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   ThBubblthat did noBurst!

 

As I prepared for my journey, a small bubble appeared in my brain which started swelling  up  till  it  gave  me a headache.  It was  nothing  but  an  idea  to  sell  New Testaments and gospel portions during travel in the train. I usually took five gospels, which I managed  to sell to those I testified. But this was going to be different. I planned to walk through the compartment and sell. And I was travelling alone with all freedom to go crazy for God without embarrassing my travel companions.

Will the bubble burst?

 I could have taken a handbag for my one day trip from Berhampur to Chennai and back. Instead I decided to take the airbag. I tossed my few belongings in one corner and loaded the bag with New Testaments and Gospel packets. I wasn’t so sure of myself. I hesitated to tell my husband to pray for the sales, in case I returned with the whole lot! Will the boom idea fizzle out? Will the bubble burst? Stifling self-doubt assailed me. “Alright”  I thought. “I’ll pray for courage. If God doesn’t give me the courage I don’t lose anything by bringing them all back.” It was as simple as that. As a missionary I should not hesitate to carry literature, leave alone selling it. It took some time for me to convince myself that failure is no shame. It is often the first lesson in an enterprise. When people are selling peanuts and cigarettes what is so indecent about selling books? Slowly confidence started trickling in. I practiced once or twice how to react to a slap on the face. I had vanquished the worst enemy of all, the voice in the back of my head that urged me to give up the idea.

A clean headstart

 I was given a berth in the cabin which was vacant but for me and the Travelling Ticket Examiner. As the train chugged out, I muttered my usual journey prayer, took out the literature and arranged them in my berth. For once I wished I was a man. The TTE’s gaze  focussed  on  the books. He picked  out a Telugu  New Testament  and flipped the pages. I murmured, “Lord, please encourage me,” and said, “Sir, take one. It is very good. It’s only two rupees.” He immediately put the book to his eyes and worshiped it in the traditional Hindu way. “Yes, I’ll finish my duty and come.” My spirit picked up.

 

As he left, I could see four mischievous youth sitting opposite, through the door that was ajar. I eyed them with trepidation. You never can guess the reaction of youth. “Anyway,” I thought, “my God has given me a headstart. Why should I hesitate?” With that, not allowing my brain to think, I got up with a pile of literature in my arms like a school girl. “Have you seen these books? They are very good. Just see.” I pressed a sample of each on them. They smiled and reluctantly scrutinized the pages. The beautiful print of colourful flowers on the Bible Society New Testament seemed to attract them. “The Message of Love,” one read aloud. “I’ll take one. How much?”

 

“The big one is rupees two and the packet 25 paise.”

 

His eye widened. “Two rupees? Twenty five rupees?” He stuttered. “Oh, no, no, 25 paise.”

“You mean all in this pack? This one only two rupees?”

 

“Yes, We want everyone to read this wonderful message. We don’t want anyone to miss it. So we are selling it at this price.”

 

They grabbed some more from my hand. “Any other book you got?” When I said no, they took one English New Testament, one Telugu and a Telugu gospel packet and I proceeded.

 

Some looked at me up and down, some turned their faces the other way about waving their hands. But some showed interest and bought. Some saw the books and returned them politely. In that multilingual crowd. I could not cater to all. Some asked for Tamil or Malayalam or Hindi. When one person asked if I made my livelihood by selling books, I said, “No. This book changed my life. So I am buying and selling it without profit.” I could hear him announce in the adjacent section, “Her life was changed by reading the books. So she is selling it.” That was a good advertisement indeed. Thereafter I used it as an introduction effectively.

 

“Some   mocked,    while   others   said:   We   will   hear   you   again   on   this matter...However,  some men joined him and believed, among them, Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named   Damaris and others with them” (Acts 17:34). I was looking for my Dionysiuses and Damarises.

From TTEs to Vendors

 I returned to my berth. A little later the TTE came and promptly bought one and settled down to read. Soon two more of his colleagues and another joined him for a conversation at the top of their lungs. He pressed his friends to buy the book recommending, “This book will make you very happy.” He bought me a coffee in spite of my loud protests. Two of them bought New Testaments. Greatly encouraged by what the Lord was doing I picked up courage and started offering the books to all. Remarkable was the banana vendor who bought a packet and left a bunch of bananas for me. I kept calling, “Please, no, I can’t take so many, I don’t need.” He just said, “Keep it” and walked away. A coffee man bought one. The one selling meals tickets was all smiles when I offered to sell him something, and of course, bought one. Seeing people buy, one standing in the platform at a station stretched in his hand and bought one. To my utter amazement many started to read then and there.

