By Brian Tubbs
Olney Baptist Church
OLNEY, Md.–Six people recently returned to Montgomery County, Md., from India, where they spent the better part of December spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ and ministering to orphans, lepers, and men and women living in dire poverty. Through their efforts, the Holy Spirit moved and thirty men, women, and children prayed to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
All six members of the missions team are members of Olney Baptist Church and went as part of a missions trip organized by Salvation Streams, a Christian ministry involved in advancing the gospel of Jesus Christ while also feeding the hungry and distributing clothes among the poor and needy in the rural parts of India.
Ralph Mallela, who coordinated the missions trip, says the needs in south India are “absolute and urgent.” Mallela formed Salvation Streams, a missions outreach ministry, over 20 years ago to address the situation directly. Over the years, he has enlisted the help of many churches in India and also in the United States, including most recently Olney Baptist Church, where he and his family began to worship over a year ago. “It is sometimes not easy to convince people in America of the needs in India,” says Mallela. “The reason is that today’s western world only looks at the brighter side of India, as one of the economically and technologically fastest growing nations. But the fact is, half of India’s population are still illiterate and living in the remote and neglected villages, having no minimum living conditions. These poor people are often seen half naked, exposing their bodies to burning sun, rain and all kinds of diseases.”
The Olney Baptist Church missions team included Ralph Mallela’s wife, Anu Mallela, their two teenage children, Anuraag Mallela and Aashikaa Mallela, and also the OBC pastor, Brian Tubbs, and choir director, Dee Barnett. The team made several stops in India, including to an orphanage and a leper colony in the Indian port city of Kakinada. At the orphanage, they gave gifts to the kids — gifts which had been collected and prepared by families at Olney Baptist Church. According to Mallela, India has the largest number of estimated orphans in the world. One of the tragedies affecting many of the kids in the Kakinada orphanage that the OBC team visited was the December 2004 tsunami that ravaged Southeast Asia, killing over 150,000 people. Tens of thousands of homes were destroyed. Millions were displaced, and many children became orphans that day. Some of those children live at the orphanage the OBC team visited.
At the leper colony, the team distributed blankets and rice, while also making financial contributions to its residents. “In India, people with leprosy are considered the untouchables of society,” explained Mallela. “No one has a desire to have any contact with them and their only means of income is begging. We travel to the leper colony bringing bags of rice as well as clothes and blankets to show them the love of Jesus Christ.”
The OBC team also spent time ministering to the people of Yerakauram Village in Andhra Pradesh. There, they provided food and clothing while singing with the villagers and spending time with them, especially the women and children of the village. “While the people of Yerakauram feel so blessed just by having a mere water pump in their
village, they really don’t know what they don’t have,” explained Barnett, a member of the OBC team. “Their hearts are filled with love for the Lord, and they sing like angels. We went to minister and serve, were overwhelmed with all we saw, and returned blessed beyond measure!”
In addition to their work with the orphanage, village, and leper colony, the OBC missions team participated in a Christmas concert in the port city of Kakinada. Organized by Salvation Streams, the concert reached over 3,000 people and featured a 200-person choir led by Barnett. Pastor Tubbs spoke at the event, and thirty people received Jesus Christ as their Savior during the invitation!
“It was a wonderful time – a life-changing experience,” said Barnett.