“The Story of Bethel Baptist Church”
The story of Bethel Baptist Church has its beginnings in 1978. Mary and I arrived in India with little Nathan hoping to serve in Silchar, Assam after going through language school in Mussurie, UP. While in language school we took care of a hostel for missionary children attending Woodstock School. In June we received very discouraging news my parents were told to leave Assam by the government of India. After 29 years of ministry they were given 2 weeks to pack up and leave.
It became quite apparent that the government was stepping up its efforts to evict all foreign missionaries from Assam. That meant that Mary and I would not be able to receive the necessary permits to live in Silchar either. My parents, Fred and Dorothy Waldock, had a choice to make, should they leave India or should they relocate in India and start another ministry? They chose the latter as they did not have a clear word from the Lord that they should leave India.
So now what? Where to locate? What did God want for them? Several requests and possibilities came to their attention and for the next few months they went to various places in India to investigate each one. Meanwhile they were staying with us in Mussurie. Much of our conversation in those days of waiting on the Lord included the topic of what Mary and I would do once language school was over.
A couple of years previous, two of our missionaries, Miss Helen Sension and Miss Olive Brittain had also been evicted from Assam. The India Field Council of Baptist Mid Missions loaned them as teachers to Berean Baptist Bible College in Bangalore. These two ladies began a Bible Hour Sunday afternoons in Wilson Gardens. The Bible Hour was for children and youth. Along with the Bible Hour they conducted VBS and youth camps during the summer. After much hard work and a lot of visitation, they had a fairly large group of students and were burdened to reach the parents of the young people. They felt the need for a man who could begin the work of organizing the ministry that would result in a church. So, they wrote to Fred and Dorothy to see if they would pray about the possibility of coming to plant a church in Bangalore on the foundation of the Bible hour.
Now, you must interject a bit of humor into the story at this point. Fred and Dorothy had spent 29 years in Assam where the living conditions were much more primitive’ than in Bangalore and although they were sure the Lord was leading them into this ministry they felt guilty for moving to a place that was so much more luxurious. In their minds, missionary work was to be a sacrifice of luxury and ease. It is humorous to think that they almost refused to come to Bangalore for that reason!
They came to Bangalore after spending a little time in the United States in about July of 1979. Helen and Olive wanted them to find a home in Wilson Gardens in order to start a church there in the midst of all the families of the children and youth of the Bible Hour. Fred and Dorothy consulted a reputable real estate agent and searched for a home in Wilson Gardens. There was absolutely nothing available that would suit their needs. We know now that the Lord had other plans for a church in Bangalore. The agent told them that there was a new house being constructed in Koramangala that they would see. Helen and Olive were not happy about that as it was so far from Wilson Gardens (5 Km). My parents were not sure as it was away from Wilson Gardens but more so because it was just too fancy. Even the was much higher than anything they had to pay in Assam. What would the folks in Assam think if they came down for a visit? How could they spend the Lord’s money on so much luxury for themselves? The house on 17thMain (100’ Road) had a large hall cum dining area that would be suitable for holding services and that finally was the deciding factor.
In 1979 Koramangala was a new layout. There were only three houses between them and the Canara Bank and they were only one lot away from the street next to the BDA complex (which was yet to be built). In November the house was ready for them to move in. as they were moving in word spread that an American family was moving in. several people taking their morning and evening walks would stop by to be friendly, or curiosity overcame them. It gave Fred and Dorothy an opportunity to explain that they were there to start a church and some of the visitors were quite enthusiastic about it as it was very difficult to go all the was into Bangalore (5 Km to Richmond Town) to attend their own churches. This would be very convenient for them. Auto rickshaws never liked to go all the way out to Koramangala.
The first part of 1980 they asked Dr. Chelli of Berean Baptist Bible College if they could use some students for outreach in Koramangala. These students went to every house in Koramangala giving out invitations to the worship services. Meanwhile the Waldocks were busy with the Bible Hour and VBS ministries in Wilson Gardens. They were also trying to start a Christian literature ministry in Bangalore. These activities occupied their time until they were ready to start services in about September of 1980. They had decided to conduct Sunday School and morning services. By December there was a good group of about 30 in regular attendance which included some from Wilson Gardens. In December, Mary and I and now 3 children (Jeanette was 10 days old) came down for a visit. After all the Christian activities my parents had decided to start an evening service and there was quite a bit of interest in that. I was asked to preach for the first 4 evening services and preached from the book of Philippians, a chapter each week. After that, it was time for our family to return to Mussurie.
