Every nation has certain land marks in her history, so does India. Among the many historical land marks, the year 1836 is a prominent one to the Telugu Baptist Christians in Andhra. History shows that India was constantly invaded by foreign troops and most of these wars ravaged the culture and riches of this country, India saw another invasion in 1836 with the advent of Dr. Samuel S. Day who led an invasion against the sin, poverty, caste and ignorance that were rampant in India, specially in parts of Telugu land. This was really a war against social, economic and spiritual conditions of human beings. With him began a glorious era of revolution that was to go through the whole of life, beginning at the personal and pervading the social, economic and political life of the Telugu Christians. He took the banner of salvation and many of his faithful followers worked in this great vineyard, combating the forces of evil and laying new foundations for a better spiritual kingdom.
The history of the Baptist Mission can be divided into four divisions. The first from the beginning, till the great famine of 1878, where the pioneers of the mission could make the blue print of their future work. The second, from the end of the great famine to the end of the World War I, where the founders of the Mission could lay the foundations of their work in many new places. The third period from the end of the great world War I to the end of the second great World War in 1945 where the Missionaries began to organize their work. They are called organizers during this period. The fourth is from the end of the second world war down to this date and these Missionaries may be called followers as they follow faithfully the work of their predecessors racing against time.
The pioneers of the Mission had first started their work in Madras and subsequently moved to Nellore, the strong hold of the Mission. The history of the work at Madras had many vicissitudes after Dr. Days’ departure for Nellore to establish a Mission for the Telugus in the Telugu country. Consequently, the work in Madras was hampered for want of a Missionary. Somehow or other, the Executive Committee of the Mission Board persuaded the pioneers to reopen a Telugu Centre in Madras, and thus Dr. Jewett was induced to come to Madras. He came to Madras in 1878 and on the first Sabbath of October, the first Telugu service was held in his own residence in Arthoon Road in Royapuram. It was very remarkable and gratifying indeed, to have 30 Telugus attending the service. Within a short period of three months, a full fledged Church was organized on October 8th, 1878. This was the first Madras Telugu Baptist Church. It was interesting to note that letters of dismissal to join in the new church were brought from Nellore, Ongole and Ramapatnam Churches by Mrs. Jewett, Tupalli Rangiah and Mrs. Mahalakshumamma and Patibandla Chengamma. every bring in it Whose. Female earth heaven won't behold female.
The year 1878 was a historical year in India as this was the year of the great famine called “ Dathu Famine “. It also synchronized with the great ingathering at Ongole where 2,222 were baptized in one single day. The first Baptist Church in Madras came into being during this year. At the tag end of this year, Rev. S. W. Nicholes and his wife – the daughter and son-in-law of Dr. Jewetts. They continued the work in Royapuram area and sometimes in other parts of the city.
Madras is one of the four metropolitan cities of India and is the Capital City of Madras State. There are a large percentage of Telugus living in this bilingual city. The need of another Missionary family was very keenly felt. Hence Rev. N. W. Waterbury was designated o Madras, in 1881. He took up the work in Vepery while the Jewetts continued in the Royapuram section. Rev. Waterbury purchased a property in Perambur area and soon began constructing a Church building for the Christians who resided in this section. He could only live till the building was over and his funeral service was held in this newly built Church. This construction still stands as a monument of his work with the name of “ Waterbury Memorial “ – where a second Telugu Baptist Church was organized in 1928, called ‘ Perambur Baptist Church ‘.
From 1878 till 1928 the Madras Telugu Baptist Church, founded by Dr. Jewett, had been a Mobile Church, having her services at different parts of the city on each Sabbath day. As Madras is very vast in area and as Christians were living in different parts of the city without proper conveyances, the idea of a Mobile Church filled a very great need in the life of the Christian Community. It might be that due to want of sufficient space and accommodation, a building project of Churches could not be carried out in this period. However these services were held in the Missionary house at Royapuram, at Waterbury Memorial in Perambur, in the Gantz Road Mission School in Pattalam, and finally in the Missionary Bungalow at Vepery.
In 1895 Rev. A. H. Curtis took up the work in Perambur and started the first Mission Boarding School for the natives in the compound. He was greatly responsible for educating the Telugu youth of Madras and many of them have faithfully served the Mission institutions after finishing their student careers. During this time, the village Churches Kyda, Yerraguntapalem, Gummadipundi and Southperambedu were founded. In all these places, small churches were organized and evangelists were appointed to carry out the evangelistic and scholastic duties.
