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History of Pocket Testament League

Pocket Testament League! What in the world is this?

What in the world is the Pocket Testament League? What do you do? Where did you come from? How long have you been around? These are some of the questions that I have had from people over the years.

It all began in 1893, when a young girl of 13 years found new life in Jesus Christ and discovered the power of the Scriptures in her life. Helen Cadbury was the daughter of Richard Cadbury, the founder of Cadbury Chocolates. She was so excited about sharing her faith that she organized a group of girls in her school, who sewed pockets into their dresses to carry the small New Testaments her father had provided. They were united with the simple pledge they made to “read a portion of the scripture daily, carry it with them wherever they went and to use it to share their faith with others”. They called their group “The Pocket Testament League”.

The Pocket Testament League of today is the continuation of that simple vision which Helen had embraced as a young girl and grew over the years to a ministry that has literally impacted millions of lives all over the world.

In 1904, Helen married American evangelist Charles Alexander, who was an associate of Dr. J Wilbur Chapman and the prominent evangelist Dwight L Moody who took Helen’s Pocket Testament League into all the world in their evangelistic campaigns.

In 1914 The Pocket Testament League opened an office in London, and began sharing the scriptures as part of its World War 1 outreach. In October the same year a campaign gave 400,000 New Testaments to soldiers on Salisbury plain.

As World War 2 spread across Europe, it’s impact was felt by the League, too. On December 29. 1941 the League’s International headquarters in Birmingham, England was destroyed by bombs. Throughout the war, League teams were actively involved in visiting military camps sharing the love of Christ and  distributing special editions of New Testaments. As the war ceased evangelistic and scripture distributing efforts were launched in China using special editions of gospels of John in Chinese and a few years later the League was  in Formosa and Japan with the Word of God and a testimony for Jesus. General McArthur, who was in charge of operations in Japan, asked the League for 10 million copies of God’s Word. As a result the witness in Japan, Captain Mitsuo Fuchida, who had led the attack on Pearl Harbour, accepted Christ as his personal Saviour, and he even worked for the League. Evangelists of the League were active in South Korea after the Korean War, “Realizing the power of the inspired Word of God as I do, I eagerly welcome the plan of the Pocket Testament League to distribute millions of copies of the Holy Scriptures in our country”. These were the words of Syngman Rhee, the president of the Republic of Korea.

In 1969 when Helen Cadbury Alexander died, the League that she had started as a young girl had reached and was active in several countries of the World. She had said “If only we can get people to read the Book for themselves it will surely lead them to Christ”.

With the changing scenario across the globe over the years, the methods used by the League evangelists in various countries have evolved to that which is fitting to the nations that they are. However, the vision that Helen started with in 1893 still lives on. The Pocket Testament League is affecting lives in several parts of the globe with their simple methods of evangelism and scripture distribution.

The Pocket Testament League came to India in  the late 1960’s with Kenneth J Anderson, a British Civil Engineer who believed in the power of the written word coupled with personal witness. Though Kenneth was on an assignment with the government, the passion to share his faith with others forced him to look for Christians who would share the same vision with him. The Pocket Testament League was formed in Bombay, and for the first decade it was involved in printing and supplying gospels of John in various languages to churches in the city, to be used in their evangelistic efforts.

The first evangelist was taken on by the League in 1980 with the purpose of networking with various churches using the Scriptures in Bombay and to supply them with Gospels of John whenever they needed. Since this did not take much of his time, this evangelist with the help of friends, started to visit the slums of Bombay for Scripture distribution and evangelism.

The early eighties was a period when strategic changes were happening in the methods used by missions and evangelistic teams who were involved actively in frontline evangelism. The leadership of the League sensed the call of God to change the strategy that had been used for several years and to be involved directly in evangelism, reaching the unreached by using the best available methods in the country. Thus the PTL evangelist was sent to the State of U.P. in the year 1981 and for more than one reason; this was the beginning of a new chapter in the history of Pocket Testament League in India.