1981 saw more people attending and besides the worship they were also enjoying the fellowship as they became good friends. The David family was very regular in attendance along with the Tears, Mayells, Mohan Daniel and Colonel and Mrs. George. When VBS was conducted in April Peter Daniels bought a nephew (I think it was a nephew) and decided to stay for the whole week himself. He and his wife became regulars. Jayaram had been saved through a ministry of singers from Canada and since he lived very near the church he started attending our services.
Helen and Olive had a friend working with them, Molly Kuruvilla, who was trained in child evangelism and the senior Waldocks invited a former student, Charles Isaac, to work with them in Koramangala. Also, another former missionary from Assam, Doris Bruce, had come to live with the Waldocks and help in the ministry. So with this team of 7 workers, the work progressed through visitation, Sunday School, Sunday worship and Wednesday prayer meetings. We bought a Matador van that was used for transportation to and from church, camp outs, picnic and treks.
Fred, Dorothy and Olive were due for a years furlough in 1982 so the Bangalore team of missionaries asked the India Field Council of Baptist Mid Mission if Mary and I could be released from the hostel in Mussurie in order to come down to Bangalore to help with the ministry. Doris Bruce agreed to go to Mussurie to take charge of the hostel for one year after which it would be closed. Our family arrived in July 1981 to begin work in the Koramangala Fellowship and the Bible Hour at Wilson Gardens. I was being prepared to be the leader of the team in the absence of my father.
In November we had to make the first of many moves for the church. We shifted from the house on 17th Main to No. 57, 16thMain, 4th Block. My parents and Doris Bruce lived in this home which had much more room for services and Sunday School.
During the year from July 1981 to June 1982 we had several discussions as to whether it was time to organize the fellowship into a Baptist church. The matter was brought to the Lord in prayer especially asking the Lord to give us a group of dedicated believers who would be willing to take believer’s baptism and form an independent Baptist church. It was also necessary to have at least a couple of men who were mature enough in their faith to be potential deacons in the new church. By the time Fred, Dorothy and Olive left for their furlough in June there were a few that had expressed interest in becoming a church. I asked my father if we should wait until his return before starting the organizing process. “If there are enough people and you feel it is time to organize a church, then go ahead. I don’t feel that I have to be there or be the one to do it.” He replied.
In September we began organizational classes. Those committed to being members of a newly formed church included: G. David, Prema David, Helen David, Shanthini David, Selvan David, P.L. Jayaram, Daniel Mani, Joshua Isaac, Charles Isaac, Molly Kuruvilla, Peter Daniels, Deborah Daniels, P.A. Sunderarajan, and Priyarani Sunderarajan. 14 who were ready to disassociate from apostate churches or transfer their membership from Bible believing churches in order to be a part of a new church. Each one had made a clear profession of faith in Jesus Christ and agreed to faithfully attend the classes.
We began with a careful explanation of the doctrinal statement which was the doctrinal statement of Baptist Mid Missions. We taught the group on what it means to be a member of a church and what commitments were needed to be made to one another as a local church. This became the basis for the church covenant.
Once all the teaching was over and all had committed themselves to the doctrine and covenant of the church that was to be started we began the process of constituting the church. Each member shared his/her testimony of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ before the group. It was a joy to hear how each one had come to the Lord. Then we voted on a name for the church. Here are some of the suggestions: First Baptist Church of Koramangala, Christalaya Baptist Church, and Bethel Baptist Church. Though it was not a unanimous choice, the group was happy with the name Bethel Baptist Church. It was our sincere desire that the body of believers banding together as an organized church would truly be a “House of God”.
Then we voted to accept the covenant that I had drafted but the group had modified through discussions. Finally, we set a date, November 28, 1982, to baptize those who had not been immersed upon a confession of faith, hold a constituting service in which everyone would sign a church charter constituting the church and accepting the covenant, and hold our very first communion service. What a day it was! With much praise and thanksgiving the church was constituted with 14 members, 9 through baptism and 5 through transfer of membership from other Baptist Churches or by Christian experience and BETHEL BAPTIST CHURCH WAS BORN!
