Grace Baptist Church, N G Palem

If you have watched any of the films produced by Grace Third World Fund you will have seen that when we go to India, we not only visit the Grace Children's Home, but also some small churches. The charity itself of course, is all about the children, and any money raised or donated goes to caring for them, and everything related to their welfare. However, when the Grace Children's Home was opened, and began taking in children, some of our sponsors asked us whether they were taught about Christianity. Most of the children would have come from Hindu backgrounds, so this was a reasonable question. We were able to tell them that they were indeed hearing about Christianity, because Timothy and his family and some of the workers are Christians themselves. Many of the children come from tribal villages, steeped in the Hindu religion, and its Caste System. Some of them were very low caste.

Briefly, the Caste System is a Hindu conception of the social order which believes that Society is divided into four main groups (with a fifth, "the untouchables," outside of the caste system). You are born into a particular caste, and can never escape it. If you are born into a low caste you do not ‘deserve’ an education, so you can never better yourself. Nor can you eat with those outside your caste. The children in GCH receive an education regardless of their social position. Caste is not relevant—Christianity does not discriminate. In addition to the day-to-day Christian education, Sunday Services have always been held in the Home. The congregation consists not only of the children and the orphanage helpers, but also a number of folk from the locality, who came in and were therefore regularly under the sound of the gospel.

From the very beginning, Grace Third World Fund had received support from not only Christians but also friends with no faith, but who shared a concern for the handicapped, homeless and disadvantaged. When the idea of building a chapel on the land was first broached, however, the trustees of GTWF, felt strongly that it would only be appropriate to use money that had been donated for that specific purpose.

Grace Third World Fund was founded by members of Grace Baptist Church, a small independent fellow-ship in Peel, Isle of Man, to help disadvantaged children. Important though social responsibilities are, to the church, spiritual responsibilities are even more so. Understandably they felt a particular burden for the people in India, and especially for those connected with Grace Children’s Home. The architect who had designed the orphanage was consulted, and he estimated that a simple structure, reinforced with steel, could be erected for approximately £10,000. Having established how much was required therefore, the church in the Isle of Man set about raising funds to build a chapel within the grounds of the Grace Children’s Home.

With help from like-minded fellowships all over the UK funds were raised, and before long build-ing work started on a small chapel. Every penny was raised by the fellowship in Peel, through personal contacts in the Isle of Man and through-out the United Kingdom. Individuals and churches gave sacrificially, and as the money came in, it was sent out to India for the payment of materials and labour.

The chapel was completed towards the end of 2003, and was officially opened by Matthew Else of Grace Baptist Church, Peel, in January 2004.

It is a small but beautiful building, and in the heat of an Indian day, it is wonderful to step over the threshold onto the stunning marble floor. Marble is relatively inexpensive in India, and is very pleasant to bare feet! Although the structure is basic, its bright cream colouring is particularly eye-catching when one first glimpses it from the main road. For friends who are interested in the exact location of the chapel, it is just south of the city of Visakhapatnam, in the village of N.G. Palem. The road in question is the main east-coast highway between Chennai [formerly Madras] and Calcutta, and it is always extremely busy. The nearest towns, shown in most atlases, are Anakapalle and Elamanchili.

The chapel building has an impressive bell tower, which has an equally impressive sounding bell. The church in Peel donated the bell in memory of a member of their fellowship. Joan Kinley cared a great deal about the work in India and the children in the Home there were very dear to her heart. One boy she was particularly fond of was Kadugu Babu.

Babu was a victim of polio and had never walked. Representatives of the charity met him in 2000, when he was a young teenager. When Joan heard about his need, she immediately offered to pay for the major surgery necessary to enable him to walk. He was about 16 at the time, and the operations enabled him to stand and walk with the aid of crutches for the first time in his life.

Joan Kinley passed away at the age of 91, and the church in Peel wanted to remember her in a special way so they donated the bell for the tower of the chapel in N.G. Palem. It has been inscribed with the words ‘Kinley Bell’, and Babu rang the bell for the first time on 5th August 2006. A plaque dedicating the bell to Mrs Kinley’s memory is one of the first things a visitor will see on entering the chapel. Many village people have no watches or clocks, and therefore have no way of knowing the time of day. The Kinley Bell is rung to let people know it is time for worship, and can be heard in the two neighbouring towns situated on either side of the chapel building. Kadugu Babu from India, and Joan Kinley from the Isle of Man never met, but their names will be for ever linked together in a chapel building in the depths of rural India, at the edge of the Calcutta Highway.

There is a baptistery outside the chapel building, which is like a large concrete tank about six foot deep, with a number of steep steps up to it, and then further similar steps leading down into it. Although in the western world we see a great deal of spiritual declension, this is
certainly not the case in Southern India. There is a genuine turning to God on the part of the people. The country is predominantly Hindu, and there is bitter persecution for Christians to face. Even so, the Lord is adding to the church daily such as should be saved, and there
have been many baptisms there in N.G. Palem over the past fifteen years.

Many of the folk in the nearby villages come to the chapel. The building is at the front of the land, and the main Calcutta highway is close by. Lorries and goods vehicles are continually passing along the highway, and sometimes the drivers stop and come into the chapel during the worship services. The church holds Youth Retreats on the Land at Grace Children’s Home, and young people benefit from Bible Study weekends there. The church also often holds special events for the widows in the surrounding villages nearby, where they have a meal and sometimes given clothing; they are given food for the soul, and food for the body. The Church at N.G. Palem supports small churches in the hill areas and villages, and they have now become an integral part of our visits when we travel to India to see the children.