Southern Asia Division of Seventh-day Adventists

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History of the SDA Church in India

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Though Stephen Haskell and Percy Magan crossed India on their mission survey around the world in 1890, it was not till 1893 that William Lenker and A. T. Stroup started selling Adventist literature in Madras.

Shortly before their arrival Anna Gordon passed away. She had begun to observe the Sabbath in London and went to India as a self-supporting missionary. Lenker described her as a “faithful worker for God and a teacher of Adventist doctrines.” It is also recorded that before any Adventist work was opened in India, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg supported B.N. Mitter in his work. Mitter joined the regular Adventist work force when they arrived in 1895.

The first regular Adventist worker to reach India was Georgia Burrus who arrived in Kolkata on Jan 23, 1895. Elder D. A. Robinson had intended to travel with her, but was delayed till Nov 8 of that year at which time he arrived with Martha May Taylor. Captain Masters and his wife who returned to India from New Zealand after becoming Adventists met Georgia Burrus on her arrival.

Georgia Burrus worked in the zenanas of Baliaghatta and Dores Robinson opened the first Adventist schools (1896, 1897) for girls. An orphanage for boys opened in 1897 but moved to Karmatar, Jharkhand (1898) for vocational training. Dr O. G. Place and nurses Samantha Whiteis and Maggie Green opened the first treatment rooms in 1896. The Adventists moved their headquarters to Lucknow in 1909 and opened several Urdu schools (1910) and an English school at Mussoorie (1911).

Meanwhile, in the south, a group of Tamil merchants through personal Bible study had begun to observe Saturday as the Sabbath. J. S. James worked among them from 1906. Suvisesha Muthu became an Adventist through reading literature and took to selling the same literature in and around Trivandrum, converting practically an entire community that today is renamed Adventpuram. H. G. Woodward worked there in 1918.

A group of Telegus became Seventh-day Adventists in Rangoon and returned to Andhra. J.S. James visited them in 1915, and in 1918 T. R. Flaiz settled at Narsapur. Georgia Burrus and her husband L. J. Burgess retired in Meghalaya in the 1930s. W. G. Lowry pioneered the work among the Mizos around 1950. Dr S. G. Sturgess moved to Nepal in 1957. Following government approval a hospital financed by the Scheers opened on May 18, 1960 at Banepa. Today nursing and medical training is conducted there.

Till 1909 the work in British India was operated as a detached Mission of the General Conference. The India Union Mission was organized in 1910 with J. L. Shaw as the first superintendent. It was joined to the Asiatic Division in 1915.

The Southern Asia Division was organized under president J. E. Fulton in 1919 with 26 churches and 978 members.