Baptized: Peter and Deborah Daniels (the first people I had ever baptized, I nearly drowned Deborah as ladies went first), Jayaram, Joshua, and Daniel were the next group, and then Prema, Helen, Shanthini, and Selvan as a group.
By transfer or by Christian experience: Charles Isaac, Molly Kuruvilla, G. David, P.A. Sunderarajan, Priya Sunderarajan.
In May, we had camp at Quiet Corner, Mudumalai, TN. As the majority of the members were present at camp, it was decided to baptize Jayaram’s sister, Anuradha, at the lake near Masinagudi. Since there was no constitution yet, Anuradha was added to the list as a charter member making the official charter membership list to 15.
We weren’t finished yet. We had no constitution which means that we were not yet organized. We didn’t have a pastor called by the church (I was acting as organizational leader in a pastoral capacity) and had no deacons. We were constituted without any structure. I drafted a constitution and we went over it with a fine toothed comb. Several suggestions were made and voted upon until we were in unanimous agreement to the document that would govern the affairs of the church. In June of 1983 the constitution was adopted, Fred Waldock was called to be the first pastor of Bethel Baptist Church, and Sunderarajan and Peter were elected to be the first deacons. Charles Isaac was elected as the treasurer-deacon and called to be assistant pastor. Fred and Dorothy Waldock and Olive Brittain returned from their furloughs in June and the last Sunday of June, the church installed Fred Waldock and the pastor and consecrated the deacons and Charles with prayer. Thus, Bethel Baptist Church was an organized, autonomous, and indigenous Baptist church.
We, along with Doris Bruce, left for furloughs in July and Pastor Waldock began the work of preparing the first budget of the church and implementing the different provisions of the constitution. The church kept growing little by little and the attendance was just about 50 for the morning services, but the Sunday School had crossed the 80 mark necessitating the need to conduct at least one class at Jayaseelan and Dr. Elizabeth’s home which was just around the corner from the church. They had begun to attend the services and have been faithful ever since.
We received some disturbing news while we were on furlough in April of 1984. Pastor Waldock’s cancer had returned and he had to go to the States immediately for further treatment. Since Charles was able to lead the church in his absence it was decided that it would not be necessary for our family to return early from our furlough. We returned in the middle of June and began ministering in the church with Charles and the rest of the team. At the end of July Pastor Charles accepted a call to teach at the Northeast India Baptist Bible College in Assam and so I was appointed to be the Assistant Pastor.
Pastor Waldock returned in September after his cancer treatments in the United States and for the first time in two years we were able to work together. We shared the teaching and preaching load while I also worked with the youth. We were able to purchase a new Matador van and with it we took the youth out on many camping and picnic trips. The bible Hour ministry was going very well and some of the young people wanted to attend services in Koramangala. The van served as a Sunday School bus picking up and dropping people for both Sunday services and Wednesday prayer meetings.
Starting in July 1982 the Northwest Baptist Seminary in the United States conducted an extension seminary every year in the months of July and August. It was our privilege to have the teachers, and sometimes their families, help in the ministry of Bethel Baptist Church. Bethel was greatly blessed through this extension programme over the years and from time to time they would offer seminars or classes that our church people could attend. The Baptist Seminary of South India is an outgrowth of the seminary extension programme. Thus, BSSI is also celebrating 25 years of existence! Those who have graduated from the seminary who have been members of Bethel at one time or another include: Charles Isaac, Molly Kuruvilla, Vijay Salve, Aroop Kumar, Shirley Cornelius, Ketty Varghese, P.J. Mathai and C.J. Verghese. Cheriyan Mathew was the first graduate of our two year M.T.S. degree given by BSSI.
Olive Brittain and Helen Sension came to the other members of our team during the year of 1986 asking if they could request Rev. Eric (Bobby) Franks to start holding services in their home in Wilson Gardens in order to encourage more of the families of the Bible Hour young people to come to church. Some were not so eager to go over to Bethel Baptist Church in Koramangala. Thus, Grace Baptist Church had its beginnings and is now known as the Olivet-Grace Baptist Church.
