A Faith That is Alive
Several times over the years, my husband and I have hosted foreign visitors in our home. Most of our visitors have come to us through Rotary exchanges or sponsored educational programs. One of our guests was a gracious young man from India. I can’t recall his name at the moment, but one particular interaction we had with him continues to stand out in my memory. We were taking a walk together on a lovely day in the town where we lived, and the subject of church came up in our conversation. Our visitor didn’t seem particularly religious, and while his conversation was polite, he didn’t show a great deal of interest in the topic of where we attended church. In fact, he’d never heard of Presbyterians. But when I happened to mention that I’d grown up in a Baptist church, his face lit up and he stood up straight, and said, “Ah! Baptists! Printing Press!”
Our guest told us that Baptists had brought the printing press to India. While I’ve since learned that this is not exactly true (it appeared much earlier), what is correct is that a Baptist mission in Serampore in West Bengal was well-known for its printing operation in the early 1800’s. The Serampur Mission Press was founded by British Baptist missionaries William Carey and William Ward. Over the course of its thirty-year operation, it printed more than 200,000 books, which was a significant number for that time. In addition to religious works – including translation of the Bible into 25 different Indian vernaculars – the Serampur Mission Press published textbooks for schools. In fact, this was its major activity and what it’s most remembered for by many in India. While the printing of Bibles goes hand-in-hand with evangelizing, this mission press had a broad cultural vision of what was possible. It played a role in helping to educate Indian citizens toward achievement of their potential in every facet of life.
The writer of the New Testament book of James reminds us that action to meet human need must accompany any claim we may have to a Christian faith: “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,’ and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?” James 2:14-16, NRSV
James goes on to say that “faith without works is dead.” In other words, work that helps to meet the needs of others serves as evidence of a personal faith in Christ that is alive and real. Just like the Baptists who are remembered in India for helping to advance education, Hebron Presbyterian Church is involved in ministries that will have far-reaching consequences in the nation of Niger. Among these is Hebron’s Niger Child Education mission, which provides scholarships for children to receive a quality education in a Christian setting. This will be our 3rd year to provide these scholarships. Many have given generously to this mission, and we are grateful. I invite you to consider supporting this education ministry through Hebron Presbyterian Church. You can pick up a brochure at the church, or contact our office at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our goal is to have scholarships secured by mid-September for the coming school year in Niger.