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From remote villages to over-populated mega cities, this new UCG short film explores the Church’s grassroots efforts in bringing the message of the gospel to India. In this travel documentary you’ll follow pastor David Schreiber and his wife, Jolinda, on their 12-day journey through India.
[Jamie] Hi, I’m Jamie, a filmmaker from Cincinnati, Ohio with the United Church of God. That’s me on the right. I’ve loved cameras ever since I was a kid, and now I get to travel and shoot video professionally. God is good. I recently had the opportunity to follow David and Jolinda Schreiber as they toured India and met with subscribers of Beyond Today Magazine and TV program. By the way, they’re also my parents. We covered a lot of land in twelve days. Each city we visited had a story, and now I would like to share my adventure with you.
This is India. India is the second-largest nation in the world, with a population of 1.25 billion. It’s one-third the land size of the U.S., with more than three times the population. There are people everywhere. India has twenty-nine states, and each state has its own language. Actually, there are over 1000 different languages spoken in India. However, only 150 languages have a sizable speaking population. We are travelling during the summer month of May, and temperatures are known to reach up to 109 degrees. I met up with Dave and Jolinda in Minneapolis, Minnesota. From Minneapolis we flew to New York City. From New York we caught the international flight to Dubai. We missed our Dubai connection, sat six hours in the airport, and took the 2 a.m. flight out. And after a 36-hour journey, we arrived safely in Chennai, India.
This is the Kapaleeshwar, a temple built in the seventh century to honor the god Shiva. Shiva is one of the three main deities of Hinduism, and Hinduism is the main religion here in India. Christians make up only 2.3 percent of this country.
[David] We’re here in Chennai, India, and we’re about to begin the first of several Beyond Today meetings, where we begin to get together with subscribers of the Beyond Today magazine.
[Jamie] Dave gives a message about Christ’s second coming.
[David] What are some of the things that it says here in 1 Thessalonians chapter 4? It says there’s going to be what? What’s going to happen? What do we read here? There’s going to be a shout. Oaky, so is it going to happen secretly? No. There’s going to be – what else does it say in the Scripture? The voice of an archangel.
[Jamie] We depart early the next morning and hop a train from Chennai to Chirala. It took about five hours and there was no warning when the stop came up. And yes, you can see straight to the tracks from the first class bathroom. Chirala is on the Bay of Bengal. Dave meets with a man named G.P. Samuel. G.P. is a Sabbath keeper from way back. He has a small group that he instructs. He often uses UCG materials to teach his people. The children attack me and follow me everywhere because many of them have never seen a white person before. My mother and I visit several members’ homes, which are located very close to the church property. The members don’t have much, but each one of them invited us in to sit and have tea or Thums Up cola.
[David] We’re here in India and it’s the Sabbath and we’re on our way to a city called Gudivada. We’re going to meet a man there by the name of Joseph Usala who we’ve seen – probably this is about our third time that we’ve had a chance to visit with him. And he’s arranged for a couple of meetings today with some ministers in the region. So that’s what’s going to be happening today, and we hope and pray that God will inspire everything that takes place.
[Jamie] This is Joseph Usala. Five years ago, he was the interpreter for Dave when he spoke to a group about the Sabbath. From this experience, Joseph began to keep the Sabbath himself, and the Holy Days shortly after. He is now fully on board.
[David] …want to go up to the mountain of God and learn His ways.
[Jamie] Joseph invited seventy pastors in the local area to meet with Dave. Some keep the Sabbath, and some observe Sunday.
[David] …talk about the God of this Bible. We’re going to talk about the God that’s in this Bible. And God says in the next verse, verse 12, He says, “When you call upon Me and pray to Me, I will listen to you”.
[Jamie] Afterwards, Joseph takes us to a small orphanage. He runs the place. While at the orphanage, I interviewed Joseph about his calling and his relationship with United Church of God.
[Joseph] In 2012, pastor David Schreiber has come to India and I help translate these messages. And it was very inspiring. And he has preached about the Saturday Sabbath day, and as I had been studying the Bible, I came to know that the Sabbath day is not on Sunday, it is on Saturday.