We were rejoicing over a great Christmas season in January 1987 when we were dealt 3 hard blows along with one cause for celebration. Lets start with the good news first. It was in January of 1987 that our Sunday School attendance reached 100 for the first and only time in our 25 year history. Then came the bad news. First, Pastor Waldock announced that his cancer had returned and that he would have to leave for the U.S.A. as soon as possible for his oncologist to prescribe treatment. Then the owner of the house wanted his house back and we would have to vacate in March. Finally, on Republic Day, I took the youth on a picnic to the Cauvery River at Sangamam. Saji Thomas’ brother, Sabu, drowned when he got caught in the current. These three blows felt like a sledge hammer pounding on me.
Pastor Waldock left and I assumed responsibility for the church. It wasn’t several months later that the deacons realized that I had not been officially appointed as the senior pastor of the church but we finally got that taken care of.
We shifted our church to our home at 557, 5th Cross, 3rd Block just outside the Reddy School compound. Our family shifted to 1st Block as we needed as much space as possible for the church in 3rd Block. The double shift was a fairly big undertaking but somehow we managed. The hall in the building in 3rd Block was very small and the growth of the church was hindered. However, we carried on all the activities and were also running a Sunday School class for Kannada speaking children. Daniel Mani, Ravi Prasad, and Shajan Jacob all helped in this ministry at one time or another.
1988 closed out with the news that Pastor Fred Waldock had passed away after a 15 year battle with cancer. Yes, he was my father but he was very dear to all the folks at Bethel Baptist Church. Mom and Dad had spent nearly 40 years as missionaries to India and their lives impacted me and many others in ways that can never be adequately expressed.
We were able to shift our own home to 4th Block in 1989 and since it was much more spacious and we needed to save on the cost of rent we also shifted the church from the 3rd Block home to our home in 4th Block. We even had Derek and Shanthini’s wedding in that home! It was fantastic.
We decided that we needed to go to the States for furlough so the church called Rev. J.K. Joseph to be the acting pastor in my absence for the first 6 months. One of the remarkable achievements in that 6 month period was the tremendous effort that Prema and Selvan David put into the VBS. The attendance was more than double that of previous years.
When Mary and I arrived back later that year, we realized that we had to find a more suitable place for the church. We put a deposit on a piece of property across the petrol bunk on the 80’ peripheral road near Everest School. However, the lawyer finally decided that the documents were not in order and that we should get our deposit back. The owners of the property would not return the money and the lawyer suddenly died so that we no longer had anyone to represent our case. We lost about a lakh of rupees which was a very large amount of money in those days.
I then noticed a shell of a building on 100’ Road (17th Main) 6th Block. I assumed (correctly, as it turned out) that the owner had run out of money. I asked Deepak Dhingra, who was a big help to me in those days, to see if he could find the owner and ask him if he would lease it to us and he could use the lease money to finish the building with some adjustments for our purposes. He was very willing so we entered a lease and he completed the building according to our needs.
We finalized the arrangements in the first part of 1992 and shortly after that my mother returned to the United States to retire. She returned to help in the ministry after my father’s death but now her health was failing and she felt it was time to move on. She never did see the building on 100’ Road when it was ready. By this time Olive Brittain had retired and we no longer had Vijay Salve working with us. Mary and I were pretty much working alone. Helen Sension was still involved in the church but her responsibilities at Grace Baptist Church and Calvary Baptist Bible College kept her busy with those ministries.
I cannot express the significance of the ministries of Olive and Helen. They were true soldiers of the cross. Many will rise up and call them blessed for leading them to faith in the Lord Jesus. They tirelessly served Christ in the ministry and their lives were an impeccable example of Godliness. Oh, that the Lord would raise up more women like these.
September 1992 we moved into a building that almost looked like a church. The upstairs had rooms for offices and Sunday School. Shortly after occupying the building more people started joining. We gained 9 new members in 1992 and 11 more in 1992. the Lord was truly honoring our faith in securing the 100’ Road building.
Word came in 1994 that Mother had gotten much weaker and then while in the hospital she slipped into a coma and passed into the arms of her Lord Jesus. I went home for lunch from the office and Mary met me out in the driveway and simply said, “She’s gone.” The following Sunday the Lord gave me power to preach in a way that I have never experienced before or after except in the case of Sonjoy Sharma’s funeral. Chuck Wingate commented after the service, “I don’t know how you managed and that message in particular.” I don’t remember the message but I don remember the power and composure the Lord gave me at that difficult time.