Silent Night, Holy Night!

 I  was  pleased  to  know  that  the  first  youths  to  buy watched  over  my luggage faithfully during my brief odyssey. When the dust settled and I was alone in the cabin a young man came in and sat opposite to me. “I am a Moslem.” Lub dub went my heart. “But I believe only in Jesus Christ.” My heart quietened down. I explained to him the way of salvation and he went away gratefully. A mother and daughter got into

 

the cabin for the night and bought a gospel packet. I talked to them in whatever Telugu  I  could  speak  and  whatever  English  they  could  understand.  I  had  the opportunity  to  explain  salvation  to  quite  a  few.  Night  another  TTE  got  in.  He promised to come back after duty and buy. Though I was very sleepy and doubted if he would come (because the a.n. TTE promised to come and didn’t turn up!), still I kept awake while the train slept. Around 10.15 he returned to buy his share and I nestled into a silent night, holy night. A tremendous joy filled my heart that so much of my Lord’s words had gone into the world and into hearts. To many States in many languages! The bubble did not burst!

Stage or Street?

 I walked 25 years down the memory lane when I used to timidly hand over a few tracts. Then I started to sell one or two gospels which grew to four or five. My heart would bleed at the sea of faces that surged through the stations, cine theatres and festivals  and  I  would  weep.  There  I was,  counting  one,  two,  three  when  tens of thousands were sliding into hell! How to reach the masses?

 I  sincerely prayed  to  God  that He would make me a mighty healer  or terrific miracle worker, so I could sway the multitudes and tell them that Jesus is the Saviour. I gave Him my word of honour to be humble if He did. I expected God to wave His magic wand over me and transform me into a Cinderella. Oh, I am glad He didn’t do that. Now I understand why. He doesn’t need a big-wig to reach the world. If so, Jesus would have done that. He needs twelve ordinary apostles who are fisherfolk and tax collectors who would be happy to follow Him just to become fishers of men. He needs seventy disciples who will not be ashamed to throw a bag over their shoulders and go about  distributing  tracts,  selling  the  gospels  and  New  Testaments,  sowing  God’s Word. He needs 120 men and women who will obey His voice and wait in the upper room to have their ego burnt up by holy fire. He needs 3000 and 5000, smitten in their hearts by the need of the world, who will cry, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” The world is more in need of “untalented” folk without a degree, who will roll up their sleeves and be at the job unnoticed, uncredited, committed to fill the earth with the Word of God as the waters cover the sea.

 

Today I wouldn’t trade the street life for the flamboyant stage life. Our problem is misplaced priorities. All our pulpit-pounding and sermon-screaming are not going to touch the non-Christian population. Don’t try to be a hero for zero. Become a zero for our Hero. Let’s gravitate  to the old method  of, “They filled  Jerusalem  with  their doctrine.” We ignorant doctors and reverends should sit at the feet of the sagacious fisherfolk to earn a degree in evangelism. Today everyone is trying to accomplish something big, not realising that ministry is made up of little things.

 

Uncage the Lion

 

I never thought the solution to the masses would be so simple. Flood the floods with the gospels. Let the Bible loose. But who will do it? Here we are, a crowd of untalented people, who need no more talent than a peanut vendor to finish the job. Are you one among the 5000? Then find a companion and get cracking. Time is running

 

out for our country. Let the Lion loose into the crowds and He’ll get the job done in a jiffy.  His  Word  shall not  return  void.  Let  His  Word  silently invade  our  land  of horoscopes and astrology, and take root. One day when the enemies wake up they’ll find it too big a banyan tree to uproot. We must always be two steps ahead of the enemy.

 

Not enough!

 

On my return journey I decided to try my luck with whatever was left. The TTE who promised to come after duty and was dissolved into the crowd. Not being so sure of him  I continued  to sell and  exhausted  the English  stock.  After some hours he suddenly surfaced in front of me and hurriedly pulled out a 50 rupee note from his pocket. “The English one please.”

I blinked. “Sir, I’m sorry I’ve exhausted all.” His face fell. “But I told you, I’d come.”

“Sir, please give your address, I’ll send it by post.”