[Jamie] Joseph invites us for tea at his home. Hot tea is big in India. I don’t understand how they drink this stuff when it’s over 100 degrees, but it’s a thing. I take a walk around the neighborhood with my camera and Joseph’s son accompanies me. This is his son, Robin. He’s on the far left. He stays by my side the whole time and tells me which streets are good, and which streets the bad men live on – his words. Robin’s friends come up from various houses and I’m introduced to them as “the American”. Around every corner there’s something new to see – a cameraman’s paradise.
An hour drive from Gudivada is Vijayawada.
[David] Today we’re in Vijayawada, which is the capital city of the state of Andhra Pradesh in India, and in this particular area of India, there’s quite a few Sabbath-keeping groups. This’ll be our fourth trip here, and our numbers have been steadily growing each time. We’re going to be having a couple of meetings today – one in the morning, we’ll have a break for lunch, and then one this afternoon. So we’re really hoping and praying that God will continue to open the hearts and the minds of the people to His truth.
[Jamie] Four years ago, Dave held a Beyond Today seminar in this city. Four men showed up. The next year there were twelve, and last fall, eighteen. And now, twenty-three.
[David] The gospel of the kingdom of God would be a good one. God says there are certain things that He requires of His sons and daughters. First of all, He says to “fear the Lord your God”, which should also mean honor and respect Him.
[Yakobu] My father knows a little bit understanding of the Holy Days through the booklet called [Holidays and Holy Days]. Through that he learned many things. And also he learned me what is the truths in Bible through the use of the literature.
[Jamie] It’s 4:45 a.m. We have the first slight out to Vishakhapatnam. From Vishak we travel about an hour to a small village. Eight pastors who have recently come to the understanding of the Sabbath and the Holy Days are waiting for us. They all lost many members when they began to teach about God’s Sabbath, but told me, “We would no longer worship God on the wrong day.” Dave and Jolinda tell a Bible story to some of the children before the study.
[Jolinda] Kind of like India, right? Not everyone here obeys God, right?
[Jamie] Two years ago, there was a devastating cyclone that destroyed a lot of this village. Some of the members take us to a construction site where the new church hall is being rebuilt. Three thousand US dollars is needed to complete it. They meet here now, with no roof.
[David] Now, Jesus Christ was baptized. Why did He have to be baptized?
[Srikanth] I came from the Sunday-keeper. I don’t know what is Sabbath. I don’t know festivals. I don’t know all of that. Four years back, one of my friend invite to the conference. David Schreiber explained about the Sabbath, all of the festivals. He telling of the truth and also showing the Scriptures correctly. He gives some booklets presented by the United Church of God. [Holidays or Holy Days] were some of the booklets there, and also some of the topics he presented freely.
[Jamie] Men work six days a week in India. And children also go to school Monday through Saturday. This makes it extremely difficult to keep the Sabbath.
[Ezekiel] Being in the Christian community is a minority and we don’t really – the government doesn’t consider Christians to be on priority to give them a holiday on Saturday, for keeping the Sabbath – as well as the children don’t get holidays and they have to go loss of pay for whatever holidays they take.
[Raja-Paul] India is a country of so many religions and the government don’t want to allow the Christians to preach the gospel in India.
[Jamie] From Vishak, we travel by plane to Hyderabad. There are 10.1 million people living here. Hyderabad is the state capital and a huge tech hub. There are many Beyond Today magazine subscribers here. Jolinda sets out booklets and materials before the meeting. Dr. Samuel and his wife, Asha, are the first to arrive.
[David] Yeah, we want God to open up the doors where He wants the doors open for fellowship.
[Jamie] They recently wrote the Home Office, requesting to be a part of United Church of God, and asked if we had a church in Hyderabad. They have become convicted of the Sabbath and the Holy Days, but feel very alone in this country.