That was February (about a week before my mother’s 70th birthday) and in July we needed to take another trip to the United States and put Nathan in college and to visit our churches. P.J. Mathai and family were to stay in our home in 4th Block and we called Dr. Shambu Nath De to come be our acting pastor in my absence. Dr. De had had a very difficult experience in his last place of ministry and was doubtful that he could do the job asked of him. I was so confident of our Bethel Family that I told him, “You are not doing this for me; I am doing this for you. The church will minister to you and restore your confidence once again.” When we came back in February 1995 Shambu thanked me and said that the church had truly ministered to his and Molly’s spiritual needs. Bethel Baptist Church did not let me down. Yes, we benefited from Shambu’s ministry but you as a church were used of the Lord to help this man to move on in service of the Lord.
Before leaving for the States in 1994, we called Aroop and Shelley Kumar as Assistant Pastor and then later made him an Associate Pastor. The next few years were tremendous.
Camps were great, VBS ministries continued to expand, evangelistic bible Studies were conducted, and a couples fellowship got started. For years, (at least 15 years), we conducted monthly meetings at Even Tide, a home for the aged. Mary conducted the choir, (Ketty led the choir when we were out of town), helped the Women’s Fellowship, and started a Baking and Bible Study for housewives. Youth ministries were led by Vijay Salve, Prem, Nelson and Sunoop. In the mid 90’s we started a monthly newsletter called “The Bridge”. It was produced in intermittent stretches over the years. Pastor Aroop took up the job as editor after he joined our ministry at Bethel. The joy of the Lord was pumping through my veins as we all poured ourselves into the ministry. People were getting saved, participating in the different programmes, and were eager to study and fellowship around God’s Word.
One story in particular has to be shared as to how the Lord was blessing us. The Wingate family, from the States, worshiped in our church for quite a few years in the 90’s. they began giving a monthly offering to the church of Rs. 10,000/-. Now that was more than our total monthly budget at the time. I didn’t want the church to be dependent on that income for meeting our expenses, so I kept that aside for our building fund. I explained to Lambert, our treasure, that the Wingates will leave us someday and, if we calculate that Rs. 10,000 into our budget now, we will be really struggling to meet our budget after they leave. However, in 1998, while I was in the United States, Lambert incorporated that amount into the budget. When I came back I asked him about it and he said that he had forgotten that arrangement. He assured me, in his usual optimistic way, (or was it faith that I didn’t have) that it would work out. Well the Wingate family left and guess what, we never missed our contributions and met our budget with no difficulty at all. I then realized that our church was truly self-supporting in its operation. What a wonderful God we have!
The church finances were enough to give our Associate Pastor a decent salary plus housing allowance. We were also able to support the Emmanuel Baptist Church at KGF and its outreach ministries in Tamil Nadu and A.P. when the Nepali and Tamil churches were organized we helped to support those ministries. The Lord always helped us to meet our budget needs and then some.
Another interesting story relates to the secretaries that I have had over the years. These were young ladies who worked for me in my responsibilities with the India Field Council of Baptist Mid Missions, but since I was also the pastor their work overlapped into doing much work for the church. The first secretary was Mini (Abraham) Jyothiratnam. I helped arrange her marriage to Christopher and then was in need of another secretary. Anitha (Doss) Vijayaraghavan came along and you notice her maiden name in brackets. Yes, Pastor Aroop helped her find a husband and she was off. Next came Lenny (John) Jacobs. I helped Shajan propose to her and off she went.
By this time the secretarial position was a much coveted position for girls hoping to be married! Along came Reena (Varghese) D’Cunha. She now has a much more important job than secretary! Nelson came to our church and swept her off her feet and out of my office. Now I got smart, Jyothi Naresh became my secretary and she was already married. Alas, she became a member a mother and decided to become a housewife instead.
I will only give a gist of what was happening between 1995 and 2000. some of the individual stories would be worth telling in full sometime.
Services were held for a group of Tamilians and a church was organized at the end of 1997 with Nixon Solomon installed as their first pastor. The Nepali services grew and Pastor Sharma organized it the same day as the Tamil church. Both are continuing to use the Bethel Baptist Church facilities.
