The author of this article, Bernel Getter, attended Minnesota Bible College, married a classmate in 1947, and set sail for India in January 1948.
A obituary of 2019 states: “Bernel Getter, with his faithful wife Sally Joan McNamara, worked for 66 years to build schools and churches, develop sports programs, launch agricultural, health and nutrition initiatives, dig drinking water wells, train mechanics and most. it is important to preach the Gospel.
Joan Getter died in 2005 at the age of 78. (We posted it obituary that year.) Bernel Getter died at age 93.
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The biggest enemy of Christianity in India
By Janice Turner
October 3, 1953; p. 7
“Confessionalism is the greatest enemy of Christianity in India. »
This is how the missionary Bernel Getter says it, clearly and without varnish. “Confessionalism is a deadlier enemy than Hinduism, Mohammedanism or any other indigenous religion,” he adds.
“In almost every village,” he told the Midwest audiences he spoke to this summer and fall, “men come to me and ask, ‘Sahib, are you from the German mission or the Roman mission?’ And when I say neither, that I’m just a Christian, they say, “What?” Another group too? How can we know what to believe if you missionaries don’t even agree among yourselves?
Bernel Getter, a young missionary from Wisconsin who is on leave after five years in central India due to a severe case of malaria, believes sectarianism is even more virulent in India than in the United States. . Sometimes, far from the restrictive influence of a church or a missionary committee, Indian confessionalism takes strange forms.
“For example,” he says, “when we Christian missionaries began to have more converts in the Sarguja district, a faith group told the natives that thousands of people had drowned while being baptized. And now, in every new village in which we preach, we hear this question: “Sahib, is there a great risk of drowning if I am baptized?” »
Another example he talks about is that of Obadiah Kuzur, an Indian denominational preacher for thirty-five years. But Preacher Kuzur understood his Bible better than his own denomination, Getter said. When Getter and his New Testament colleagues arrived at the village of Kumur, the dignified old preacher welcomed them as brothers and invited them to stay at his home. This gesture, however, irritated his superiors, who sharply reprimanded him. Brother Kuzur was perplexed and hurt: shouldn’t a Christian be hospitable? And after long discussions with Christian preachers, he made his decision. “You men,” he said, “represent what I have aspired to be for many years: a Christian only. » He was baptized and now preaches the gospel according to the New Testament.
Another recent example is that of the entire congregation of a small village called Chichinda, a group that was “excommunicated” after refusing to pay ten rupees a month to the church’s central office. “We find nothing of such payments in the Bible,” the members fiercely insisted, and soon afterward they became a New Testament church. Excommunication, adds Brother Getter; poses a grave threat to the average Indian denominationalist, as it means he will be buried outside the cemetery walls. Many have the idea that this also means he will be excluded from paradise.
Brother Getter is one of twelve Christian missionaries in the hilly central region of India around Bilaspur, where Mr. and Mrs. Harry D. Schaefer started their mission in 1913. Mr. Getter, his wife and two young children children live in Katni, although in fact it is only there five months a year. The rest of the time, he travels by jeep or motorbike to remote villages, some of which have never heard the Gospel.
The focus is now on the Sarguja district, one of the last frontiers open to Christ in India. Lutheran and Catholic missionaries are also active in the district, and there is much opposition from indigenous religions. But Getter and his colleagues are aided by a team of thirty indigenous preachers trained in an intensive Bible course in January, February and March. These young men have no language difficulties and can quickly gain the trust of their listeners because they too are Indian.
A favorite evangelistic procedure is for Getter and a native worker to go to a village in Sarguja on market day, when everyone is already gathered in the market. The jeep is parked, pictures of biblical scenes are hung everywhere, and the two men begin to preach. Often a magic lantern presentation of the life of Christ is given at night. When the road becomes nothing more than a path through the jungle, Getter and his assistant travel by motorbike. In some places they have had to abandon preaching on market days because of the dangerous hostility of some native fanatics, but the work continues ever more quietly through personal evangelism.
The men of a village are always contacted first. If the men convert first, they will also bring their wives into the church. But if women come to Christ before their husbands, they will usually be thrown out of the house.
Getter and his colleagues are currently very concerned about the official attitude towards foreign missionaries in India. There is currently a feeling of friendship toward the social worker, but the new missionary who only plans to preach is not welcome. Some entry permits have already been refused.
The Getters plan to return to India next April. (Mr. Getter’s malaria was stopped by a new treatment at the Mayo Clinic shortly after his return to the United States.) They hope to take with them enough financial support for 100 indigenous preachers, who receive a living stipend of 10 dollars per month. The Getters have immense affection and sympathy for the Indian people, who live decently and self-respectingly with very few means, and who often accept the Word and will of God with a zeal rarely seen in this country.
Getter likes to talk about one such convert, a young man named Prabhu Das Ekka, who, until his baptism a year ago, had no hope of life after death. His religion was a curious and rather informal mixture of nature worship and fear of evil spirits, and he embraced the Christian faith with fervent enthusiasm. From the beginning, he wanted to have his own Bible. But Missionary Getter had exhausted his reserves, so it was not until October, four months later, that he was available.
About ten weeks later, Prabhu Das Ekka enrolled in the class of thirty native men that Mr. Getter was training to take the Gospel to their own people. Even though most of these men had been Christians much longer than Prabhu, it was almost always he who raised the first hand when a question of biblical reference was asked. This continued throughout the three months of the course.
Finally, after his star student answered a particularly difficult question, Missionary Getter asked, “Prabhu Das Ekka, what part of your new Bible have you read yet?”
The young man seemed surprised. “How much? Well, all of it, Sahib – from Genesis to Revelation once, and parts of the New Testament several times.
Prabhu Das Ekka, Mr. Getter explains, is not a typical Indian convert. He is a ten-talented man among many five-talented men and many one-talented men. But sometimes the same zeal that ignites Prabhu spreads throughout an entire Indian congregation. When that happens, Getter says, the results are dramatic.
Chichinda Church is an example. There the council of elders meets every afternoon after their work is finished, and the topic of discussion is always this: “Where shall we go to preach Christ this evening?” »
There are invariably as many answers to this problem as there are men present. An elder says he has cousins in a nearby village who have never heard of Christ – surely they should tell them the good news. Oh no, says another elder, insisting that they visit his wife’s brother in another village, because he has a very large family who could convert in one go. And so the discussion goes.
The issue was eventually resolved, Getter said, by dividing the group. And so they set out, on foot and in twos and threes, to spread the gospel much like Paul and Silas did in the first century AD.
“I wish,” Mr. Getter told his Midwestern audience with a bit of nostalgia, “that some American congregations could be at Chichinda one evening to watch these men leave. I think they would then understand that to win the world for Christ, every Christian must be a missionary.