The beginning was very humble and low key. With a group of volunteers who shared similar  vision and passion, the first Gospel Team was launched the same year. They had nothing other than a strong faith in the Lord, a deep hunger to know Him and to make Him known to those who had never heard about the love of God in Christ. Together they declared “Reaching the Unreached at any Cost” as their goal for life and pledged to trust God and live by faith.

The first “Gospel Team” consisted of B.K Lukose, Thomas Philip, Sura Mohat, William Nathaniel, Nehemiah Khayi, Rajamony and myself (PC Alexander). We worked on the streets, slept under the trees and faced untold difficulties and challenges as the team moved through the entire stretch of U.P. However the grace of the Lord was experienced by this team and many young people were encouraged to come and join the teams in later days. Though the members of the team came from different States, spoke different languages, raised up under varied circumstances and having very different experiences, the Lord knit this team together with the same passion and vision. (I remember with gratitude to God that the Lord honoured the toils and the sufferings of this team and all of the members are in very blessed and esteemed positions today).

The first major outreach of PTL India was during the 1982 Asiad Games in Delhi.  Under the auspices of “Christian Goodwill for Asiad” (The Christian response to the participants and spectators of the vent). PTL led the distribution and evangelism wing during the Games.

Right up to the end of 1985, the League continued its operation from the back of an old van, but had up to 5 gospel teams at any given time.  The teams consisted mainly of freshmen from various Bible Colleges and new disciples who had a desire to grow in the Lord.  The Lord gave us the current office space the same year and the ministry was registered as a Society in Delhi in 1985.  The next decade witnessed several major evangelistic campaigns mainly in North India.  Each summer we had 10 to 15 teams involved in active evangelism and distribution.  The teams worked in States like U.P, M.P, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and parts of Tamil Nadu during this period.  Over 2500 young people had gone through the discipleship and evangelism training with the Gospel Teams.

Training
Apart from the practical training, the teams also had selected training programmes for the members while on outreach.  However there still was a need for in-depth, systematic training for members who had been on longer commitments with the teams.  Thus the training department was added to the ministry which consisted of “Evangelism”, “Scripture Distribution” and “Discipleship Training”.   In the first class we had 12 students, each of whom were team leaders and had the desire to continue in the ministry.   The first year’s training comprised  of  3 months class room learning and 9 months of field training in a year.  As the years went by, a fully pledged, well balance  and academically appropriate training programme evolved.  Today, Institute of Mission studies is affiliated to the senate of IIM and is running one, two and three years of certificate , Diploma and Bachelors’ courses respectively.  The courses offered at IMS are designed and accomplished in the setting of a growing, vibrant, local fellowship, where the students are integrated to the cell structure o the church and have the opportunity to put in to practice what they learn in the class rooms on a day-to-day basis.  In the last 16 years 178 men and women graduated from the IMS and are serving the Lord in their own country.

National Trainers School

Pioneer Ministry
This was our response to the challenging need we saw in many places as our teams shared the gospel and people responded in obedience to the Lord.  Our evangelists discovered that in a number of places the new believers had no place or no one to go to for further help in discipleship, fellowship and counsel.  We responded in faith by sending evangelists who would go to areas which had no gospel witness of any kind and work for the transformation of that community. 

In 1990, the first team of Pioneer evangelists was sent to N in Haryana, a town with a population of over 30,000 and which had no gospel witness.  From that day we have continued to send evangelists to various needy areas.  Today, PTL India has over 50 pioneer stations in 6 states of the country and across the border.  Each of these stations is impacting an average of 15-20 villages / small towns.  The transformation that has come about through the power of the gospel is very evident in all these stations, affecting every aspect of human life.

The evangelists in various areas meet together monthly for prayer, fellowship and for planning.  Believers in an area meet together once in three months for combined worship, fellowship and for mutual encouragement.  It is a matter of praise to God that some of the ministries in these fields are the first fruits from the fields.  Each of the local congregations is called “Christian Assembly” with the prefix of the name of the town or village.

