DOING HIS FATHER'S WORK
By Mardi Ford
When asked what he does for a living, Pastor Duane Smiley, New Song Community Church on Cove Avenue, replies, "I do my Father's business."
Inevitably that response elicits the obvious, "Oh, and what business is that?"
"Casting out demons, healing the sick and proclaiming the truth of God," Smiley replies, opening the door for an opportunity to share his faith.
In August, Smiley was given an opportunity to do his Father's business in a country where the mission field is truly white for the harvest Â— India.
Of those in India who proclaim a religious faith, only 3 percent are Christian, while 93 percent are Hindu, 3 percent are Muslim, and the remaining are a mix of Buddhists and other faiths, Smiley says.
In June, Smiley was asked by Dr. Theodore Wesley to come to India in August and preach, working with Wesley's church, Good News Fellowship, in Vishakhapatnam, a city of about 10 million people.
"He had been wanting me to come for a long time," Smiley said, "but I told him it was too short notice and maybe I could come in October."
But Wesley was adamant.
"Oh, no. I think God wants you to come in August," Smiley remembers him saying.
So, Smiley took it on faith and went to his church leadership to see if the Mission Fund could support the trip so he could go. They did.
"Within five days, I had airfare, visa Â—everything. The logistics of it all coming together that fast is kind of amazing," Smiley says. God obviously did want him to go in August, he agrees with a grin.
After 40 hours of flying and sitting in airports, Smiley arrived and spent the week in India traveling with Dr. Wesley. They met two years ago when both spoke at a memorial service for a mutual friend, Dr. Steve Kenny, a fellow pastor from Alaska.
Wesley has his own unique story, Smiley says, which is a testimony about the power of one.
Raised under the name of Krishna Murthy in a family of devout Hindus, Wesley came to Christ during his first year of college and was immediately ostracized by his Hindu family. He went on to obtain a bachelor's degree and then was called by God to full-time ministry.
Today, Wesley works with his parents, seven brothers and two sisters, who all became believers. His ministry has planted 210 churches and opened a center known as the Prayer Mount where devoted workers pray 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Wesley's ministry is also teaching sewing skills to abandoned women and widows and has opened a computer center that teaches computer skills. Both train people with new job skills so they may find work. In India, Smiley says, "an income of just $300 a month translates into a pretty OK life and $500 is a lot of money to live on. You'd be comfortable."
The poverty of India was evident everywhere, but Smiley says the worst is in the city slums. Another of Wesley's ministries is an orphanage in Tunni where he has rescued 160 children from those slums. They have a safe place to live, food to eat and are educated in an orphanage which has been approved as a school.
"He is trying to get enough money to build a second story for another 160 children," Smiley says.
For now, a daily bus route goes into the slums, picks up the other children, takes them to the orphanage for the day. They are fed, educated and cared for until night when the orphanage can no longer legally keep them.
"They have to take them back to the slums to survive for the night," Smiley says.
Hindus are open to the gospel, Smiley says. They came from everywhere, content to sit for hours on hard concrete and listen while the American preached God's Word. When a Scripture reference is given, Smiley says the crowd begins reading aloud from their Bibles.
"They don't hesitate or wait to be asked. Someone just starts reading," he says.
Preaching salvation, Smiley used Isaiah 44 and Isaiah 46 to illustrate the truth of only one God to the Hindus who worship many gods.
At an altar call, there was also no hesitation in India. Hundreds came forward to give their lives to the Lord and be healed. On one night alone, Smiley says over 600 people came forward.
"They come hoping to be healed," he says.
God healed many of the blind and deaf and sick, Smiley says.
"Blind people with cataracts could see. You could actually see the cataracts and then they were gone," he says. "Tumors disappeared, the deaf could hear. It wasn't me. It was God."
Miracles like these may sound too good to be true in our oh-so-sophisticated society, but Smiley says God has used him before to heal the sick right here in La Grande Â— many times.
"God is moving in India," says Smiley, as he tells the story with conviction. "But He is the same God that is in the United States."
Smiley wants to go back. Wesley is holding a giant crusade in December in which as many as 40,000 people are expected at attend. Smiley has been asked to come back and preach, but isn't sure he can afford to go again so soon.
In October, Wesley and Smiley will be attending a pastor's conference together in Portland.
Smiley says Wesley will be coming to La Grande later to preach at New Song.