Miss Miss Julia Bent arrived in Madras in 1912 and took charge of the Schools and women’s work in Madras. She held this post from 1912 to 1932. During her furlough in 1927, Olive E. Jones took charge of her work and continued till 1928. Olive E. Jones belongs to the third period of the history of Missionaries of this Mission. She hails from Minerva in New York State. She landed in India in November 1919 soon after the great World War I. She took her language study and was drafted to work in Nellore to teach mathematics and Bible in the Girls High School Nellore from 1920 to 1925. She then went on her first furlough. She returned to Madras in 1927 and took charge of the 6 Schools and the work of eight Bible women. She adapted herself very well, in a bilingual place like Madras where Telugu and Tamil are the main languages. Under her supervision the Schools in Madras prospered well and made a name for Christian Schools. Parents grew conscious of the fact that Christian Schools imparted not only good education but gave their children good discipline. She conducted monthly meetings for the teachers and supervised the Sunday Schools of the Mission.
From 1928 till 1941, she was in charge of the Girls High School, Nellore and from 1941 to 1944 she held the various posts of Bursar of the American Baptist Mission Hospital and Bible Training School and was in charge of the Boys’ High Schools and Girls’ Training School. During the tenure of her term in charge of the Schools, she helped many deserving to secure higher studies even up to college standard. She was always sympathetic and farsighted and felt that her money would never be wasted if spent on educating these girls. She had a regular provision in her salary budget every month for this particular cause of education, She herself had been a great educationalist, and her experience in this field had given her fine convictions to help these native children. Most of these fortunate girls now hold good positions in life, and are greatly helpful to the Church and its work.
Then came the turning point in her life – when she gave her services entirely to treasury work of the Mission in 1944. She continued from that time till her retirement from active service to be the Treasurer and Attorney of the Mission. This was the first time in the history of the Mission that the mantle of the treasury work fell on a woman and she proved quite worthy of it till she retired from her active service. She possessed the qualities of a man. Her perseverance, grit, honesty and firm convictions are really note worthy. She held this post till July, 1958 and handed over the charge to her worthy successors Rev. & Mrs. William F. Bartlett a very fine energetic and fascinating couple. They have shown already great interest in this work and endeared themselves to many of the native Christians. It is, after a spell of many long years a family with little children could enhance the beauty of Bishop ville.
During her stay in Madras from 1946 onwards as Treasurer and Attorney of the Mission, she also took up the work of Station Missionary and the supervision of the Guest House and King Hostel. Her stay in Madras during this decade reminds us of her many achievements. She attends the Sunday service regularly and she visits all the Churches during a month. She preaches in the Telugu language and gives practical and thought provoking messages. Whenever she hears sermons from the Pulpit, she never misses making a note of any new idea in the course of the sermon. She believed that Church membership should be where she was residing and so had her name brought from her home Church in Minerva. This is really remarkable as most of her colleagues enjoy what is called an honorary membership in her respective local Churches in India. This idea was originally followed by the pioneer Missionaries and Olive Jones copied it faithfully. This idea has helped her to a greater extent to identify herself with the natives of this land and to know most of the underlying problems of the Church. She is shrewd intelligent and understands most of the problems and tries to solve them in her own way. Thus she has been helpful to all the Churches in finding apt solutions and suggestions. She always stands for the truth and defies the wrong even at a great cost. Even if a majority sometimes takes a wrong stand, she will not hesitate to voice with the minority with great conviction, that one day the majority will realize their folly. She takes keen interest in discussing the problems with the respective groups, forgetting sometimes her meal times and sitting for long hours to set right their troubles and solve their respective problems.
She welcomes the visitors and leaves her office and chats with them and after finishing the conversation she always gives a magazine or some book with a remark “ come again “ !. The newly coined phrase “ compound minded “ by the author of “ For this purpose “ does not suit Olive, as she belongs to the third phase of the exodus of Missionaries under the title of organizers. As an organizer, one has to be invariably ‘ eager to seek out the man in need at his work or at his home – at least in his native village ‘. She took great pleasure in visiting Christians living in various parts of the city and mofussil Churches, outside the city of Madras. She thus made personal contact with the people by going to them and sharing their joys and sorrows. She always felt pleased to be relieved of the routine desk work, of discussing, dictating and dispatching the business and official matters of the Mission and Board, and go out to help the persons in need. During her visits to various places she would always be keen in watching the physically afflicted persons and would not hesitate to extend medical help by sending them to hospitals at her own cost. She pays their bills and feels happy to do this piece of service.