 

“It’s O.K. You’ll be travelling by this train again, isn’t it?”

 

Obviously he thought I was a commuter. With that he walked off, visibly disappointed. I kicked myself for not bringing more. I returned home with a beatific smile and a flaccid bag.

 

After this experience I go into a selling spree anytime,  anywhere.  I sell in my dreams too. Sometimes we go as a team and sell in front of schools, busy corners or markets. They sell like hot-cakes and books just flow into the crowds. With literacy increasing by leaps and bounds, I believe this is the open sesame to world evangelisation.

 

Lessons learnt

 

We must never assume before attempting. We must boldly try out any inspiration God  gives.  Often  we decide   prematurely that  it  would  never  work out.  We  are ensnared in the web of our own thinking, trapped so cleverly and so completely. We become intimidated and end up defeated. God cannot give big visions to those who do not implement their small ideas. Don’t assume such and such a person will not buy. The most unexpected buy.

 

Opposition is more a scare than a reality. It is a Phantom who threatens always but rarely makes his appearance. (Neh 6:10-13). When you “sell” literature it becomes more respectable than when you give something free and no one can object to it. It is up to them to decide. You are not forcing anyone anyway.

 

People everywhere are thirsty to know God and the way to eternal life.

 

You don’t need to be a deluxe edition to be an useful vessel for God. You need no talent to evangelise  your area this way. You don’t even need to wait to learn the language.

 

Hold  on  to  the  encouragements  than  counting  the  discouragements. Discouragement is the very paw of the devil over the saint. It has hamstrung many stallions of God.

 

Be smartly dressed as the representatives of the Most High God. More than one person enquired about my ticket and showed me respect when I said I held one. Since then I use my best saris for the train.

 

Wear a cheerful disposition that will speak for what you believe and tempt people to buy. I thrust a gospel packet into the hands of undecided folks and tell them, “Just open and see. It’s only 25 paise. It changed my life. I am so happy now.” Most fall for it. You can’t allow somebody to go to hell just because he wants to. He doesn’t know where he’s going. You’ve got to stop him.

 

We learn humility. We meet various people showing various reactions but all compounded with the joy of some buying. It prepares us for the heat and dust of raw evangelism.  One  gentleman  offered  Rs.  10/-  “for  the  cause.”  I  felt  humiliated especially because all eyes were focussed on me. My first reaction was to return it with a, “No, thanks. I am well placed in life.” But he gave it “for the cause,” not for me. So I politely accepted it with thanks.

 

I meet Protestants, Catholics, believers, servants of God and briefly fellowship with them. We can identify earnest seekers and help them.

Don’t be unenthusiastic and then blame God. Pray and expect miracles. Once I was left with 6 Oriya New Testaments and 7 gospel packets. I waited for the last but one station where many Oriyas boarded. Then I went selling but returned disappointed having sold none. Suddenly a Tamilian Hindu security guard sitting opposite to us for nearly 6 hours, chatting and seeing the books extended his arm and asked for an Oriya NT. “I’ll give it to my Oriya Officer. He is a voracious reader.” Handing over I said, “Good, even cheaper ones are there. Just 25 pasie.” He took all the 7 saying he would give to his Oriya friends who  were fond of reading, we alighted  in the next few minutes. Praise the Lord! Oh how I was longing to get them into Oriya hands!

 

If you sell one 25 paise packet to one person, it is equivalent to spending half a day with him telling him the story of Jesus and the way to eternal life in all detail, for it contains the gospel of Mark and John and a few tracts.

 

It trains us up in boldness. I had a mountain of shyness. But God has been chiseling it away bit by bit and is still doing it. What is this chipping away process? Everytime the Holy Spirit nudges you to shed off a little shyness and do something — obey promptly. Till today every time I sell, I see saw. I take out the books, put them back in. I unzip the bag and zip it up again. Then suddenly I refuse to think, gather the books in my arms and start walking, praying. I tell myself, “Who am I? I am a dead dog, a patridge, a flea, a worm.” Though I don’t feel like one, I brainwash myself, repeating the slogan.

The disappointed face of the TTE with the drawn out 50 rupee note still haunts me. Will someone sell him a New Testament in the Coramandel Express?


   Address for Correspondence & Contributions:

Lilian Stanley
13 Church Colony
Vellore 632006, India
Tel: +91 9843511943
Email: lilianstanley@gmail.com

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