Christian Schools
Two major challenges faced by the pioneer evangelists forced us to consider starting Christian Schools in rural and undeveloped areas.  They discovered that the level of illiteracy was very high and there were many children who had never been to school (There were three reasons: first there were no schools in most of the places; second it was very far to travel and third many of the parents would rather have their young children join them in farming or other chores than go to school).  PTL workers also saw the backwardness of many of these undeveloped areas which did not even have basic amenities.  We were convinced that the only way to bring about change in the community was to bring basic education right into their situation.  This conviction led us to start Christian Schools in remote areas of U.P.  PTL India now runs 3 schools which have over 900 students getting the benefit of education.  Classes are held in rented buildings and there are several practical challenges but the schools are moving ahead, impacting the communities.  In some areas, the evangelists have started literacy programmes for adults which is also accepted with great interest.  We rejoice in the transformation of communities that has come about as a result of education and getting to know the Lord Jesus.

Prayer Team
The desire t have a team of intercessions was born in 1995 in the hearts of some of the women involved in the ministry.  The objective of this team was and still is, to spend quality time in prayer and intercession.  For the last 13 years this team has faithfully stood in the gap and has won many battles on their knees. The prater team separate 5 hours daily 5 days a week carrying many prayer matters to God.

Ministry of helps
The Lord allowed the League to rise up to challenging situations caused by natural and manmade calamities to extend a helping had to the needy on our own or in partnership with others.  PTL teams were involved actively, even in a small way, in the quake – affected areas of Gujarat; with the Tsunami victims in the south of India and several other situations such as flooding, or releasing people from bonded labour, etc.

Vocational Training
Several women and young girls have obtained tailoring and have been able to stand on their own feet in recent years.  We desire to work jointly with communities providing such training and helping people to be able to support themselves.

How did it all happen?  What is the driving force behind the ministry of the Pocket Testament League (India)? In simple obedience and by faith a handful of men and women who were willing to fulfill the purpose of God in their generation were united together in oneness of hear and close to make a difference in a community.  We have been supported strongly by a handful of godly men who constitute the PTL India Board of Directors and by a host of men and women who believe in the power of prayer.  If I were to give names of all those who were involved in his journey with us, it would be a very, very long list.  So I do not venture to mention any, but there are many hundreds, who in obedience to the Lord and the vision of reaching the unreached stood with us through thick and thin.  They stood with us in prayer, with their financial support, godly-wise counsels, walking together with us when needed, and encouraging us in every way.  Some of these precious lives have finished their race and have been promoted to the presence of the Lord.  (We salute them and pause to say “thank you” for the work well done and completed.  We know we will meet one day in the presence of the Lord).  There are some who are struggling with health problems and are waiting for the home call.  There are others who are with us body, soul and spirit to see the dream of PTL India fulfilled.  It is the prayers of these saints and the sacrificial partnership that have made all the difference to this ministry.

Over the years the Lord taught us this precious less that He who has begun the good work is faithful, and that He will carry us to the end.  We sincerely believe that when we stand faithful to the Lord, with a vision received from Him, obeying Him and walking by faith, He will do the rest.  We have seen and experienced miracles one after another in the ministry.  From a very humble beginning in 1981, the Lord has taken us a very long way.  The Lord in His faithfulness has used our humble efforts to reach the affect the lives of many individuals over the years, training thousands, reaching hundreds of thousands and impacting the communities very positively by the power of the gospel.  As I look at thousands of disciples meeting together week after week to honour God, to worship Him and to obey Him, it thrills my heart.  As I look at the front line evangelists making a difference in the communities, I am encouraged.  When I look at the above 200 graduates of Institute of Mission Studies in the ministry, I am humbled.

I am a dreamer, I like to dream big.  I like my dreams to be bigger than myself, my abilities and resources.  I like to dream dreams that take that God to fulfill them.  I like to dream for God and with God.  I was 26 when the Lord brought me to the League, and He has kept us going for the last 26 years.  With your prayer and support we will continue to dream for Jesus, with Jesus and for the transformation of the destiny of nations.

P.C Alexander

(Director)

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