[Dr. Samuel] We were under the belief that Christ has fulfilled all the law, so there is no more any importance given to Sabbath day or the seventh day of the week. But never, ever I realized that Sabbath truth is still into existence. It so happened – I just happened to browse through YouTube, searching for some good Christian messages, so accidentally – I believe it is the plan of God – but as far as United Church and Beyond Today TV is concerned, we are come to know about them in 2014. So we have watched almost all of their messages, we have downloaded the messages, we watch them on a regular basis on TV and my home, also. Not only myself, but my wife, my daughter – now we are all three Sabbath-keepers. We have come to know the truth about the wrong doctrine called Trinity, and we have come to know more about the kingdom of God.
[Jamie] Three others join the meeting. They are eager to learn and so happy to meet likeminded people in their city. The meeting concludes with the hope of starting a home church at Dr. Samuel’s residence.
Morning comes early again, and we leave for the airport in a rush. We have the 6 a.m. flight to Mizoram with a short layover in Calcutta. The state of Mizoram is unlike any place I’ve been to before. It’s also unlike any place in India. The airport is very small. There is only one flight from Calcutta each day. The motel is about an hour and a half drive from the airport on a long, narrow, winding road. The scenery was amazing and my eyes were overloaded with the people and culture. Old wooden homes sit teetering on the cliff’s edge. Two years ago, there was a landslide that completely demolished a section of the road, making it unpassable.
[David] Those are some pretty big boulders.
[Jamie] They’re still digging out. This is P.C. Lulvuana. His group has adopted all the fundamental beliefs of the United Church of God. In 2012, they changed the name of their group from “Church of God Israel” to “United Church of God of Mizoram”. Mizoram has three congregations, totaling 175 members. This is Joseph. He’s a deacon in their church. He’s a big help to P.C. in spreading the gospel message in their country.
[Joseph] We want to proclaim to all. We want to preach the gospel. So our best way is to introduce the United Church of God, an International Association. Because they have very good study materials. And we translate a few of their booklets in Mizo. And apart from that translating, we also distribute booklets like this kind of booklets we have given to the interested person. In that way we use to proclaim the true gospel of Kingdom.
[Jamie] The next morning we hop into two taxis and go visit the locals. This is Aizawl, a city in the mountains. Homes are stuck to the side like honeycomb. We go from house to house meeting different Sabbath-keepers that have been trying to live God’s way. Some started learning about God’s truth from the Worldwide Church of God’s study materials years ago, and have held fast. P.C.’s goal is to unite this scattered flock under one umbrella, so they can work together to share God’s message.
[David] The Sabbath-keeping groups that are here are very interested in the United Church of God. They’ve invited some Church of God Seventh Day members to join us at services today. So we’re really looking forward to having a chance to meeting these people.
[Jamie] Around 120 show up Saturday for church. We have services in a rented hall with 3 different Sabbath-keeping groups. Their passion for music and praising God was impressive. A lot of these people had never met each other before, so it was nice to see connections being made.
Today is my last day in India. Our flight to Calcutta leaves at noon. Several of the guys wanted to accompany us to ensure a safe departure. We load up our bags, cameras, tripod, and a chicken, and head down the mountain.
[Jolinda] Is that a live chicken? What are you doing with him?
[off camera] He’s going on a trip.
[Jolinda] Is he going to die?
[Jamie] About halfway down the mountainside, the right front wheel starts making a terrible sound, so we pull over. They pop the wheel off and replace the brake pads in ten minutes flat. It must be a common problem in this mountain town, since he had new brake pads on hand. We get back on the road and I begin to think about all the things I saw, all the foods I tried, all the people I met. I thought about what I experienced and what I learned from India. I left realizing the difficulties Christians face living in a Hindu country – difficulties of living in a culture that works and goes to school six days a week. But despite the challenges of living in a land with literally millions of gods, it is truly remarkable to find pockets of men and women seeking to know and obey the true God. In the Bible, it tells us to pray, “Thy kingdom come”, and if I’m being honest, this is something I need to do more often. Certainly we all want Christ to return. But the poverty, illness, pollution, false gods of India have given me a new perspective on this verse. We need to pray, “Thy kingdom come” for him, or him, or her. These are the people that need God’s kingdom right now. This is the only hope of a better tomorrow. We need to spend some time reflecting on the pain and sorrow in the world so we can vividly see the need for God to send back Christ, to set up His government, a Kingdom that will yield peace, joy, and abundance.