22 Nov 2013 by Tony Dibble –
Gnanamuthu Dixon (G. D.) James (1920-2003)
Dr G.D. James was born on Christmas day in 1920 in the state of Tamil Nadu in South East India. He was in a Hindu family from birth. When he was three years old, his mother passed away. His father remarried and he was discriminated against by his foster mother. His father had often abused him, particularly when drunk. As a result, he was often left hungry. He was placed in the care of an uncle and aunt. Life was somewhat unbearable for him, particularly when his father migrated to Malaya. However, his maternal grandmother was kind to him, despite the poverty that she had to live with.
At the age of 15(in 1935), James was sent to a mission school but his father warned him about being taken in by ‘the religion of the Europeans’. James had good grades in school and one of his subjects was scripture and this introduced him to Christ and the gospel.
One incident that left him with a strong impression of Christians was when he witnessed a lady missionary caring for a poor boy who needed medical attention for his sores and wounds and the kindness and pleasant disposition of the missionary left its mark on him.
At the age of 16 he received a revelation from GOD and encountered Christ. He felt GOD’s presence when he read Isaiah 53.He abandoned Hinduism as he saw Christ and the cross and accepted Christ as Saviour. James was aware that his new-found faith would give rise to persecution but he knew that with Christ, he would be paying a small price for the wonderful love he experienced.
His father was upset about the young man’s conversion as the father felt that James had abandoned his true faith for that of the Europeans. He started to threaten James but James was undeterred by his confidence in Christ. The father then adopted reverse psychology and became kind to him, and did something that he had never done before to the lad: he gave him money, hoping to buy him out of his salvation. This did not, of course work because James was not going to part with his Saviour for anything. So the father decided to have him come to Malaya and join the new family.
But this was not the only struggle for James because he had an ambition to be a medical doctor. However, one night he had a distinct call from GOD to discard any plans he had for the world and instead, to spend his lifetime serving the LORD Jesus. At first he doubted the certainty of this assurance but he found peace when he abandoned himself completely to GOD.
At this point in his life James wanted to be a full-time worker for GOD. However all that he had was his love for GOD. He had not been trained, nor did he have a church or organisation supporting him, nor prayer partners, nor had he read a biography of a missionary, and neither had he been to a missionary conference. He was without funds and neither did he have any assets to call his own. He left home, nonetheless, and travelled 200 miles south to teach the gospel on his own.
He wanted to cut himself off from the family because he felt that their mistreatment had been totally unbearable. However, the love of GOD prevailed over him and he returned home. On his return two to three families of his relatives heard his testimony and were saved. His maternal grandmother was saved just before her death.
Nevertheless, he came to Malaya in January 1941 at his father’s request. His father then set him up as an assistant manager in a rubber plantation and discreetly planned to arrange for him to be married off to a Hindu bride. His father was pleased with having the son within close quarters of him and planned to have him safeguarded for good.
However, James was going to be used by God and so started to preach every night for the next 6 months from the 4 gospels which he had studied in scripture class. This led the Holy Spirit to cause 30 of his relatives to be delivered from the bondage of Hinduism. His step-mother was among the first to be saved from this ministry. GOD then moved to have James’s father saved and this in turn led to more conversions amongst the clan.
James was preaching in the west coast of Malaya in that part of the country where rubber estates flourished. His ministry was to the Tamil-speaking field workers and soon GOD led him by a strange route to the nearby Brethren Gospel Hall in Klang, a town 20 miles south west from Kuala Lumpur. This was through a friend in India who wrote to James asking him to follow up on his (the friend’s) son whom he feared had fallen away from Christ. James located the youth who in turn led him to the Brethren church. There James met the Brewertons who had been attempting to set up a ministry amongst the Tamil-speaking unsaved population. James introduced the new converts to them. The Brewertons and James baptized them and the Brewertons thereafter asked James to join the assembly as a full-time worker.
By the end of 1941, the Japanese had invaded Malaya and the European and Australian missionaries were repatriated whilst those that remained were imprisoned. Until 1941, no Asian Christian had preached in the English-speaking congregations as Asians were usually assigned to preach in their dialects to their own ethnic group. James was used by the LORD to rise to the occasion to preach to the English-speaking congregations, thereby expanding his ministry for Christ.
In August 1943, James married Rosalind Rebecca Simon from Bukit Mertajam in Province Wellesley, a town 20 miles away from across the island of Penang in Northern Malaya. From 1944 to 1953, the LORD blessed James and Rose (as she was affectionally known) with 6 children. Rose and James served the Lord faithfully during the Japanese occupation of Malaya (1941-1945). On a couple of occasions, the Japanese were at the point of killing James but his life was miraculously spared.
In 1950, James, Rose and the 4(then) children moved to Singapore as James had been frequently involved in travelling to Singapore for ministry work. He was also involved in preaching in south Malaya (Johor state) and took evangelistic teams on 2 to 3 month crusades throughout the country.
In 1960, after consulting with J. Oswald Sanders and Arnold Lea of the Overseas Missionary Fellowship (OMF), Ernest Poulson of the Singapore Bible College, and the Brethren assemblies in Singapore (in particular, Dr Benjamin Chew), the Malayan Evangelistic Fellowship(MEF) was formed.
By 1972, the MEF had expanded to other countries and had to be appropriately organised as the Asia Evangelistic Fellowship (AEF).
In 1995, AEF International (AEFI) moved its domicile to Perth, Australia. This was because the Singapore Charities Act limited an association’s funding of overseas activities to 20% of its total funds. With its extensive network of overseas commitments, AEF had to ensure a relocation of the organisation to ensure there were no limits to the allocation of its funds.
Today, the AEF has expanded its work to 9 countries with 200 national missionaries involved in evangelism, training and church planting.
Dr James also appeared on Christian radio networks preaching the gospel, including Far East Broadcasting Company (FEBC) and has published 21 books and tracts/booklets. The book “The Man You Must Confront” has exceeded 5.5 million copies in publication and has been translated into 10 languages.
In 1977, Dr James founded the Tamil Bible Institute in Johor, Malaysia. He has worked alongside Scripture Union, Varsity Christian Fellowship, The Bible Society, and Every House for Christ. Dr James has been a board member of OMF’s Home Council and Chairman for a number of years, and was Vice Chairman of the Bible Society of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei.
AEF has worked with churches and para-church groups in India, Myanmar, Indonesia, Philippines, Malaya, Singapore, Thailand, Nepal, Vietnam and Hong Kong. In its work in India, AEF’s evangelism requires its missionaries to be resident among the slum communities to whom it evangelizes and provides social assistance. In Singapore, AEF provides free medical assistance to immigrant workers. AEF was a mass-movement in its missionary endeavours.
Dr James believed in the tremendous power of prayer in all missionary work. He ensured that AEF’s strategy was to empower local entities to be indigenously administered through training and organization in order to raise up missionaries from the very fields it planned to sow. James listed the four qualities of a leader as follows: availability, flexibility, reliability and dispensability.
He was called to the LORD on July 24th, 2003 when in Sydney Australia. The AEF has continued its activities in the LORD and is today a significant missionary entity within the Asian region.
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