In 1997 we saw the largest increase in membership for any one year to date. 27 individuals joined Bethel. It was also that year we purchased our very own land for the church in Egipura and registered it in 1998 even before it was fully paid for!
We started an AWANA club for children on Friday afternoons. That developed into the Bible Seekers and Bible Teens ministry of today.
Somewhere along in there I tried to kill myself in the baptistery and Nelson pulled me out becoming the first ‘fisher of pastors’.
In 1995 plans for the Bethel Baptist Academy were conceived. It wasn’t until 1998 that the Cornelius family decided to take it up as a family project with the encouragement from the church and plans were on the way to start classes in 1999.
Those of us involved with the extension seminary decided that it was time to branch out on our own and the plans were laid out for the Baptist Seminary of South India. In 1999 David and Marilyn Clark came to be a part of the seminary but also became an important part of our Bethel family.
In 1999 the membership of the church crossed the 100 mark to reach 110 and the average attendance for the morning service in 1999 – 2000 was 119. Quite a remarkable feat as the hall could only seat 80 people comfortably. That was only the average!
At the end of 2000 we were required to leave our building of 9 years. The memories of those years will never fade. God met with His people and we were blessed!
Starting in 2001 we were meeting in Seva Sadan. The construction of the building in Egipura was begun. Saumitro and Nisha offered to be the architects taking full charge of the project without any remuneration. I hope the church appreciates their labor of love for the church in doing that. Along with first Lambert and then Cheriyan they bore the bulk of the responsibility of seeing that church building come up.
By the end of 2001 we had shifted church once again to the 4th floor of the building housing Bethel Baptist Academy. Shirley Cornelius and the rest of the family were gracious hosts to the church and the programmes of the church like AWANA, VBS, and Sunday School. The church had met at 7 different venues in 20 years and now it was time to have our own building.
August 4th 2002, almost 20 years since we constituted the church, we dedicated our very own, magnificent building. Dr. Hermann Austel was our special speaker and we had celebrations almost every night of the week. We held a thank you service for the construction workers; the Nepali and Tamil churches had their dedication service. The Bethel dedication saw nearly 350 in attendance. What a grand occasion! Our first worship service was combined with the Tamil and Nepali congregations with more than 200 worshiping together. The service lasted from 9 until noon and no one noticed or minded. At noon the light of the mid-day sun shone through the skylight above the platform and it seemed that the Lord had given us an assurance of His special blessing!
Two months later we held a thanksgiving ceremony to commemorate the paying off of a $50,000 loan we had taken from Baptist Mid-Missions to pay for our property. Surely the Lord’s good and we have experience His blessings.
I was on cloud nine and full of the joy of the Lord but it was too much for Satan. He did not like what was happening. Dear sweet Jenny was murdered in October and the ensuing investigation with the mufti boldly showing up in the services opened my eyes to the fact that now that we were on a tourist visa we were putting the church at risk by continuing on as pastor. I argued with the Lord. “It’s not fair! We are just ready to really take off now that we have a building.” The next few months I noticed that the visitors to the services sometimes were reserved in their attitude towards me as a foreigner. Was I just imagining things or was the Lord opening my eyes to what I should have seen long before? I was asked to speak at the closing of the VBS in April of 2003 and the visitors who came for the programme literally got up and walked out within minutes of the start of my talk. That was a further confirmation that it was time for someone from India to take the church to the next level.
With much prayer and sorrow I tendered my resignation to the deacons and told Aroop that he should do the same so that the church could proceed with a fresh start. The deacons were reluctant to accept our resignations but the Lord somehow got them to agree. At the end of May 2003 after 22 years of ministry in Bethel our job was done.
First Aroop acted as interim pastor and then Saji. Both men did a wonderful job in guiding the church. Saji had the extra burden of leading the seminary in my absence and the church owes him a debt of gratitude for his gentle and patient ministry during those difficult days. After much searching and praying the deacons under the guidance of Pastor Saji were led of the Lord to ask Nelson to consider being the pastor of Bethel Baptist Church. He accepted and was installed as the 3rd pastor of the church on June 5th of 2005.
Now 2 years later it is with great joy to see that the church in thriving under his leadership and Bethel Baptist Church is in God’s hands as we celebrate our 25th anniversary.
“Not to us, O Lord but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.” Psalm 115:1