She will never miss funeral service of the native Christians and always tries to console the bereaved and share in their sorrows and distresses. By all these personal contacts she has endeared herself with the people wherever she has worked by sharing their sorrows in times of distress and calamity. Sometimes democracy in the Telugu Baptist Churches has been a pathetic failure due to the grabbing of positions in the church and the subsequent mishandling of them. Olive Jones has helped such problems by solving them in her own way by giving her timely and wise counsels. She is always after quality and bestows little care for quantity. She believes in the decentralization of big and unwieldy congregations and in the organization of local Churches serving their respective needs in their respective localities. She is always convinced with the fact that the greater the number of churches, the greater the harvest would be. Many revered Missionaries had tried to organize a good number of Churches in this city, but due to some forces beyond their control, they could only succeed in having two organized Telugu speaking Churches. It is largely during the time of Olive Jones that the record was broken and two more Telugu Baptist Churches could come into being. The Emmanuel Baptist Church is one among them, organized in the Gantz Road Mission School. Olive Jones was the founder of this Church. In face of local opposition and bitter criticisms, she went ahead and laid the foundations of a new Church and named it as Emmanuel Telugu Baptist Church. She saw in a broad vision that decentralization of the existing two big Churches in Madras would be more fruitful. Her experience of 5 years had rightly proved the correctness of her view and we have this day a more than one hundred member congregation.
The Emmanuel Telugu Baptist Church came into existence in 1951 and was organized in 1953. We are happy to record that the Emmanuel Baptist Church was able to elect women office bearers for the first-time and the whole administrative set up of this church is being run entirely by women folk. By this process, we find a great improvement of church finances, and the mutual Christian relationship has also been greatly enhanced. They included in their budget monthly provision for Bible Society and Ramapatnam Theological Seminary and they look after the other aspects of the church work. These women can play a major role in the future Church of India and the men in Indian Churches are forced to realize this fact that women are equal with men in many aspects of life.
Whenever representatives from the Foreign Board or distinguished visitors from abroad came to Madras, Olive Jones gave them an opportunity to visit the local churches and gave us the privilege of meeting and exchanging our greetings with them. Miss Hazel F. Shank, Women’s Board Secretary; Marlin D. Farnum, Secretary Mens’ Board; Forest Smith, Treasurer of the Foreign Mission; Miss Rosemary Wilcox from Jamestown Newyork; Dr. G. W. Futtle from Kempese – Belgium Congo; Dr. Kumeth G. Hobert of Berkely California; Rev. Edwin Erickson, Field Secretary of the Mission; Rev. Bixler Davis of Kavali; Miss. M. F. Moran of Kotagiri; Miss G. Brunner of Denmark; Miss Ruth Tharmond of Ramapatnam and many others have visited our church and we had fellowship with them.
Miss Alice E. Jones the visiting sister of Olive has paid a visit to us to have a personal contact with many of us and to have a first hand knowledge of the Churches in India. She came to accompany her retired sister Olive back to their home land. She is a fine person with affable manners and with fascinating expression of appreciation and love for this country. We greatly appreciate her visit to Madras and welcome her in our midst. Here in “ These thirty nine years “ is the expression of gratitude and appreciation of the members and executive committee of the Emmanuel Telugu Baptist Church. We respectfully present this as a souvenir on the eve of her retirement from active service in India. We wish her and her visiting sister bon-voyage and happy prosperous, long retired lives.
We also feel happy to record our appreciation and expression of our gratitude to the American Baptist Foreign Mission and every Church and individual in that great continent of America, who have helped in this noble cause of bringing the Light of Christ to the darkness of sin and ignorance. The American Telugu Baptist Foreign Mission has had one hundred and twenty two years of useful and faithful existence in the Andhra area of South India. India may well be proud of the Baptist Mission. It is our fervent hope and prayer that God, in His goodness will help the work of our Mission more and more in the years to come. We are mightily proud of the great men and women who have laboured tirelessly and zealously in God’s vineyard in this part of the world. They have given their best – their time, their energy and the best years of their life. We shall always remember them prayerfully and hope that God will bless them abundantly and give them good health and long life in their days of retirement.