw many, many opportunities still in India for evangelism, and were loathe to go back to their homelands when so much remained to be done! So they began ministries in other areas, not schools or industrial schools this time. Realising the necessity for Indians to labour alongside them if churches were to be established, a College of Evangelism was set up in 1983 atKodaikanal in the southwest of Tamil Nadu State. Enthusiastic students had established churches even before they graduated, and became the pastors on graduation.
By 1988 these churches, too, were gathered into a conference of churches, called the Fellowship of Blessed Hope Churches.
Each year, without a lot of fanfare, people are being won for Christ. They need our support in prayer and finance!